Playing With Imagination: Video Games and Storytelling
This part of the special is personal to me. Seeing Ready Player One in theaters is something of a joy to me, considering that movie made me love being a gamer. I’ve been one since I was a kid. I played anything I can get ahold of. Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, PC, even those crappy Tiger handheld games were what shaped my life. It’s hard for me to pinpoint the exact first game I played, either on PC or Console. But I’ll list a few as we go. For now, I’ll discuss my life as a gamer and how it’s shaped my life and my writing, as well as discussing story in gaming overall.
I started growing up with video games when I was around five or six. My first system was obviously Super Nintendo and a Game Boy (The old gray brick, but I still have a purple Game Boy Color). My first game was a hard one. If it wasn’t Zelda, it was Mario. Of course it was. Everyone played Super Mario World. But the trio for me back then was Mario, Zelda, and Metroid. The stories were enough to get me hooked and even if they were primitive by today’s standards, in a way, Nintendo pioneered retro storytelling that we take for granted.
So as I grew up I got into PC titles. StarCraft, Diablo, Doom (even dipped my toe into the modding scene thanks to my dad), Civilization, and Command and Conquer. Something about PC and Real Time Strategy games back then was something I had a soft spot for, but for me, it was platformers. Even today, I have an appreciation for old-style platforming that harkens back to the early years.
When I was eight, I had a bus-mate introduce me to Pokémon, and that changed my life forever. I’ve talked before about how much Pokémon means to me, but it truly changed me for the better. By middle school, I had branched out. Kingdom Hearts, Tekken, Final Fantasy, Unreal Tournament and all sorts of new adventures.
I could ramble on, but I wanted to be nostalgic for a time when video games weren’t about headshots or loot boxes or throwaway titles on mobile platforms (though a few of my favorite games right now have those). To me, games back then meant something. It made me wonder, between them and cartoons it made think about what I could do to exist alongside them. To have my name be among the great names of creativity.
I’m sure having a monster cat and a mythical kitsune are imaginative enough, but I wanted to show that I’m not just trying to buck the latest trend. I want to create the kinds of worlds I enjoyed back then and have the kids of today share that same whimsical fun I grew up with. They can enjoy their Pokémon, Mario, and Minecraft, but I would love it if people young and old saw what I can do and enjoy my works alongside them. It’s been a dream of mine since I was young, seeing my name uttered alongside legends. It might not be until I’m forty, but it’s a goal worth pursuing.
How Gaming Influenced Me As A Writer
A lot of what went on in those games made me think like a creator. I would always imagine scenarios where those characters had a central role (essentially, fanfiction before the internet). Seeing what I could do with those characters and how they shaped me, I could hone my skills at an early age. I knew I wanted to be a creator, but I never found myself wanting to make games.
I wanted to have a TV series of some sort, something I could watch along with my fans and go “I made that. Those are my characters. Over times, thanks to the internet, that’s more possible than ever.
My writing habit began when I made Pokémon fanfiction. I created my own heroes and while I did use the games’ characters, I gave them the care and attention I would to any of my other characters. If they were goofy, I’d make them so. If they had a seriousness to them, I’d make them serious. If they were a bit of both, then I’d accommodate that. I’d do all I can to have my interpretation of the world I grew up with to show that one day, I can be a creator like them. Then, over 500 chapters and twenty story arcs later, I gave up (I’ve been at that for over 10 years. Don’t judge. >_>), and I started taking writing seriously and kickstarted my adventure.
I have a lot to owe for making game universes I can build upon. While I did make a few original works, none of them were anywhere what I wanted them to be. I swore I would improve and seeing myself get better over time, it’s like night and day. If my upcoming short story is anything to go by, it’s only going to get better.
And even with this simplest of stories, I can add to them by creating my own take on the universe. Sometimes, I would simply make novelizations of those works and add to the lore. And all the while, it made me better. I took up writing since I wasn’t an artist. If I were, I’d be making fan art and have decent cash on me long before I got a real job. Either way, I live to create. If anything, I could go back to making writing casually if this doesn’t work out, but I’m hoping it does. I want people to enjoy my works most of all, and that’s what keeps pushing me forward.
Is Game Storytelling Underrated?
I find that storytelling in games isn’t as appreciated as I’d want. A lot of game stories can be fantastic. The Last of Us, Horizon: Zero Dawn. Indie games such as Braid and Undertale can have huge fanbases and fantastic storytelling. But whenever I see someone gush about the “next big thing” it’s usually either a TV show or a movie. I don’t see that many people publicly go on about how they’re eagerly awaiting the next chapter of Telltale’s story-based games or the next big RPG.
I feel like for the casual folk, games don’t have that impactful of a story. As a gamer, I know better than to judge like that, but not everyone plays games like I do. In fact, some don’t bother with the story, no matter how good it is. Which is a shame, since I feel some games have better storytelling than most TV shows and over half of what Hollywood produced in last year alone.
This may have also to do with said people growing up on old arcade classics and NES gems rather than anything modern. Back then, the story was nothing more than a blurb inside of a manual. You’d be lucky if the game even had a story at all. By the 90s, Squaresoft (Now Square Enix) was sort of the brainchild of modern storytelling that can be gripping and classic. Final Fantasy VI (Then Final Fantasy III), was their peak until VII came around. Since then, many have thrown their hat into the ring and even a number of old PC games like Monkey Island and old Point and Click Games from Sierra (Kings Quest) and LucasArts (Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle) gave storytelling new life.
So I won’t understand some people when they brush off a game’s story for being inferior when there are numerous examples of fantastic storytelling in games, but not everyone is the same. Many enjoy their mobile games and that’s fine. But don’t reject stories in games unless you truly want to appreciate the work that goes into developers that push for an immersive experience.
I’ll be a gamer for a long time and no matter what I’ll find new ideas from many of the latest successes to see how I can interpret them. Legends of Eifalia, my upcoming novel, is a mix of all of the fantasy franchises I loved when I was a kid. One day, I’ll get that out to you all, but for now, my short stories will serve as an introduction.
What about you? Do you think video game stories need more love? Any stories you loved in a video game? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.
That’s all for today. Take care, and remember, the inn is always open.
If you have any suggestions for future topics and reviews, hit me up on my social media channels and let me know your thoughts. I always read the feedback, even if I don’t respond. Your feedback is what keeps me going, so thank you for supporting me.
My short story, Do Not Stare Into The Eyes of a Kitsune, is now available for pre-order on Amazon and ebook distributors everywhere. Coming soon, June 5th, 2018.