Open world games offer fans some of the most immersive and memorable gaming experiences. There are dozens of areas to explore and side quests to complete, and players unlock new skills, abilities, and gear to make exploring the world easier or making gameplay more interesting. With all that open-world games offer, it’s no wonder they’ve had a tremendous impact on gaming as a whole. Open-world narratives, while conventionally fantastic, may not make full use of the medium.
Many open-world games, such as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, provide a main narrative for players to follow. However, the player is allowed to complete the story at their own pace. While this allows players to freely explore the world, it makes the story seem weightless and irrelevant, losing any sense of urgency. On the other hand, Minecraft is another hugely popular open world game that doesn’t have a main narrative, but players can still find interesting stories to tell in the game. The question arises, is the main narrative necessary in open world games?
Open world games must have an open story
Minecraft is the best-selling game of all time, and it has a story that basically doesn’t exist. Unfortunately, this means that there isn’t a linear story for video game narrative fans to follow. However, it gives the player the ability to create their own narrative with friends in the game, and creating is at the heart of Minecraft‘s design. Vice versa, Skyrim is also one of the most popular open-world games of all time, but it has one of the least impactful main stories in a video game, which is the problem. Having the story take center stage can result in players missing out on all the amazing details and side stories that can be seen in the open world. An open world should allow the player to forge their own story rather than tying it to the developers’ pre-made one.
The most popular gamer stories from Skyrim, for example, is never about the main quest line. They’re all stories about the random, funny, and hilarious situations that players intentionally or accidentally put their characters in between story quests. In fact, Todd Howard once said that for the development of Fallout 3, the team considered removing the main story and letting players create their own instead. On the other hand, elden ring contains most of its history and lore through environmental stories that engage the player to explore the world to learn more about the story.
Players need more agency and control over the story
Obviously there is a loose narrative throughout Minecraft world, and Mojang has a similar approach as elden ring with the lore of his game. However, Minecraft is such a non-linear experience that it allows for all kinds of storytelling possibilities. This is most evident in the successful Minecraft YouTube videos and channels that created SMPs (Survival Multiplayer) and wove their own stories into the world of the game. It shows how MinecraftThe creative approach of opens the door to countless player experiences.
Honestly, there aren’t enough games that take advantage of their open worlds. The vast majority of open world games feel like two games clamped together. One game is the main story or campaign and the other is an open world sandbox full of side stories and quests. The story typically uses little from the open world beyond letting the player grab something on the other side of the map, and the game doesn’t allow players to make many changes that make the main story feel unique.
Obviously there are tons of open world games with amazing stories, but few of those stories actually benefit from an open world. If the open world is the main attraction, then it should be the medium that tells the story. Players should be able to create their own story and experience their own adventure in the world without having to cling to a narrative that pulls them away from the world. Conversely, if the open world isn’t interesting enough to compel players to venture off the beaten path, then the game might not really benefit from an open world.