You come up with a snappier title when you’ve gone most of the day without food. Anyway, today’s entry is about everyone’s favorite pastime, VIDEO GAMES—thought I was gonna say baseball, didn’t ya? The video game industry has grown exponentially since its early days with many hardcore gamers entering their 30s and 40s and even their 50s. It’s not just for kids anymore. I daresay it stopped being a “kid’s medium” a long time ago.
Video games have come a long way since Pong or Gallaga. They have gripping plots, intriguing characters, compelling storylines and reveals. As a writer, a lot of my inspiration comes from video games. I am an avid gamer and I probably will remain one so long as I have opposable thumbs. Games have matured with their audience and the storylines are more gripping, tighter and more cohesive.
The video game industry has nearly eclipsed the movie industry, with many people opting to buy the latest Call of Duty or Halo game instead of going to the movies. There’s a good reason for this. Why pay $12.00 or even $20.00 to see a movie once, when for just a few dollars more you can buy a game you can play again and again? Sure, you can buy a DVD and watch it as many times as you please, but video games trump DVDs in one important area—THEY’RE INTERACTIVE!!! I’m not just a passive spectator watching the story unfold before me; I’m an active participant crafting the story as I go along. I’m IN THE STORY!! The video game industry is growing because there is a huge demand for highly crafted stories. This is evident in classes offered at UCLA’s Writer’s Extension Program in video game writing
Take a look at the Grand Theft Auto series. If one can get past the controversial aspects, then one can see a great story in nearly every game in the series. I say nearly because Grand Theft Auto Liberty City Stories and Vice City Stories sucked ass—donkey ass.
In my last entry concerning people of color in science fiction and fantasy, I mentioned a distinct lack of minorities in sci-fi stories and fantasy stories. A video game franchise called the Elder Scrolls has a fictional race called “Yokudans” or Redguards as they are more commonly known. There’s been some controversy concerning the real world cultural equivalent they’re based on, but I’m going to clear up any misconceptions—they’re black people. You can give your avatar an afro, cornrows, dreadlocks, etc. They can be light or dark-skinned and their features are distinctly African (West African to be specific). But the real point is that the storylines for those games are told in such a way that you, the player, can decide which story, in the game, among many is told, how it’s told and when it’s told—the power!
Graphics are great and proper game-play is a must, but what keeps me going level after level is my insatiable curiosity. If the storyline is gripping then, just like a good book, I have to keep going to see how it ends. Not only is it a triumph as a gamer to give yourself those bragging rights because you defeated a great and challenging game, but you got to the end and you see the story wrap itself up in a way that is not only cool, but satisfying.
One of the earliest games to introduce a convention that is now commonplace—cutscenes—was Ninja Gaiden. These scenes gave the game an awesome story. Yes, it was a generic revenge plot with a twist that in today’s time, doesn’t quite hold up, but back then, it was revolutionary. Up until that point, games had a plot, but little in the way of an actual story. The basic plots for most games were, go here, shoot that and most importantly, don’t die. Ninja Gaiden gave gamers a reason to continue playing. The developers, Tecmo, had to—that game was harder than shit (is shit hard?) and no one would’ve continued playing if there weren’t cutscenes egging us on.
This is what separates video games from films and books, the active component—which I mentioned earlier. You are an active participant in the story. In essence, you are the story. Your actions help craft the story and your continued game play keeps the story alive, just as if you reread your favorite book or watch your favorite film over and over.
That’s my two cents. Leave a comment. Are any of you gamers? What are your favorite games? Why do you play, if you play?
Ronin STAND UP!!!