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“Plot Is Highly Overrated” For League of Legends and Microsoft Devs
During a 25-minute long speech entitled “Death to the Three Act-Structure,” developer Riot Games narrative lead Tom Abernathy and Microsoft Game Studios’ Design Lead Richard Rouse III discussed how plot doesn’t resonate with the majority of players. According to extensive research, what does resonate with players are interesting characters.
“Users don’t remember plot; what the do remember is they remember characters,” Abernathy said. “Focus on the things that they will retain, that are going to be most important to them in the long-run. Focus on character.”
Both developers went on describing the specific research that was conducting that backs up both of their claims. The research states “that players really hardly remember the plots of the games that they play. When they were asked, ‘tell me the plot of your favorite movie,’ they did it at length, and very accurately. When they were asked, ‘tell me the plot of your favorite TV show,’ they did it at length, and very accurately. ‘Tell me the plot of your favorite game.’ Not so much at length, not so accurate.”
On the other hand, “game characters were consistently remembered, but not necessarily for their role in the plot,” they both said.
Both men went on explaining that gameplay events were also remembered. According to the data, since players are focusing primarily on the action at hand, they simply don’t have the bandwidth to follow complex plots at the same time. Rouse also pointed to a specific statistic that states that most players don’t even finish their games to begin with; which results in most gamers failing to even witness the conclusion to the game’s story.
“So the question is,” he later continued, “how much does the third act pay off, that you’re putting so much work into, as you’re trying to structure your plot, intricately. How much does that matter, when the fact is that a majority of your players are never even going to see it?”
They concluded by simply stating that “in games, plot is highly overrated… Players don’t remember plot. What they do remember, is they remember characters.” For both Abernathy and Rouse, developers and designers should exert all their creative energy towards characters and avoid supplying complex plot details, because that’s how you create a memorable experience for people.