How the Changing Relationship Between Story and Lore Has Defined Destiny

Danielle, Cado, Natalie and Rob sit down to talk lore in games, when it's done well, when it's done poorly, and just why it's so hard to get right. We start with Destiny, a franchise that has radically changed just how it handles lore, and go deep into design that encourages intriguing, rather than eye-rolling detail about a game's world and characters.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at
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I love lore. It may be one of the biggest if not the biggest reason I play video games. I think my view on it is I differentiate between “lore” and “world building”. A codex entry that’s basically an in-game Wikipedia article chronicling the events of the First Contact war is world (or universe) building. But on the other hand, the story of the Assassination of Jaren Ward By The Coward Dregen Yor and the 36 Lesson of Vivec are lore. They are literally in-game folklore. Did these events happen? Maybe. Maybe not. Did they happen but these are biased accounts sometimes even being told by a third party? Possibly. In the end it kind of doesn’t matter. What matters is you can tell A LOT about a culture and people by the stories they tell about themselves. This is one of the reasons why I love folklore in general and I think these styles of storytelling can do a lot for a setting.


I’ve played way too much fallout to tell you the lore doesn’t matter, but something about the way Bethesda is positioning their next game makes me skeptical. I’m skeptical of the game as a game as well, but that tweet about protecting freedom with a pic of that fascist robot bothered me more than it probably should have. More importantly, the most important piece of extra lore to a game is, blurring it because it’s too hot for this webzone, Master Chief’s armor jacks him off.


I own literally every tie-in novel, comic and lore book for Dragon Age, so I appreciate the validation Natalie

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I really enjoyed this episode and it inspired a lot of reflections on my own relationship with lore. I ended up drawing a very different conclusion than Rob regarding effective lore relating to characters or human stakes within the game’s story.

The discussion made me think about the way my relationship to the lore of Warcraft changed over the 13 years that I spent playing that franchise. The first Warcraft game that I played was Warcraft II, back in 1995. I remember enjoying the game so much that I spent a lot of time reading over the manual, reading the world history, looking at the art, learning the names of the different clans and their leaders. None of that information had any significance to the game itself. The reason I cared about that supplemental material was because the experience of playing the game had engaged my imagination and I wanted to spend more time in that world.

Perhaps this is part of the appeal of the grimoires. Lore is inherently supplemental to the experience of the game. If it weren’t optional, it would be plot. So, perhaps going outside of the game to seek out the information, feeling the requisite curiosity to put forth the effort, informs the enjoyment of lore?

As I moved on to Warcraft III and WoW, I found that my early investment in the lore actually enhanced my enjoyment of those games. Knowing that backstory of the orc clans (which was completely unnecessary to playing WCII) made their journey under Thrall more meaningful. Being familiar with Thrall and Grom made it more interesting to play as them in WCIII. Having played as Thrall and Arthas in WCIII made it more interesting to encounter them in WoW.

But I found that something changed for me when WoW started getting deeper and deeper into its lore with the expansions. I totally stopped caring. Now, that almost certainly had to do with the fact that I stopped playing after Wrath of the Lich King. And it probably also has to do with how convoluted it’s gotten. But I also think that it had to do with the fact that the more Blizzard did to centre the lore as an important part of the game, the less interesting it became. I tried catching up on WoW’s lore a few months ago by YouTubing some cut scenes from past expansions and I didn’t last 10 minutes before I got bored and stopped.

Maybe that’s because I am no longer invested in the game itself. But maybe it’s also because these stories are not interesting enough to be the focal point of the experience. If the history and mythology of Dark Souls was foregrounded as the plot of the game so that you had to hear exposition about cycles and the First Flame in order to progress, would anyone care? Or are people interested in the lore because the game creates an evocative world that is not weighed down by plot contrivances?

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I absolutely love the lore in video games, even if it is in varying degrees of good. I’ve read all the Halo and Witcher books. I don’t know how many hours I’ve spent reading Warcraft lore on the wowwiki, even if the continued success of WoW continues to muddle the lore. I played Diablo 3 for the story and even bought a Diablo book. I read as much in game lore as I can, and unlike Natalie, I will go outside of it and look for other sources to get those other nuggets of info.

I absolutely hate lore in videogames, with the possible exception of Dragon Age. At the end of Trespasser every single sociological and political fact of that world has been informed by what you’re seeing and who you’re up against. It’s active and immediate. It stops being lore and starts being plot, which probably why I like it.

Don’t put your lore in a codex. I’m not gonna read that. If it wasn’t vital enough to the plot that it needed to be conveyed in a method more sophisticated than “read this text in a menu” then it probably doesn’t need to be there.