Hidely ho, readerinos! The issue of gameplay versus plot in video gaming is a hotly debated, horribly heated, horrendously heinous issue that has gone on for years. The obvious answer is that both are important to making excellent games. But which of the two is more important? And what of music and graphics, are they not important as well? The answer naturally varies from gamer to gamer, of course, but in the interest of full disclosure, readers, I would like to share with you my personal criteria for game reviewing and game ranking. After all, when reading a review, it is best to understand the importance of various gaming elements to the reviewer, as different rankings of these elements can have drastic effects on one’s opinion of a game. So just what is important in a game, to one Daniel ‘Deimosion’ Flink?
I have always firmly believed that, first and foremost, a game should play well. If a game is not fun, why would I play it? Gameplay is always the first aspect of a game I look at for a review, and is by far the most weighted category when I formulate an opinion for any game. While others may look to the plot, writing, setting, or other details, I feel that without a solid core game beneath it all, there is no real merit to a video game over any other medium. If one wants to watch a movie, then one should watch a movie. If one wants to play a game, well, then gameplay must surely be of great importance. Naturally, this leads to a few uncommon opinions of certain games. But with all disasterrific storylines aside, the gameplay is the heart of a game, and there are very few games worth playing without good gameplay.
2. Characters and Setting
With gameplay out of the way, I turn now to the item of second-most importance: the characters and setting. Characters and setting are, for this reviewer, more memorable and therefore more important than the actual plot. One may look at the first Disgaea as an example of a game driven almost entirely by its setting and characters. While the plot of Disgaea is certainly not bad, it would not be nearly as memorable a game without its varied and interesting cast of characters. While storyline may be important, a good storyline with mediocre characters is not nearly as memorable as one with a good cast but forgettable storyline. A well-fleshed out setting can also make for a positive gaming experience; while Pokémon Black and White may not have the most original characters or plotline, the setting of Unova provides a varied group of interesting locales worth exploring to their fullest. Though gameplay is at the core of any gaming experience, the characters and setting are also certainly of great importance.
3. Plot and Storyline
Now comes the aspects of middling importance to my opinion-forming. While plot and storyline can certainly be important, I must admit that I greatly prefer character-driven games to story-driven. This is not to discount the importance of a good storyline, certainly a well-written and interesting storyline can drive me through the boring sections of a game. Alternately, in some cases, an otherwise average game can be redeemed by a truly excellent storyline. Storyline and plot are typically aspects of gaming that I notice only when they are exceedingly good. I am far more likely to be blown away by an excellent story than turned away by a terrible one. Plot and storyline, independent of the characters and setting, are of middling importance to me: certainly they matter, but if I wanted to watch a movie, I would watch a movie…or play Xenosaga.
Close to the bottom comes music. An excellent soundtrack like that of Final Fantasy VI will certainly capture my attention, a bad game soundtrack is more likely to be muted and forgotten than actually considered as part of the review. Music is an aspect of games which I only really notice if it is exceptionally good or, in a few rare cases such as Soul Blazer or Magi-Nation, if it is exceptionally and painfully bad. Music can be an important edition to a gaming experience, but is typically not something I pay much attention to after a few hours with a game unless it catches my attention for whatever reason. Music is not the least important feature in video games, which brings me to my last point…
Last, and therefore least, readers, we have arrived at graphics. There are exceptionally few cases where graphics have had an impact on my gaming experiences, one way or another. While a good looking game is certainly pleasing to look at, if that is all the game is, then why should I waste time playing it? If I want to look at something pretty, I can go to a museum and look at paintings. Bad graphics very rarely ruin a game, and one can easily tell I love a game when my biggest complaint is that the game looks like crap. While occasionally I will be blown away by graphics, the visual side of a game is rarely enough to change my opinion about a game.
So there you have it, readers. This reviewer has shared his views on what goes into the opinion of a game. What about you, loyal readers? What do you and your friends look for in a game? Are you, like me, driven primarily forward by the gameplay? Or are you, like many others, more interested in a storyline or plot? Let me know what you think in the comments, readers!