Story Musings: FOMO Focused Storytelling (Bit of a Rant)

Hello Everyone,

This has been a rough week as I’ve been sick for most of it but I still wanted to meet my goal of one article a week. Ideally I was hoping to write a book review for today but as I was bedridden for most of the week, I didn’t feel right speed reading a book just to pump out a new book review. That being said, I figured I would write something useful at least.

While most of these Story Musing articles are focused around books, generally I want these to be focused on storytelling in general. The art of storytelling exists outside of books now and some mediums often tell stories better than books can. With that being said, storytelling in other mediums often run into unique problems not often found (or normally never found) in written material that I find noteworthy for anyone who enjoys well written stories.

It might seem like a simple concept, but I believe (and I think most people would agree) that when telling a story, the whole story should be made available to create the best, most meaningful story. But something that I’ve noticed in storytelling in video games is the prevalence of time limited events that contain meaningful story content that should remain always available for newcomers to the story. It’s possible for this to affect other mediums of storytelling where maybe books in a story universe go out of print or movies become time limited and are taken off air to create that feeling of missing out. While it hasn’t happened yet (that I’m aware of) it does concern me that it could happen, especially after one day noticing I couldn’t buy the next installment of Harley Merlin in the Kindle store. While it’s still available at Chapters, the sudden disappearance from the Kindle store had me worried.

While many would look at video games primarily as a vessel for fun and engaging gameplay, nowadays the story and the characters in the game are considered just as important. In a game like Genshin impact, one of the most popular games out there, the characters are the most important part of the storytelling in the game. The best way to think about Genshin Impact’s storytelling is that it’s a collection of character focused storytelling that is loosely connected by a character looking for their lost sibling. One would think that a game so focused on it’s characters would try and maintain that character development within the game but that’s not the case. The game often has time limited events that are focused on gameplay mechanics, in-game rewards, and character development. The fact that important character developing stories are in these time limited events is awful as, once that event is done, new players can never experience it.

Currently, as of writing this article, there is an event that will last another 30 days that delivers some of the best character development in the game’s history and that will be gone once the event is over. This has some of the best character development for Kazuha, Mona, Fischl and Xinyan and, if those are your favorite characters and you started after this event, you’re just out of luck. Kazuha has a character story that is ok but nowhere near as impactful as this summer event story is for him. There are some events that have stories that are integral for the main plotline of the game or just major worldbuilding events that are forever lost to time as a result. The whole design is focused on punishing players who either started the game later than everyone else or who take a break from it.

But Genshin Impact’s model, while punishing and bad, at least allows the participant to experience most of the story and the main plotline of the game. But imagine if there was a story being told for over a decade and now parts of that story and inaccessible to anyone who just discovered it. Similar to Genshin Impact’s time limited events (and that of a lot of gacha games honestly), is the idea of seasonal models in video games. They introduce time limited storylines and content that, once the season or the yearly expansion is complete, it’s gone forever. And nothing, I mean nothing I’ve ever experienced is as guilty of this as Destiny 2.

My own experience with Destiny 2 started in the original game Destiny. I got to experience how awful the story started and see it progress into something truly mysterious and awe-inspiring. The Destiny 2 story, the entire story of Destiny, spans almost a decade now and the developers decided to do something they said was for the health of the game. They removed a large chunk of the game so that it could be optimized and run smoother. While this has caused a lot of controversy amongst the community, one thing everyone agrees is that now there are large swathes of the story that are just gone. Anyone coming into the game now and experiencing this story will have no idea what’s happening. I realized this especially after I had to sit down and explain the story of what was happening and why we should care because it’s no longer accessible in the game.

Punishing newcomers to a story for not being there from the beginning is one of the worst things a storyteller can do. It creates a dissonance of experience of those who started from the very beginning to those who’ve just found out about the story. Seeing this happen in video games disturbs me as a writer and has me concerned that other mediums could potentially employ this tactic to create artificial scarcity to force people to read their books or watch their movies. I worry that the ever-growing need to squeeze as much money out of people could find it’s way into books someday and I hope that day never comes. I don’t think it will happen anytime soon, but if the intellectual property is popular enough I could see some companies taking advantage of the idea of FOMO focused storytelling. As someone who lives for good storytelling, this worries me.

– Raphael

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