Storytelling is not subjective

There’s been a lot of talk recently about how “storytelling is subjective.” Specifically regarding the quality of this game’s writing.

This is an inherently ridiculous claim. Storytelling is not subjective, or there would be no way to criticize any form of writing.

For example, consider the novel Twilight. It was enjoyed by a great many people, however it is also quite easy to tell that it is not a shining example of high-quality literature. The awkwardness of the prose, the lack of literary depth, the simplistic plot; Twilight may be enjoyable, but it is not High literature.

Now does this mean that you are prohibited from enjoying it? Of course not! But, your enjoyment does not have any Grand meaning about the subjectivity of literature.

There are simple and complex ways to analyze the relative quality of a piece of literature. At the most basic level, you have things like spelling and punctuation, or narrative causality. Do characters vanish, only to reappear in a different location somewhere else with no justification for their absence?

And then, you have more complex ways of analysis. Characterization, for example. Do characters have deep, and fleshed out motivations for their actions? Do characters respond believably to the actions of others?

I’m not saying you can’t enjoy this games story. Unlike storytelling, a person’s individual preferences are completely subjective.

But your preference means nothing about the actual quality of this game, or the subjectivity of Storytelling as a whole. This game has many plot holes, vanished characters, and flaws in characterization. These are not subjective things, they are facts. And just as a bucket full of holes cannot objectively hold water, a plot full of holes cannot objectively be called good.

If you want to say you enjoy the game, be my guest. But don’t try to hide that enjoyment beneath a false veneer literary criticism that fails at the slightest glance.


Writing is a form of art.

Painting, music, singing, dancing, poetry etc…

All of this can be good and bad but people have different tastes in many of these things.

If this thread is directed at me, because I just pretty much said what this is directed at in another thread, I never said you cannot criticize the story.

What I said was don’t criticize others for liking things you do not.

For example you mentioned above the absence of characters, I think this was an example of good writing. Shoe horning in more characters means other things need to be cut. I actually think they should of cut more characters, the whole b team added nothing to the plot.

I would of rather spend more time with Maya and Ava and get out of that because I felt that had parts left on the cutting room floor.

This is how we both find a decision both good and bad. We have a different opinion on quality of writing based on a choice.

That is subjective.


Storytelling is not subjective,but the audience perceptions is.


By an absence of characters, I mean absence of characters that were in the scene a moment before. That’s a direct failure of narrative causality, a fundamental error in storytelling.

All the things you’re talking about, are ways in which you enjoy the story. They have absolutely nothing to do with the actual quality of the story in question.

Furthermore, it’s inherently ridiculous to claim that art is immune to criticism. Anyone can tell the difference between a good painting, and a bad painting. It’s hard to do so with literature, but the same methods of judging relative quality exist.

Just to be clear, this is not personally directed at you. I have seen the same sorts of things said by several people , and decided the best venue for discussing it was a new thread


I never said that. I said don’t criticize others for their enjoyment of something.

Can they? A lot of people debate things like this. Jackson Pollock’s paintings are still debated if they are great or not by some.

I didn’t take it as an attack or anything, just the timing was about right so I thought it might be. Which if it was is fine to debate this topic.


There are 4 planets in the game, Derch, and to be honest i do prefer some side quests to be given by Sal or Axton instead of some random npcs. The ship is big enough to carry all of them. It’s been seven years, i’d love to see Maya cracking jokes with Sal about the Wedding day massacre for example. The franchise is so rich in content ,that they can only stay and chat about past events and I’ll just stand there drowning in tears of nostalgia. :slight_smile:


See we can agree to disagree, I want a focused story, not a bunch of side distractions. I would rather see that in DLCs.

I’m also not saying the story is amazing or perfect, I didn’t like a lot of things with it and I loved other parts.

A heavily criticized part of the story I kind of like, Maya’s death. I found the twins much more interesting after Maya’s death, the rift with them and the family dynamic with Typhoon was something I really enjoyed. Before that I didn’t care for all the streamer stuff but after Maya they changed and for the better IMO. So I saw purpose in Maya’s death from a narrative sense.

Just because it is doesn’t mean it should. There was also already criticism about the B-Team not being involved enough and just became quest givers, adding to that does not help that. I also agree with the criticism about the B-team. That is why I would rather have focus and avoid those issues. If they don’t have a place don’t force them.

I would love it but again as DLC or events or just something later, not core story.


Obviously just my opinion: I’ve played through the story 7 times now. My first thought is it is full of poor choices. One example, Ava has been there 10 minutes and is just automatically like what? Basically second in command? And the way she talks to Lilith, sometimes it seems first in command. I wouldn’t hesitate a second to say the story/writing as a whole is very poor quality. I would like to say i can see how some could like it and defend it. But i cannot. Everyone is most certainly entitled to their opinion. And i’m not saying they are wrong if they think it is good writing. I’m only saying that nothing could convince me of that.

