'Too many game stories take the easy way out'

Insight: Deus Ex writer argues the case for cinematic gaming...

For years Hollywood and game designers alike have debated the narrative merits of video games - or lack thereof.

Many believe that interactive software has not, and perhaps cannot, compete with the complexity of narrative at the cinema.

However, Mary DeMarle, narrative designer and lead writer of sci-fi thriller Deus Ex: Human Revolution, argues that there are already plenty of examples of games with stories on a par with Hollywood.

When we asked us about the subject, she passionately defended video games' ability to tell stories. Here are her thoughts...

I think a lot of games do aspects of story well. Story in games is very difficult thing to get right. In this industry there are definitely elements of a lot of different games that do get it... you get moments where you're like, 'wow, that's really really cool'.


Most of the things I'd name are older games, because for the last three years I've been so immersed in [Deus Ex] that I haven't played much. The last game I got was Fallout 3 and I still haven't finished it.

But one thing that is often mentioned is The Darkness. It has a moment where you're playing a scene with your girlfriend in an apartment. During that you're like "What am I doing here? I'm watching this TV with my girlfriend, this is so different."

It was a really interesting moment where the game pauses and gives you a chance to know your girlfriend. And then later on - I'm about to spoil something - later on, she's killed in front of you and it is so powerful because of that moment.

Other references I use are the Sly Cooper games. I love how they convey Sly's personality through animations, voice and character. They all combine to create a character that is so real.

One of my favourite games is Resident Evil 4. The story in that is very simple but what I love about it is the exact perfect mix and depth of story that you need for that type of game. It propels you through what is a really fun game. I think games do get story right and we'll keep trying to make them better.


I think we still have a way to go. We could certainly work on pushing the medium farther. I do think we have a tendency in the industry to go for the easy way out.

Because we're still trying to reach the blend between gameplay and story, a lot of people take the easy way out and use clichés and one dimensional characters because of the challenge.

I do think we have room for improvement and think we have to take more risks in order to expand out into shades of grey and thought-provoking stuff we could produce.