+10XP your PowerPoint presentations with these video game storytelling tips.
When we say ‘great storytelling’, what do you think of? Classic literature? Biblical tales? Oscar-winning cinema?
Do you ever think of video games?
Well, why not? The video game industry has continued to grow rapidly in recent years, and over the course of the pandemic, with so many of us spending so much time indoors, become comfort food to so many looking for escapism and entertainment. In fact, the gaming industry now accounts for more than half of the UK’s entertainment market, and is bigger in North America than Hollywood. More people are playing and talking about video games than ever before.
Stories come first
One of the biggest recent developments in gaming centres on storytelling. Famously seen as secondary to the action, and dismissed as being childish, storytelling in video games has largely been ignored. But that’s changed over the past decade or so – with games like The Witcher 3, The Last of Us and God of War bringing in cinematic, sweeping plots which hit the player on an emotional level.
Here at Buffalo 7, we know that stories have power. Gaming, like presenting, is a source of storytelling as valid as any other. But which video games have the greatest stories?
Choose your fighter
To find out which video game has the greatest story, we needed to do some research. We initially took a long list of popular games, all released after 2010, which were known for their storylines. We then compiled different data sets, which suggested a solid story.
We took the length of each main campaign.
We found how many times the game’s name appeared alongside the term ‘story’ on Google -the more times the better.
We then scraped Google to reveal how many times people said ‘x video game has a great story’ across the internet.
We researched the first ten pages of articles on Google listing best story driven games, and tallied up how often each game appeared.
We read What Culture, Screen Rant, The Gamer, Games Radar, PC Gamer, Gaming Scan, Gameranx and Gamer Rant, and noted the ranking of each game and used this data to create an average overall score.
And finally, we trawled AskReddit threads on ‘which video games have the best narratives’ and various YouTube break down videos and kept tallys of the social media consensus for each game.
These factors were then scored with a weighted system out of a total of 100.
That means, based on the factors we listed: critical consensus, Reddit threads and YouTube videos, that The Last of Us tells the greatest story in gaming – scoring 88/100 on our weighted index.
This is followed by God of War (2018) with 72/100 and Red Dead Redemption 2 with 71/100.
The Last of Us makes the top spot for its engaging, emotionally draining tale of Ellie and Joel bonding as they try to survive on a post-apocalyptic tour of the States.
Most memorable video game stories
Games stick with us for a variety of reasons. Maybe it’s the sense of progression, of watching your character level up and tackle bigger and badder threats. Maybe you’re playing for the gear, the loot, the unlockables. But for many, it’s engaging the story that hooks them in.
And the same is true when it comes to presenting: 63% of presentation attendees remember stories, while just 5% remember statistics – The Guardian
A good story sticks in the memory. In addition to our index, we asked 1,158 gamers which game they found the most memorable. Gamers were able to pick up to three games from a long list, which were then ranked to reveal which are remembered the most.
The scores are in
The Last of Us takes the top spot again with 47% of the votes. This is followed by The Witcher III: Wild Hunt, with 35% and God of War (2018) with 31%.
If you’ve ever played The Last of Us, you’ll know exactly what we mean with simply the word “giraffe”.
When asked, ‘are modern video game storylines as good as tv and film now,’ 67% said yes. That’s over two-thirds who now believe that video game storylines are just as good entertainment as those found in Hollywood or Netflix.
It’s likely this percentage will only increase over time too.
1UP your PowerPoint: Storytelling presentation tips from video games
We can use game storylines as inspiration for our pitches and presentations. That might sound a little unusual, but as gaming’s narrative structure gets stronger and more advanced, turning to games can be a fantastic way to find tips on storytelling for your next pitch.
The Last of Us
Bring your audience with you
Save the best for the ending
The Last of Us is an emotional rollercoaster in which two characters form a mentor/student relationship and learn to bond. It’s a game which encourages empathy.
So create presentations in which you, the presenter, stand as a mentor figure, helping your audience to face their challenges with empathy, authority, and vision
Use emotion to hook your audience, and bring them along for the ride, and save the most powerful reveals for the final few slides to make sure your story is unforgettable.
God of War
Use references as shorthand Intros into new Ideas
God of War tells a new story within the frame of Greek and Norse mythology. Most audiences will have at least a passing knowledge of both – if you say Thor, or Zeus, people are going to get where you’re going.
If you take inspiration from this and use reference points your audience will understand, whether this be imagery or quotes, these themes work as shorthand will help them process new ideas.
Red Dead Redemption 2
Scale up and think big
Red Dead Redemption 2 is a sprawling narrative which starts small and escalates from there.
It teaches good lessons about scaling up presentations – start with a smaller point and layer in bigger and bigger ideas.
You could show how a product changes one person’s life. And then imagine what it could do in a whole business. What about if every business that you worked with used it too? Or every person in the country, or the world?
Working up to a huge idea slowly helps the audience to imagine big scales without it being too jarring.
Build on what your audience already knows
Everyone already knows the key basics about Spider-Man: being bitten by a radioactive spider, balancing school and social life with saving New York whilst swinging through the city fighting mad scientists and making puns.
Marvel’s Spider-Man game knew this – so instead of telling the origin story again to audiences, it assumed they already knew it, and used it to go in a new direction.
In presentations too, don’t spend time telling an audience what they already know. It’s boring for them and a waste of precious presentation time for you.
Instead, research your audience to discover what level of understanding they already have, and then go from there – educating, informing, and hopefully entertaining your audience with fresh new content.
Portal 2 is a great example of how smart, snappy and witty dialogue will stick in your audience’s memory. So take a page from Stephen Merchant’s Wheatley character and make sure your presentation has a few jokes to bring audiences along for the ride.
Use your judgement here, of course – make sure your subject matter and audience are suitable for a joke or two, and keep it clean, this isn’t a best man speech…
The Last of Us Part II
Subvert audience expectations
The long-awaited sequel to our best storyline winner, this controversial game seemed to go out of its way to give audiences what they didn’t want, and is still a red hot topic for debate online,
But controversy can be good, especially if you want to stay memorable.
Start your presentation with a statement that your audience is not expecting to hear, or won’t necessarily agree with to get their interest piqued from the get go.
But make sure you back it up and offer a reasoned argument, or your credibility will be shot to pieces, much like Cordyceps fungus-infected mutants.
Boss-level presentation tips
Buffalo 7 thrives on the unexpected, by challenging preconceptions and transforming your big ideas into presentation experiences.
This starts with storytelling, so when you find yourself putting your next presentation together, think about how you can use narrative to truly engage with your audience.
Check out further tips for being a better storyteller here.