This post is dedicated to Adrian, also known to me as the Cousin Formerly Known As Frank.
You probably wont see me write too often about video games on this blog. I doubt I’ll ever do a full post on any video game here, although I will occasionally make reference to them. In fact I have made several references already to video games in general, though so far not really in a positive light. Woops.
I have nothing against video games. In fact, at this point in my life my history with video games is much longer than my history with board games.
Though my first real gaming system was an xbox, I’d been scratching up any chance I could get to play games, whether it be frogger and donkey kong on my dad’s commodore 64, or playing super mario on my best friends N64, since I was little. I played the latter parts of the Kings Quest series, and the first 3D game I owned was Kings Quest 8… followed not long after by the now-legendary Halflife. I played hours and hours of Halo in high school and college (and I even won a Halo competition at my local gamestop). Morrowind sucked away a significant portion of my teenage life (the hours I spent on that game are numbered in the hundreds. I would probably be ashamed to see an exact total.) The original Deus Ex is my favorite game ever (If I write one more post dedicated to video games on this blog, it will probably be about why Deus Ex is the greatest game in the universe), I love the Mass Effect series, and I’ve beaten Ninja Gaiden for xbox on hard mode.
There are a lot of great video games out there. Many games have great stories, great gameplay mechanics, great graphics, and sometimes more than one of those things. Video games have a challenge unique to all the arts, and that is that a game has to be good in all these areas (certain exceptions exist – for example, Tetris is a classic ‘great’ game but it doesn’t need a story) to really be great. A game with a great story falls flat if the action isn’t fun or immersive. Great graphics are pointless if everything else is bad. Players can lose motivation to finish a story-based game, even if the mechanics are solid, if there’s no real motivation provided in the writing.
So, in summary, I enjoy video games. I think a lot of them are great. I think they are a valid form of entertainment, and some games reach the realm of art. But in recent years, my passion for video games has waned (with a few great titles excepting) and a passion for hobby board gaming and pen-and-paper roleplaying gaming has bubbled up in its place.
I think a big part of the reason for this is another passion of mine – storytelling. I enjoy a number of forms of storytelling, from writing to filmmaking, and I hate to say it, but most video games do not really leave much room for this. When I play a video game, I’m not creating my own story, I’m simply going through someone elses story. Even games with ‘choices’ have limits on what can happen and what choices you can make. With a rare exception (perhaps why Morrowind took so much of my time) video games are created to experience another story. This is not a bad thing – the same is true even more so of Films and Books which I also enjoy. But you wont find me writing about those too often either. Unless one strikes me really, really well.
In RPGs, and even board games, as you play through, you invent your own story. In RPGs this is inherent… with almost complete freedom of choice, the story created by the GM can take wild and unexpected directions through the power of the players. Even board games, whose ‘plots’ are thin and directed, leave a lot of room for imagination to fill the gaps, for a new story to be told by the players every time they play. I love this. I love using my imagination. I love exploring a story from the inside. I love building and creating worlds. Hobby gaming serves that well.
I still try to keep up with video games, though my main gaming machine is my PC. I find it challenging to keep up though, with the constant upgrades in technology. Should I buy an xbox360 now, or wait til the xbox720 releases in a year or 2? Do I upgrade my PC or save and buy a new one? Then the expenses of maintaining the hardware takes money from what I can spend on new games to experience. With board games, I don’t need to upgrade my table every 3 years. I can play a 50 year old game, or a brand new game, without worrying about backwards compatibility or HD or lag or hardware upgrades. It’s all self-contained.
I like and enjoy video games. I love storytelling, and I love imagination, and I love many outlets of that (see my upcoming webseries at www.dontmesswithblake.com … the short screenplay competition I’m currently entered in… the DnD campaign I’m crafting…) and I created this blog as an outlet for those passions.
If videogaming is your passion, that is excellent. Go all out with that. It’s a great way to enjoy stories and play with your friends. Start your own blog. I might read it.
In conclusion, I wont rule out writing about video games in the future… but if I do, it will probably be about the storytelling of it, if a game stands out to me particularly well. If there’s a storied videogame you’d like me to tackle, let me know, I’m definitely willing to look into it. Films, Books, Games, I’ll take it all.