Video games and great storytelling – a match made in digital heaven

“He had struck again. The Origami Killer. This was the third time in the past 2 weeks. For 10 years I’ve dealt with the scum of the city… but I had never seen anything like this. Maria, I’m glad you aren’t alive to see this…”

So starts Heavy Rain, a dark film noir video game created by French developer Quantic Dream.

Heavy Rain has been one of the bestselling games in recent years. Sony revealed this week that it made $130 million. That’s more than many Hollywood movies make.

But this isn’t your typical loud, explosion-filled, Call of Duty-style action video game. The kind that gets the press all in a lather about exposing our kids to excessive violence. Heavy Rain is a slow, almost methodical journey – one that relies heavily on storytelling. It’s like a giant interactive storybook that you control.

And people have bought Heavy Rain to the tune of $130 million because of its story. Not just for the usual things that sell video games, like groundbreaking graphics and frenetic gameplay.

Despite what you might think, storytelling and great writing are at the heart of some of the best-selling video games. For the PlayStation generation at least, video games rival movies as an entertainment experience. And what underpins almost all successful entertainment – whether movies, books or games – is a compelling, well-written story. When you have a great story and you tell it in an engaging way, you’ll get (and hold) people’s attention.

What does this have to do with writing for business? It doesn’t matter whether you’re writing a multi-million dollar video game or a customer service letter, email to a prospective buyer or product brochure. If you don’t have a story to tell (and there’s always a flow of events that can be thought of as a story), then you probably don’t have anything meaningful to say. Most likely no one will be listening. And when your customers stop listening to you, you’re in trouble.

What do you think?

Is there anything else the world of business can learn from the entertainment industry? Are there ways we communicate in ‘real life’ we could bring into business to good effect?