Thursday, July 16, 2009

Even video games have stories

As I've been doing research for my new N-of-8 book, I've also been finding examples of storytelling in unique media.

Consider these two popular games and the story lines they weave.

Grand Theft Auto is an award-winning video game series created by Dave Jones, later by Dan Houser and Sam Houser, with game designer Zachary Clarke and published by Rockstar Games.

The gameplay consists of a mixture of action, adventure, driving, and occasional role-playing, stealth and racing elements. It has created controversy because of its adult nature and violent themes. The series focuses around many different protagonists who attempt to rise through the ranks of the criminal underworld, although their motives for doing so vary in each game. The antagonists are commonly characters who have betrayed the protagonist or their organization, or who has the most impact impeding their progress.

The stories began in 1997 and have been extended across 9 stand-alone games to date with more planned for the future.

Another example is the multi-player online game City of Heroes that offers a different kind of story formula. According to its website, it is “set in a fantastic world filled with awe-inspiring Heroes and bone-chilling Villains. Countless adventures await you on the streets of Paragon City and the inside the evil empire that is the Rogue Isles.”

The story section gives you a taste of what awaits you inside the world of City of Heroes. You can re-live the Rikti Invasion, meet some of the legends you may find yourself fighting (or fighting beside), and even take a peek into Ghost Widow's most personal thoughts.

And here’s a major difference -- if you feel inspired, you can share your ideas with the game producers by submitting your own City of Heroes fiction using the “Fan Submissions” feature.


M said...

Even George Lucas uses video games to plug holes in the infamous Star Wars story... let's face it, the best story of all time! Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is the newest video game released from Lucas Arts that allow the gamer to experience a different avenue of the Star Wars saga, revealing more facets of the story not present in the films. Also, there are already rumors circulating about turning "The Force Unleashed" into the next Star Wars movie to hit the big screen (which wouldn't surprise me considering Hollywood struggles to generate something new).

Video games certainly have captured a huge audience and actually outperformed Hollywood in recent years. I think the gaming experience as a whole (story included) has contributed to this shift. The video game developers create storytelling games that take you on a journey and can be loosely compared with cinema. However, movies and novels are very passive forms of entertainment. The viewer or reader sits down, takes in the story and makes a judgement on it. Video games, on the other hand, can allow the player to interact with their story. If they meet an obnoxious character, they could kill him if they wanted to, or befriend them. The choice is theirs. Video games are a dynamic visual story telling platform that allow the gamer to "become" the character immersed in the story. I personally feel developers have brought us a fresh experience and stories to our homes.

Although both video games and Hollywood have gone stale with remake after remake and endless sequels, at least there is always hope. The increasing popularity of Massively Multiplayer Online Games, or M.M.Os, means players can create their own stories together. A real person can become a villian in the virtual world, and another person equally as real can decide to put a stop to them. It's something no film or book could ever do, and has tremendous potential.

Mark Stinson said...

Thx for comment, M.

I'm thinking of using this example in my upcoming book, "N-of-8." Is this a good case study, or are there better ones?

In interested in your thoughts.