Video games are an interesting medium. They combine things like music, cinematography, world-building, and many other types of expression into one interactive experience. Because of this, you could say that video games have a certain narrative advantage when compared to other media like cinema or literature.
However, their impressive collection of narrative devices can clash with other elements across production.
Games don't just tell stories, after all. They are primarily designed to be played. And sometimes, those interactive aspects of a game can hinder its ability to present the narrative, including the way in which characters are portrayed.
A simple mechanic might turn a feared villain into a laughable joke, or a sympathetic companion into a blood-boiling quest giver that never shuts up.
And yes. There are obviously plenty of examples of game mechanics complimenting the story, but it is important to remember that this type of symbiosis isn't a guarantee.
Let's look at some examples of great characters ruined by game mechanics as a cautionary tale for all who dabble in video game writing.
10. Roman Bellic - Grand Theft Auto IV
When people hear the name Roman Bellic, the first thing they think of isn't Niko's cousin, but an inconvenient phone call in the middle of a police chase asking you to go bowling.
Like any other character in the Grand Theft Auto series, Roman Bellic is neither a good man nor a bad man. He's a gambling addict and gets people in trouble, but at the end of the day, he truly cares about his friends and family.
Portraying this type of dynamic through cutscenes alone is tricky, which is why the makers of GTA IV decided to use one more mechanic to really drive Roman's affability home. The only problem is that their solution backfired horribly.
Early in the story, Roman will call the player and invite them to hang out, with bowling being his go-to activity. The intention here is to show that Roman cares about Niko and wants to help him get accustomed to living in America.
However, in practice, the calls get really annoying really quickly, especially if you are already busy with something else and have to make room for Roman, just so he won't get mad at you.
Well, at least we got some great memes out of it.