I really like this game. But i cannot say it’s great. Not like i would say Borderlands 2 is the best game I’ve ever played. I am about 60/40 worried/excited for what will come in the future because of poor choices like the ones in the writing. Those really don’t matter to me, a good story is just a bonus. Not what i’m here for. But Mayhem Mode/ adding the ghosts to the main story, making a halloween event last past thanksgiving/ a non dedicated bank… Sure there are a ton of amazing changes to this game that i absolutely love. It’s why i am still playing the crap out of it. But the bad stuff seems so obvious that it’s bad lol. They had to know people would not like to be forced into the halloween event for over a month. And there was no reason to do it like that. Just like they had to know that we as the Vault Hunter would like to be more than a sidekick with little to no impact on the story.


Storytelling is subjective, but it is a lot of the time contained in a structuralistic context, being a timeline, setting, set, character arc and so forth. Why we can say a painting is from a particulary era, but without necessarily understanding the complete picture of what the painter is telling.

Jackson Pollock was attempting to do something entirely new and innovative. Criticism of his work has to do with whether or not he achieve that goal, not the technical proficiency with which he did so.

Borderlands 3 made no attempts to do anything innovative. Holding with the painting metaphor, Borderlands 3 is a landscape. There is a large body of work with which such a common goal can be contrasted, not just from a technical proficiency standpoint but also from a narrative one.

When a painter makes basic errors, like failing to properly utilize scale, or failing to keep their paints separate, resulting in muddled colors, you cannot simply say that art is subjective. These are unquestionably errors.

And yet, when Borderlands 3 makes the same genre of Errors, somehow this becomes a discussion of artistic merit?

No. When a work of art has flaws, it unavoidably reduces the quality of that work. When there are enough flaws, that quality is, by definition, bad. No amount of wordplay can avoid this inevitable result.


Once in an interview someone called Bob Dylan a bad singer, he asked the reporter to name one time he missed a note.

I hear a ton of people call Dylan a bad singer but if he hits the notes does that mean they are wrong and he is a perfect singer?

Nick Drake purposely in tuned his guitar, which meant he was always out of tune, which is technically bad. Nick Drake made some of the greatest music ever.

All art can be subjective, you can be technically wrong and make amazing art


As your own quote points out, Bob Dylan rarely, if ever, missed a note. Much like your example of the famous painter, the sort of subjective criticism is not based on their technical proficiency, but on whether or not they had achieved the artistic goal they had set out to achieve.

Even if Bob Dylan only knew three chords, and constantly made mistakes, that would not justify criticism of his style. In the same way, I am not criticizing the style of this game, merely its technical proficiency, which fails on nearly every level of literature.


I nearly she a tear at the end.

That’s not something I’d normally do. So I guess the story did something right…compared with TftB, which left me cold.

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Again, I’m not criticizing your enjoyment of the story. You like what you like. I personally have a fondness for bad fanfics, but I don’t think they’re great literature by any means.


This has little to do with quality of art.

Sex pistols were technically terrible musicians, they made some of the most important music of their time.

They made great art by many standards while being terrible at their art.

I’ll warrant you that certain extremely influential artists can ignore certain rules. However, that’s not due to technical proficiency being unimportant, but rather to the fact that their other qualities outweigh the importance of said technical proficiency.

I don’t think that anyone can make any sort of claim that this game has any of the qualities necessary for such a statement. You can’t Wish up quality from thin air, it has to come from somewhere.


I’m just debating that story telling as an artform is subjective.

I mean… I don’t know how many more ways I can say that you’re wrong. I’ve refuted every single one of your claims. Stories can be objectively criticized , a thousand years of literary analysis backs me up.


Qualitative analysis of anything is a lie founded in the minds of whomever has the power of the moment.

The Legends are only upheld as Legends because we let them be. The line between a subjective and objective statement in regards to any form of art is often drawn…what’s the fancy word for…arbitrarily…by the people who make the “rules”.

I don’t like the Beatles, I don’t think they were objectively “Great” musicians, and are only held up as they are because they landed at a really opportune time for them. I could wax on about how not great they are and someone could wane about how great they are, and we’d both seem objective with a lot of our points.

All this to say that if storytelling is not subjective, then who is making the rules? And why are we accepting those rules over any other set?


The rules are set by reality , of course. For example, a character spontaneously disappearing at the beginning of a cutscene and then reappearing once it’s over, violates obvious rules of reality. A character behaving in a manner that is in opposition to their continued existence, violates obvious rules of reality. These aren’t complicated measures, they’re simple things that most people can understand with a little bit of thought.

There is no Shadow Council of secret literature Majors hiding in a basement somewhere setting the rules that everyone must follow.