Today’s post is dedicated to a special someone with whom I love sharing this interest. If there are two passions responsible for bringing my best friend/boyfriend and me together, they are definitely creative writing and video games. So this week, I’d like to share a bit about our experience with video games and how they appeal to us as a method of interactive storytelling. Enjoy!

Escape into a Virtual World

The major debate of their positive and negative effects aside, we all have our reasons for loving video games. As a writer, one of my personal favorites is escapism, the chance to slip into a virtual world and experience a different life for a few hours at a time. Though it’s true that one can already achieve this through other sources of fiction such as novels and movies, video games bring that experience to life in a way no other medium can. When the real world becomes too boring or stressful, sometimes it’s nice to step into the metaphorical shoes of a fictional character and take back control of life. And while that may not be the healthiest solution to our problems, it certainly provides plenty of creative inspiration.

Mario (Super Mario Bros.), Sonic (Sonic the Hedgehog) and Link (The Legend of Zelda)

Mario (Super Mario Bros.), Sonic (Sonic the Hedgehog) and Link (The Legend of Zelda)

Growing up, I enjoyed embarking on adventures with Mario, Link and Sonic the Hedgehog, following a linear storyline to ultimately defeat a major villain and save the world. More recently, I’ve slain dragons and undertaken quests in the fantasy world of Skyrim, which offers a much broader terrain in which I’ve gotten lost for hours on end. I’ve defied the very principles of physics in the action/puzzle game series Portal; I’ve battled rebel spaceships in the strategy game FTL: Faster Than Light; I’ve witnessed my best friend construct his own story through the choices he’s made in the sci-fi game  series Mass Effect; and we’ve both had our perceptions of reality challenged by the unique 2D/3D-crossover world of FEZ. From childhood to adulthood, my love for adventure games hasn’t changed, for not only do they provide hours of entertainment, but they satisfy my need to be told a good story.

Come for the Action, Stay for the Story

The Last of Us

Joel and Ellie (The Last of Us)

Lately, I’ve been watching my best friend play the remastered edition of The Last of Us, a sci-fi/survival/horror game set in a post-apocalyptic United States. I had heard nothing but wonderful things about this game, including the fact that it had been awarded “Game of the Year” several times over, so of course I was excited when he offered to live stream his gameplay sessions for me. He warned me going in that it would be quite the emotional ride, and I have to say that so far, he’s been proven absolutely right. From the very first cutscene, the game sets up a tragic and at times horrifying sequence of events that is bound to touch the heart of any player willing to fully engage in the plot. Though I do enjoy watching the actual gameplay, I consider the highlight of the game to be the story at its core. As much in action as in narrative, The Last of Us is indeed a video game masterpiece.

While I will give many games a try for the promise of exciting gameplay, I’m prone to lose interest if there isn’t a gripping enough story to go with it. RPGs are my favorite game genre for a reason. Adventure is about exploring, gaining experience, overcoming obstacles toward a set goal and feeling accomplishment when the final mission is complete. And what is all that if not an interactive form of storytelling?

Make Your Own Story

Although video games tend to have a set storyline that a player is obligated to follow, there is the occasional game that offers the total freedom to explore and create your own path. The best example of this is probably Minecraft, a globally popular (read: 40 million players) sandbox game that many have equated with a sort of digital Lego platform. The reason? It’s pure creation. There is no story to follow, no boss to fight (unless you count the completely optional dragon battle in The End), no kingdom to rescue. The game simply provides an assortment of mobile creatures and all the building-block resources you need to craft tools, build structures, fight monsters and basically shape the continuously generating world however you want. It’s just you and your imagination.

Steve running away from a Creeper, the iconic monster of Minecraft

Steve running from a Creeper, the iconic monster of Minecraft

My best friend and I have been playing Minecraft together since the beta versions of 2011. I’ve long lost track of how many different worlds we’ve created and how many adventures we’ve had, but I’ve greatly enjoyed every minute we’ve spent creating together. One thing I love most is how the game brings out our individual characters: he’s more of an architect and an explorer, while I’m more of an artist and a farmer. Our playing styles may be different, but through combined effort, we’ve built cities, hoarded resources, survived monster attacks in the middle of the night and explored every terrain from the highest mountains to the deepest caves. In the world of Minecraft, we don’t need a predetermined plot to have hours of fun. We write our own stories.

Video games have their fair share of pros and cons, but when it comes to the creative aspect, they’re a unique source of inspiration. From writing video game fanfiction to finding ideas for original works, video games have been a big part of my journey as a writer, as they likely will be for years to come. And if nothing else, they make a great outlet for relieving the stress of a creative block!

Are you an avid gamer? Have video games ever helped you in your writing? What games inspire you the most?

Mario and Link belong to Nintendo. Sonic the Hedgehog belongs to SEGA. The Last of Us is a product of Naughty Dog and Sony Computer Entertainment. Minecraft is a product of Mojang. All official artwork is displayed for illustrative purposes only. I own nothing!

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