From Red Dead Redemption 2 to Silent Hill 2, These Games Should Be Introduced in College Courses for Film Studies

Published 11/19/2023, 6:57 AM EST

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The level of storytelling in Video Games is unmatched. Video game developers started telling their stories in cinematic fashion a long time ago. Some say story-telling in video games started with 1976’s Colossal Cave Adventure. This was a text-based adventure. It was followed by Donkey Kong, Half-Life, Doom 3, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, and many other games that just built upon that newfound medium. Now things have changed drastically for lack of a better word. From text to interactive storytelling sequences to pre-rendered cut-scenes, video games have come a long way.

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Now games like Bioshock, The Last of Us, God of War, Red Dead Redemption, and Dark Souls have taken storytelling in video games to a whole new level. Some tell interesting stories in a normal way, while others tell typical stories in innovative ways. Keeping that in mind, here we list some games that can be used to teach storytelling in film schools.

Bioshock Infinite

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It’s a first-person shooter at first glance; the only hands of the main character in this game are much more expressive than ever. As players start the game, they meet two people who prepare to send them on their way to find a person. It’s nothing special at first, your typical Noir stuff until they are asked to enter a lighthouse. Some commotion happens, and eventually the countdown starts, and players find themselves soaring through the skies.

They are transferred to a city that’s flying, and this city is ruled by a person with a god complex. And players have been asked to snatch his daughter from him. The story goes on and on, and it’s pretty revolutionary too, but the way it is told is something else. Players are given choices. They are met with environments that tell them what transpired before they arrived, and through people’s struggles in the streets, players are told why this city was forgotten by everyone on the surface.

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It’s a brilliant game that tells the story of desperation and one’s need to stand out, which leads to extremism and eventually one’s self-destruction. If this ever becomes a movie, it will be something else.

Red Dead Redemption 2

The first question every person reading this will have is, “Why not the first game?” Well, because technically this is the first game, and this is in many ways a much deeper story than the first one. Arthur Morgan travels through America as he and his gang are being hunted by the Pinkertons. For those unaware, Pinkertons was a very popular detective agency that was available for hire by the rich to take down the outlaws of the Wild West.

Arthur is unflinchingly loyal to his gang’s leader, Dutch van der Linde. They both know they are in hot water. Arthur keeps asking Dutch to make the right choice and lead their gang out of America. But Dutch refuses to go, even though he is well aware that the times of Outlaws have ended. It’s a very beautifully told Western that takes players through everything: loyalty, friendship, love, moments of greediness, and betrayal. In the very last second of this game, Arthur Morgan is learning.

He grows as a character, from a hardcore criminal to a person who would look back on his life with fondness or with regret based on the player’s choices. A beautifully detailed world and some very interesting music makes Red Dead Redemption 2 well worth spending hundreds of hours on.

Doom 2016

Some scientists have found a way to harness the powers of hell. They built a huge portal to hell on Mars in order to learn about what is possible. Eventually, it starts messing with their heads, and slowly, Mars’ colony turns into a cult that is willingly sacrificing itself to it. Only people who are seemingly sane are the AI-based humanoid robots who are studying this stuff too. Eventually, a sarcophagus is found in Hell and brought back to the research center, and as the influence of hellish monsters increases on Mars, the coffin opens and enters the Doom guy.

As he wakes up, looks around, and reclaims his armor and equipment, Dr. Samuel Hayden’s voice starts telling him all that happened. As Doom Guy gathers his bearings, he throws away the intercom and the monitor through which Hayden was contacting him and simply starts killing the monsters.

There’s no subtlety here. Doom’s narrative designer has sent a clear message: you will not be bored by silly cut scenes. Just do what you are supposed to: “Rip and tear until it is done”. As the game goes on, this stuff carries on. Hayden keeps reasoning with the Doom guy and sometimes helps guide him to the next point in the game, but it never hinders the gameplay.

This no-nonsense storytelling that just thrives on its subtlety is what makes this game stand out. Doom has a story, and it’s a good one too, but it is never shoved in one’s face. It is actually told to fans through the environment. And the Doom guy, surprisingly, has some way of behaving about everything too. It is totally worth a study, just so students know how to treat a character who is simply too good at what he or she does.

Cyberpunk 2077

Now that Cyberpunk is a versatile game, players can choose whatever they want to be. And then they are introduced as V, a newcomer to the hottest location in the post-apocalyptic world of cyberpunk.

V meets their best friend Jacky, and they together start pursuing the dream of making it big in the city. One day they are handed a job—to steal a strange personality chip that one can plug into their head. Job goes south, Jacky dies, and Chip finds a permanent home in V’s head. The surprise is that it contains the personality of Johnny Silverhand, a rockstar/terrorist from years ago and that personality starts taking over slowly. V is given one of two choices: let Johnny take over or fight it; no matter the choice, they will eventually die.

The rest of the game revolves around players finding a way to disconnect themselves from this chip. A bunch of story-altering choices later, players end up with numerous different endings. As a whole, though, this game showcases everything with perfection. The way of going through the grief of losing someone and then living through the responsibility of leading someone to their passing. Acceptance of one’s way of life, and much more. If this game was a typical sci-fi action story, it would have worked too, but CD Projekt Red took an extra step and gave much more. It would be suitable for teaching people how to portray emotions in an interactive environment.

Silent Hill 2

James Sunderland is a simple man dealing with the grief of losing his wife a long while ago. One day, he gets a weird message that hints at his wife being alive in a town called Silent Hill. He starts his car and goes on a journey to find her. But as he reaches that town, it is not what it seems.

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He meets everyone—weird nurse monsters, a huge thing with a pyramid-shaped helmet, and many other enemies. It is so full of weird beings, yet James persists and keeps pushing; he wants to see his wife after all. It plays as a third-person survival horror game. As James goes through the town, fans realize something very weird. This town is not a real town, but James’s own manifestation built out of guilt. guilty of killing his wife all that time ago. Every mood of his translates to the bosses and characters in the game.

Silent Hill 2 is an excellent psychological horror game paired with excellent music and a one-of-a-kind story that deserves a mention when it comes to storytelling in the games.

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All the above-mentioned games tell their stories uniquely. Some are straightforward, others have unique twists and turns. Either way, it all ends with an excellent final product.

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Written by:

Rohit Sejwal

1,315Articles

One take at a time

“Stories hit way better when you are part of them!” Which is why I am a gamer first, writer second and a filmmaker as well. Being associated with movies has given me a very different perspective on gaming. Writing about video games has been on my mind for years and being an eSports writer at EssentiallySports gave me that chance.
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Edited by:

Rohan Karnad

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