Backstory, and what it’s good for?

Here’s a fun, in-depth article that assembles and organizes all of the backstory for Destiny, the FPS game from Bungie.

I played for a few days at the beginning, and stopped when I felt I’d done enough shooting aliens.

But what fascinates me about this is…the varied responses to the article. Some love what gameinformer wrote, some bash Bungie, and some ask Why?

I hate to be contradictory, but nothing is going on with Destiny’s story. There’s a hell of a lot too much going on with Destiny’s BACKstory, but I don’t give a crap about that. I don’t want to learn extensively about backstory unless (1). it’s an integral part of the plot of the current game, (2). it serves a purpose gameplay-wise, or (3). it is part of a larger franchise and harkens back to other entries in said franchise. Destiny’s backstory doesn’t meet any of these. The backstory doesn’t really affect what you are doing or why you are doing it (there are bad guys and you have to kill them), it doesn’t serve any purpose in the gameplay (collecting dead ghosts doesn’t give you glimmer or any other consumables, and the backstory doesn’t give you gameplay/combat tips), and Destiny is the first entry in it’s series. It isn’t part of any larger universe, and to be honest, I’m not invested in the at all in the universe. Maybe two or three entries down the line I will be, but stuffing all this backstory down gamers’ throats at launch – without any meaningful story in the present – just seems pointless. First let me save humanity, discover more on my own about the mysterious Nine, and scan a bunch of computers, and then I might show a little more interest in the pathological psychosis of the Vex and the former majesty of the Fallen. At least, if you’re going to shove all this backstory in my face, at least let me discover and study it in game, instead of off of some Destiny nerd’s blog.

This guy is wrong, in several ways (and he’s got issues about things being shoved in his face/down his throat). But his opinion isn’t unusual, and it’s enlightening.

I’ve talked for a while about the difference between narrative (the story the game tells you, while you cooperate as protagonist), and so-called ludo-narrative (the story you tell through your actions and choices). But these players point out that the narrative itself comes in at least two parts; the "back-story", describing why things exist as they do, and the narrative I just described.

I’m starting to wonder how many meaningful parts there can be to a game story…


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