I love me a good story. I truly do. At the core of who we are as a species is the desire and ability to share and create stories. To that end, I think that everyone feels similarly, and so that's what makes television and film and literature so popular.
More than just raw escapism, a compelling story reminds us about what makes
us human, what makes us tick.
To me, a compelling narrative is the center of all effective art. It doesn't have to be a narrative in the traditional sense, in that there is a progression of events that indicate a plot, but a narrative in that it evokes an emotional journey in whomever is consuming the work.
A game (or really, a series of games) that accomplishes this idea masterfully is Bioshock.
For those of you who have been living under a rock for the past decade, Bioshock is a first-person shooter that takes place in 1960, from the perspective of Jack, a man who had been travelling aboard a plane over the ocean when it unexpectedly crashes.
Jack finds himself adrift in the ocean, with the only nearby safe harbor being a mysterious lighthouse in the middle of nowhere. taking control of Jack, you make your way to the lighthouse, and that's where things get really interesting.
Warning: Spoilers are ahead. (Though, this game is eight years old. So really, you had it coming.)
Without delving in too deep here (because if you haven't played this game, you seriously need to get out and do it), the game is a spectacular demonstration of narrative. It even takes into account the nature of itself as a game, in that for you to progress the story, you must complete instructed objectives.
I mean, think about it. The "would you kindly" instruction is something that Jack must obey according to the narrative. If this were a book or film, that could be shown easily, without any input from the reader/watcher.
However, since this is a game, it's effectively a commentary on the player. As the player, you accomplish the mission objectives because that's what you do in games. You go from area to area completing missions, advancing the story, collecting points. The narrative then turns it around and says you were doing this because you HAD to do it. It flips the script and effectively breaks one of the rules of gaming by robbing you of your feigned autonomy.
More than just a huge plot point, this narrative trick elevated this game from just a FPS to a full on philosophical arguement. It also left us with one of the best lines in video game history, showing us truly how we are all but slaves to the industry: