To be honest, I never really considered myself to be much of a ‘gamer’.
Growing up, I didn’t share the fascination my brother had with games and consoles. I stuck to books and movies, preferring more traditional forms of storytelling. As I grew older, I started to experiment with the Internet and online games. It was incredibly fun to play around with controls and see what my character could do. As games got better, it became possible to mess around with the outcome of the story, and I became more invested in the game world, and in video game stories.
When cinema first arose, people were fascinated with what technology could do. Cinema had a potential for being ‘spectacular’, for focusing on tricks with the camera and delighting the audience with a new medium. Of course, focusing on cinematic tricks gets old, and cinema began to shift from focusing on pure spectacle to focusing on narrative. The goal was to create compelling stories that would make people want to watch it over and over, to create prolonged interest.
Video games are the only medium that comes up in the post-modern world.
We can see the same effect taking place in video games, too. Early video games are pretty simple, plot-wise. There’s an emphasis on what you can do and how you can interact with the game-world. Game technology got better and better – you could do more, experiment with the game world, and try new things.
Recently, there has been a shift to focusing on narratives in games, on a new way to tell stories, to create ‘video game stories’ of sorts. It’s a way for people to play the game over and over, to try and get different outcomes with each ‘re-telling’. It’s a shift from spectacle to narrative, and it’s fascinating to see that with a new medium.
Of course, there are some that prefer video games to stick to what they’re good at – interacting with the audience. Stories in these games can’t be too structured, because of how interactive games are. It can be difficult to articulate certain stories, and nuances can get sacrificed for interactiveness. The way we define stories changes with video games. Stories aren’t linear, or dictated by the author – the reader has an active voice in the way the story is told.
Recently, there has been a shift to focusing on narratives in games.
Others celebrate this narrative turn, pointing out that games are a goldmine for fresh stories, because the medium challenges the way stories are normally told. Video games also work in terms of their sequels. I can’t count the number of movies and TV shows that have gotten spoiled because the creators didn’t know when to end the journey. Sequels have become notorious in ruining a good story, but not in video games. Thanks to their interactiveness, video game sequels are a great way to return to a beloved story while exploring new forms of gameplay.
One of the video games that I played – and particularly enjoyed – was Detroit Become Human. The gameplay is relatively simple, but the story was compelling. Set in a futuristic world where androids serve humankind, we play the game from a few androids’ perspectives. We see the signs of struggle and turmoil, as androids rise up and fight for freedom. Depending on the choices you make, the game ends differently – with different fates in store for the androids. It’s a fun game to revisit because you can track various story paths, and its gameplay was easy to manage, so I never felt confused or overwhelmed.
It’s fascinating to see traditional stories being reworked into something new.
The Last of Us seems like a fairly basic zombie-hunting game, which works in a linear fashion. You move from place to place, kill zombies, and survive. What makes this game incredibly popular is its stunning story. Revolving around the relationship between a man and a young girl he needs to keep alive, we see the two bloom, and this narrative arc adds so much depth to the story’s mechanics.
Another popular game that shows how a good story can supersede graphics is Undertale. The story revolves around a young child falling into a mountain and must interact with the inhabitants of the mountain to make their way out. Depending on the player’s approach, the outcome changes, and the game’s gained a large following despite its simple controls.
Video games have become a new form of storytelling, and they’ve always been a source of comfort. It’s fascinating to see traditional stories being reworked into something new and exciting. Stories are a part of the human condition, and it’s amazing to see us adapt beloved tales to a new medium altogether. Stories in video games make them memorable, compelling, exciting to play. You become invested in the game, and it leaves a mark. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to fall in love with yet another video game character.
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