Games are not about story. They are about interaction. I'm being told film are all about story but now I'm beginning to doubt that too.
If the story really made the film, "Point of No Return" would be just as god as "Nikita" and "Mac and Me" would be just as good as "ET",¨because they have the same story, but they aren't. Thinking of it, there are a lot of great movies that no one can even remember the story of. We remember the horse head in the bed and the gun stashed in the bathroom, but ask people to re-tell the plot of "the Godfather" and they run in to trouble. When we think of movies we think of moments, like Clint Eastwood trying to remember how many bullets he fired, or everyone at Ricks rising to sing La Marseillaise, Carving mountains out of mashed potato or Dennis hopper telling Christopher Walken he has a nigger gene.
Many of the films I love, have very little in terms of plot. Apocalypse now, has a few minutes of plot in the beginning where we are told Kurtz has gone insane, and then follows it with 2 hours of unconnected scenes that in the end leads us to understand, that its the world that has gone insane and that Kurtz is the only one who is honest enough to act accordingly. Many people miss the point, but nobody misses the scenes. You cant play "The Ride of the Valkyries" without smelling the napalm once you have seen the film.
A point is made in the end, and the scenes preceding supports that point, so yes it is a coherent unit, but there is no real story. Kurtz doesn't show up until the end, and when he does he doesn't do anything. Captain Willard is also a passive onlooker rather the a protagonist. Following the rules of story telling it should all fall a part but its brilliant. Blade runner doesn't get better when they tried to tie together the story, it ruined it. You can add many more great films with no real story like 2001 or Pulp Fiction.
You can argue that ETs end scene doesn't work without the beginning, but I would argue that its not the scenes supporting the story but the story supporting the scenes. Its about coming up with as many great moments, ideas and scenes as possible first and only then try to puzzle together the narrative. Why would you need a plot, if I dint have any thing to fill it with? Trying to stretch out a two line pitch to hours of entertainment is a recipe for disaster. Even a great story like Macbeth can get lost if you make a 4 hour play out of it.
If you have enough good content, people will love it even if the story is telling them something they don't want to hear. That's why Corporate raiders watch Wall Street, Criminals watch Heat, drug kingpins watch Scarface, and soldiers watch Apocalypse Now, they just don't watch the end in order to avoid what the story is trying to tell them. You can tell when watching these films that the film makes had so much great material, that they tried to fit more of it in to every moment.
A good story concept is one that opens up many possibilities for great scenes. The story services the content, not the other way around. Just like a good game is not the mechanics themselves, but how the mechanics supports you making your own scenes. Pacing and building are great ways of accentuating an emotional response but story isn't the only way to do that.
I return to my mantra that its not what you do, its how you do it. That's why its not one idea you should be looking for, its clusters of ideas that hang together that are valuable. Tell me any story idea, game idea or any other kind of idea, and ill tell you how to mess it up, or maybe, just maybe I can find enough good ideas in to it to make it great too.