Why Plot Is So Important
Think about your favorite film or video game (or possibly even your favorite album). What about that piece makes it so special to you? What makes you get absorbed in the created world, or makes you feel so connected to the characters? What sets it apart from every other experience to make it so interesting to you? In my experience (and I would venture a guess to say yours, as well), it has always been the plot.
When I watch a film or play a game, plot is the one thing that always rises above every other aspect of the experience to determine my enjoyment. Nothing takes me out of an experience more than a generic, clichéd plot – one where you just feel like you are going through the motions. It’s like putting a new carpet in your house – you still know where everything is at, and could still practically navigate your way blindfolded. The only thing that changed is a minor cosmetic appearance, not the same old foundation or layout. Without plot, everything else falls apart.
In the case of movies, special effects are great and all, but flashiness doesn’t make me want to see what happens next. Case in point, “Avatar” was released to some stellar reviews and record-breaking box office numbers. For all its hype and expensive CGI, I was thoroughly disappointed by it. Everything felt familiar and I never once felt absorbed in the world due to the overly clichéd plot (this review captures my feelings quite well). I know at this point that every story borrows something from one before it, and some films that I have enjoyed fall into “been there, done that” territory (I mean, there must be a reason that “classic” films are still so highly regarded and great to watch). In these cases, these films have unique, original parts that lift their plots into more absorbing territory.
The same case applies to video games. Graphics and gameplay only go so far – there needs to be something making the player want to continue forward, not forcing themselves to play until the end. Why do many players still enjoying going back to games such as Deus Ex or Chrono Trigger (hint: it’s not photo-realistic graphics). These games have stories and characters that draw the player in, and give you that feeling of wanting to play until one more save point or level reached to see what happens next.
I understand that for some people the plot may not need to be extremely original or compelling to enjoy a game or movie. Yet, I feel that a strong plot could turn those feelings of simply “enjoying” a movie or game into someone feeling like they “experienced” it. I know for myself this is the case, and in all of my experiences, plot will always be the main focus to determine how much I get out of that particular piece.