Like most forms of media, video games are linear. They have a beginning and an end. But the path doesn't necessarily have to be a straight line. That's what makes video games unique.
Most games resort to telling their stories via scripted cinematic sequences, where the player becomes a viewer, passively watching a scene unfold.
Cinematics like that don't take advantage of the interactive nature of games. But hand a player control, and they might miss something important. If a player has freedom, how can you ensure that they will be looking in a certain place at a certain time to see a key part of the story?
Ken Levine is regarded as a master in the art of telling stories in a game. His games are filled with environments soaked with atmosphere; the setting tells you almost as much as the characters do. His latest game, 'BioShock Infinite', is set on a floating city in an alternate 1912 full of secrets to uncover.
Levine actually started as a movie screenwriter before becoming a game developer, and says his experience as a film buff influences the games he makes. One of his favorite films of all time is "Miller's Crossing" by the Coen brothers. Levine didn't think he pulled all the details of that film together until the 8th or 9th time he saw it - and he says he took that approach with 'BioShock Infinite', trying to create a game that you probably won't fully understand the first time around.
It's an approach that's been rewarded by critics: 'BioShock Infinite" is one of the most highly-rated games of 2013.