Video Games and Literature

So I read an article on this really cool new site called Medium today. This site is really interesting and cool to me. It is so well designed and even gives you an estimate on how long the articles will take you to read! An ingenious idea considering how fast paced society is today.

Anyways I read this article titled “Teaching Stanley” which is originally from a site called 8bitscholar which I think is brilliant. The article (if you don’t want to read it, it’s only a ten minute read!) discusses a teacher’s experience with teaching creative writing students through a video game. Now the video game is very simple, nothing incredibly fancy like Skyrim, Fallout 3, Mass Effect, or any other large RPGs that are common today. The game is unique in that it does not have any combat and the player is faced with very simple choices. Each of these choices has an effect on which one of the six endings the player sees. For some more info here’s a link to the Wikipedia page: Stanley Parable

For me this article helped me figure out how to explain the connection between video games and writing. In the fall I will be taking a senior capstone class at Ball State University for my degree in Creative Writing that has to do with this very topic. I’ve had a lot of people ask me what I want to do with this degree. Most of them ask it in a sort of condescending manner. As if I don’t already realize how difficult it is to make it in the ‘real world’ with an English degree.

What these people don’t realize is that there is writing all around them. Not just in books but in film, television, advertisements, the web content they see everyday, and yes even in video games. You wouldn’t believe the looks you get when you tell people that video games have writers! It just blows their minds.

Continuing on, the article also talked about how the teacher talked to the kids about their experiences. How playing this incredibly simple game could help them see how their writing style, their choices, their voice, would affect the reader. For some people they go along with the narrator and never question the choices made but other readers want to delve into every nook and cranny of the decisions the narrator makes. The second group often will become the most devout and loyal fan base but only if you give them what they want.

Readers, players, viewers, we all crave to feel connected to the story. If a story does not hit home on some level, no matter how superficial, then no one will want to read it. If a movie or show does not make you feel anything about any of the characters or story then no one will watch it. When we try to apply video game, or even movie, logic to writing it seems unnatural. But after some thought it does help you understand what a reader wants in a story. They want the connection, they want a reason to keep turning the page.

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