Looking under the metaphorical hood, many modern games are complex beasts. When creating a new game, developers have to carefully balance several key elements such as graphics, gameplay, audio, and story among others. But which elements are, in your opinion, essential in order to bridge the gap between “fun and interactive” to “truly revolutionary and immersive”?

For many gamers, myself included, a game’s story is what truly sets it apart from the masses. An excellently told story not only leaves a lasting impression on the player, it can also allow them to look past other areas where a game might come up short such as graphical quality or a lack of innovative gameplay (though having both those elements *and* a great story never hurts either).

Games like Limbo, Gone Home, or Dear Esther all feature simplistic gameplay yet their stories still manage to captivate us despite their lack of complex gameplay elements. An engaging and immersive story is especially important whenever a particular game series gets multiple entries, such as Mass Effect or Assassin’s Creed, since the more gameplay-focused elements of such games don’t tend to evolve too much between entries.

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However, the line between simplistic gameplay elements and *bad* gameplay elements is one which should also be carefully considered. No matter how engaging or immersive a game’s story may be, it’s of little consequence if the person playing the game can’t experience it because they’re hampered by poorly implemented controls or a cumbersome user interface. Nothing can ruin a game’s immersion factor quite like shoddy gameplay execution.

Then there’s graphics. While I wouldn’t exactly consider myself a “graphics snob,” I will admit there have been times when I maybe didn’t give a particular game its fair shake because its graphical quality wasn’t on par with some of the bigger AAA titles out there. I also sometimes find it hard to go back and play older games that I once loved because, again, their graphics haven’t stood the test of time as well as I’d hoped. I certainly don’t mean to imply a game *has* to have decent graphics for it to be good, but it is definitely something that some gamers swear by when it comes to picking which games they want to play.

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Other elements such as a game’s music and sound effects, its replay value, and even extra features like multiplayer are also features that can help tip the scales when a player decides if a particular game is right for them. I personally like to think that most gamers aren’t too overly concerned with one element or another and instead rely on several different criteria when determining which games they want to play. But, as with most things, I’m sure there are also exceptions to the rule as well.

So what about you loyal VGU readers? Do you only like games with good stories? Or are cutting edge graphics more your thing? Is great audio quality imperative in order to help you feel immersed? Or is solid gameplay all you really need? Sound off on this week’s VGU Reader Discussion in the comments below and be sure to hit us up on Facebook, Twitter, and Raptr as well.