Gaming as a Storytelling Medium.

‘The power that games afford is in the ability not only to stimulate the imagination but to do so in an amazingly complex, profound and vivid way.’- Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown, ”The Play of Imagination, Extending the Literary Mind.”

Gaming is my favourite medium of entertainment. When done right, I believe it’s the most immersive experience we can have in the arts. The idea of immersive storytelling is to skew the axis of storytelling from passive to interactive. Players are invested in a story and characters when they make direct decisions that impact the outcome and help move narrative along. It makes sense then really for gaming to be a hugely valuable method of storytelling.

In 2012 Telltale Games started to release The Walking Dead, an episodic point and click zombie game. The game is unique in many ways, firstly being that it blends the mediums of video game and television more so than any work before it. Episodes of the game were released monthly from Telltale, downloadable via Play Store, XBL and Steam. The second notable feature of the game is that the play mechanics are very stripped back. It is, essentially a point and click, but how does such a simple game go on to receive such widespread critical acclaim? The game bagged itself over 90 Game of the Year Awards too.

”Freedom of choice. Fantastic story. Tailored storytelling. Excellent character development. These qualities are what most players find in each Telltale game, and is what every game developer should strive for…”[1]

The Wolf Among Us, Telltale Games, 2013.
The Wolf Among Us, Telltale Games, 2013.

This game is where I saw the paradigm really beginning to shift towards storytelling. The tailored storytelling separates gaming from literature and film in a way that was unprecedented  only a few years ago.


[SPOILER]

At the end of The Walking Dead game 

The player as Clementine had to decide whether or not to shoot Lee, the man who had been caring for her during the outbreak, as he now had become infected. We could either leave him chained to the storefront, not bringing ourselves to kill him thus letting him live as a zombie, or pull the trigger and end him right then. He asks us to end it. Clem, an 8-year-old girl, has in many ways been readying herself for these tough decisions through the whole game. I ended it. I pressed A. I’m still not healed! This video of different Youtubers reacting to the ending shows I’m not alone in being so moved Tears galore for Youtubers!


”So if you see books, if you think about movies, if you think about pieces of art, they are always pushing people to feel something, or to express more elevated ideas. We are not using our best option ever–which is the video game–to do that. Why not?”- Tali Goldstein [2]

This all isn’t to say that gaming doesn’t have it’s issues. It most certainly does. There is a mental block with a lot of people who won’t accept video game as art. This is a mindset that should be truly vanquished by now. Games such as Shadow of the Colossus and Journey have each been described as interactive works of art. Other than that there’s the fact that newcomers are unaccustomed to the controls of game-play and can be daunted with facing a, let’s face it, more difficult way of consuming entertainment. Unique to game problems such as consistency through the story and cohesion with game play are difficult to tackle also. The Last of Us by Naughty Dog in 2013 combined exciting and innovative game play with an incredibly memorable story, and this is what we are going to see a lot more of in the future. Narrative not as an afterthought, but being cohesively created in conjunction with expensive to render game play. I for one am incredibly excited to see what next-gen gaming has to offer us.

Shadow of the Collosus, Team Ico

[1] http://www.glcometstale.com/2015/01/16/why-the-storytelling-revolution-created-by-telltale-games-is-important-for-gaming-2/

[2]http://www.gamesradar.com/real-problems-video-game-storytelling-and-real-solutions/

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