Drama has two distinct meanings:
- A state of high excitement or emotion
- A type of story told with complex plot arcs and character development
The two meanings are often conflated, but they are different. Although a lot of game makers wish it were so, videogames are not a dramatic art form in the second sense.
There are several reasons why, but the main one is that games cannot create dramatic arcs. A player is not a hero (in the literary sense). He does not have a personal stake in the conflict of the story and is not an actor on a stage. He projects himself into the doll, and so there is no character with whom to empathise nor to develop.
A game story also cannot have the player’s full attention. Dramatic stories need quiet, dark places (like cinemas, theatres or libraries) away from distraction so that the reader can just read. However a game is full of distraction because the play brain is engaged in play and the lizard brain is aware of threat. Those override other kinds of concentration.
A game story cannot edit time. Dramatic arcs skip over more boring areas of fiction to focus on key scenes to develop plot and character, sometimes in chronological order, but also non-chronologically (flashbacks etc). While game cut scenes certainly can do that, during play they cannot. Everything must occur according to the rules of game time, which means long and rambling asides on the part of the player, multiple deaths while trying to complete tasks and other issues that neutralise dramatic impact.
Finally, a game empowers a player to take on a role and win. Drama needs to disempower the viewer so that inevitable consequences can play out. Without that disempowerment there is no way to create tragedy, comedy or other kinds of significant story moments.