I’m a realist. I understand why it’s so hard to craft dynamic stories and relationships in games. With all their random behavior and nuanced feelings, people are hard to track and systematize. I’m willing to look past the fact that Mass Effect might not allow my Shepard to live out her life as the owner of a space vineyard. It’s fine that I can’t start a truly intimate, emotional relationship with every NPC in Dragon Age. I accept the fact that, given enough time and experimentation, the affection that my Sims feel for one another could be expressed numerically.
In the absence of infinite diversity in infinite combinations, an interesting plot can spice up even the most familiar gun battles and scavenger hunts. This is one of the reasons that Red Dead Redemption is one of my favorite games. In a ludic sense, it’s about as “video game-y” as the come, but its story content and dramatic themes convey an interesting (if dismal) message about the human condition. The problem is that many story-driven games don’t bother to do anything interesting with the plot, which in turn does nothing to help alleviate dull or well worn game mechanics.