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Modern Game Plot Fatigue: Could This Writer's Checklist Be Real?


Lately, I’ve been noticing that quite a lot of stories in AAA blockbuster games of the past few years play out in almost exactly the same way. Sure, there’s no way of avoiding at least a couple of clichés in stories – and I’m sure as heck not saying it’s a bad thing. We need clichés, we love them (oh, you want to argue? Don’t lie to yourselves) – but in these cases it feels like there’s just a bunch of them being shuffled like a deck of cards, and nothing else.

So I turned on my inner vision and tried to peer into the distance of space and time – and here’s the transcript of a note I’ve found stapled to the wall of a certain undisclosed developer’s writers department (on a side note, my vision was rather blurry, probably because I’ve got myopic astigmia and I can’t wear glasses in my spirit form – so I might have missed or misread some points).


Dear Writers!

         According to international surveys, focus tests and publisher commentary, your game script is going to suck if it does not have at least 80 per cent of the following points.


1. Characters



  • A bitchy, crap-talking white male antihero, preferably with a low, gruff voice and a drinking problem (special powers are mandatory!)
  • Wife/lover/family member/stray kid, who dies at the start of the game and later appears in flashbacks
  • A mentor/experienced comrade (bonus points for having them killed mid-game)
  • A comic relief character (must stay alive throughout the game - it's the only exception! Okay, dogs, too)
  • A villain who shares a love/hate relationship with the protagonist
  • A probable love interest who either dies or has other circumstances that prevent her from starting a relationship with the hero

 2. Plot Devices

  • Death of the protagonist’s lover/important family member/whole family for subsequent guilt issues
  • Death of the most likable character (bonus points for making the protagonist kill them)
  • Angst
  • Amnesia
  • Betrayal
  • Conspiracies
  • Revealing the hero’s dark past that he does not know or want to remember, explaining his personality and/or powers
  • Revealing that the protagonist is not who we think he is
  • Revival of a character considered dead
  • A second villain appearing or being disclosed for who they are in the last hour of the game
  • Any other plot twist
  • Ambiguous moral choices


3. While Collaborating with Game Planners

NOTE: ALL of the following points are mandatory, your game is not a game but an outdated piece of shit if it has not got them.

  • Shooting
  • Explosions
  • Chases
  • Free running
  • Flashbacks (really good for filling loading times. Use them. Abuse them)
  • Private military companies
  • One-liners
  • Cliffhangers (both figurative AND literal)
  • Turrets with unlimited ammo (if it’s medieval fantasy, catapults of crossbow turrets will do)
  • Fetch quests and other distractions


We also regret to inform you that due to our Writing Robot Development department needing additional funds, starting next month your salaries will be cut by fourty per cent. Please understand.

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About Tonichone of us since 12:03 AM on 05.06.2013

Hi everyone!

Please, call me Tonich. That's what everyone calls me. I live in Nizhniy Novgorod - a pretty large and picturesque city in Central Russia (yep, that's it on the header image).

Currently at the age 30, I am a taught historian, reluctant archivist, occasional tour guide and aspiring composer/musician. I write songs, play guitar and sing (badly) for the art rock act The Heckfish. Oh, and I also play videogames. :)

My gaming habits started with the NES era, and my favourite consoles are Sega Mega Drive/Genesis and PlayStation 2. I'm more of a PC player currently, so why don't you check out my Steam Page?

You can also listen to my music here.

I have been blogging here on Destructoid since spring 2014. Here's a selection of my blogs you can read if you'd like to know me better:

My "Gamer in Provincial Russia" trilogy:
Part One
Part Two
Part Three

Ten Things About Me

My Top 10 Games List

My call to arms online playing

A musical gift just for you. Yes, I mean you, silly