Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Game as Literature

            Narratives told through interactive or newly emerging media have the potential to immerse people more so than any medium in the past. Reading and watching a character’s narrative can be a very captivating experience, but video games give you the ability to become the character. I own a PS3 and I get immersed in the games I play because I put myself in the characters shoes. Many games give you the ability to make your own choices. In massive role playing games like Skyrim, you create your own character and through playing the game you flesh out your persona. The world the game creates is so massive that you can take your character on countless adventures. You have the ability to make your character an outlaw or a hero. You can choose to raise your defense skills to become a powerful warrior, or  raise your ability to pick pocket and become a notorious thief. This kind of “choose-your-own-adventure” narrative is  almost impossible to create through any other medium. Narratives in games can also play out in a very cinematic fashion. Games like the Uncharted series give the player very limited options on where you can go and what you can do in the world of the game. It replaces the freedom with an epic Indiana Jones like story told through engaging characters and some of the industry’s most jaw dropping graphics. The difference between playing an action game and watching an action movie though, is the fact that you are the one wielding the sword or firing at the enemy. The story only continues if you are successful and that's an entirely different experience from passively watching a story play out in a movie theater. 

              I tried a few of the games posted on the blogspot, but the one that I found most intriguing was Spectre. The story is one that could be told in any medium: An old man is looking back on his life and trying to find some sort of purpose to his memories and experiences. In a movie or book this would be a fairly straight forward story. Memories would probably be told chronologically with a set story arch already written in to the plot. The game allows you to walk through the different ages of Joseph and pick and choose which memories you want him to tell. The memories have color cues that reveal whether they are positive or negetive. You play through his memories in a mini-game like fashion as Joseph unravels the tales of his past. Which memories you play are entirely up to you. You can either play them chronologically or skip entire decades of his life if you so choose. Depending on which memories you play effects the out come of each 15 minute game. Some games give Joseph a more deeper meaning to his life and other’s just leave him sad and confused. Every time you play it’s a new experience. The new narrative outcome of each play is something mediums from the past can’t provide. Books will always tell the same story no matter how many times you read them. The same goes for movies and television shows. Video games allow you to explore the narrative. You can test the boundaries through trail and error. Sometimes the style of game play adds to the theme the game is trying to convey. For instance, during happy memories in Spectre, you are flying up into the sky trying to catch stars. During the bad memories you fall down into a dark pit. These games give you a chance to play through how the character is feeling. It’s thought provoking and made even more engaging because you have control of the character. 

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