Irrational's Levine, BioWare's Gaider, and Obsidian's Avellone on why story matters in games

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Irrational's Levine, BioWare's Gaider, and Obsidian's Avellone on why story matters in games

I grew up reading and loving fiction. As I've aged and taken up a profession in journalism, I've erred on the side of nonfiction. And these days, most of my storytelling experiences come from film, television, and video games. But I'd be lying if I said that many of those story experiences – especially in the gaming medium – left the same impression on me as the works of Marquez or Vonnegut.

In late summer 2007, I played BioShock, and my tune began to change. Six months later, I played Mass Effect, and my stance on games as storytelling devices was altered even further. Somewhere along the line, between Jill sandwiches and lost princesses, game devs started implementing stories that I actually cared about.

Fast-forward to 2011, and the concept of games as storytelling devices is more accepted than ever. But games haven't changed – they're still mechanically driven constructs, and they still allow player agency to run all over what the game dev set out for you to experience. I found myself having conversations with Kotaku's Jason Schreier over the course of the past year about this seeming duality within games. We felt it was time for a proper discussion.

Enter: "Plot vs. Play: The Duality of Modern Game Design," the panel Schreier and I hosted at PAX East. Our idea was to gather several game developers who've tackled this duality head on, and have them discuss their individual approaches to navigating that issue. Irrational Games creative director Ken Levine, Obsidian Entertainment creative director Chris Avellone, and BioWare lead writer David Gaider were our first team of game devs to take up the challenge – something we hope to continue at future PAXes – and they did a great job.

In our rush to prepare for both the panel and that weekend's coverage plans at our respective outlets, neither Jason nor myself thought to set up a video camera to catch the event on tape. Thankfully, Mash Those Buttons captured the whole hour and put it up on YouTube, which I've dropped above.

Let us know what you think, and please suggest any devs you'd like to see play a part in future versions of "Plot vs Play." We're open to ideas!
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