I thought that Aarseth’s article regarding games as stories or texts was fascinating. He mentioned that because of the “academic discovery” of games, they have been pressured to fit into an “acceptable” form of art or literature. But why not let games stand on their own? Do they have to be stories or texts? Why can’t games just be games and have elements of other art forms, like music and stories? People rarely criticize the idea that music can tell a story, or it can stand on its own–so why can’t video games do the same?
I like what Koster said about games, that “[stories] add interesting shading to the game but the game at its core is unchanged.” I think he has the right idea–that a story can be part of a game and can affect the game–but that a game doesn’t have to (or in Koster’s case, shouldn’t) be classified as a story.
I don’t think stories and games are completely separate, though. For example, I started playing Super Paper Mario on the Wii the other night. (Note: this was before I read Aarseth’s article.) I found myself realizing that I kept pressing the buttons frantically in order to make the text of the characters speed up so that I could get to the “good stuff”–the game. I wasn’t terribly interested in the storyline; I just wanted to go jump around and squash things and collect coins. Clearly, I’m not much of an RPG person. So, I switched to Super Mario Bros., in which I could do those things–just jump around and squash things and collect coins without having to be told exactly where I was and what I was doing and what had happened to Princess Peach.
What that says to me is that, for some people, there is a conflict between the gameplay and the storytelling. I was on the side of the gameplay rather than the storytelling. Some people might like Super Paper Mario better because they like having a story to go along with their game. I am not one of those people.
Overall, I would have to agree with Aarseth’s notion that games and stories have distinct artistic potentials. I don’t think a game should be classified strictly as a story; I think it should be classified as a game with elements of storytelling, but storytelling should not take over the aspect of play.