Abyssal Pixels: The Narrative
I’ve recently descended into the cesspit of despair and hatred otherwise known as university. My chosen field of learning? BA Language and Communication. Within that course two forceful modules that I have to take and that is Afrikaans and English literature. Now, I’m not a big fan of novels and poems, but I consider myself a fine learned student of language. In one of my lectures I heard a shocking revelation: Games can’t really be seen as literature. You will be excused to think “holy fuck that’s blasphemy!”, but bear with me. These people don’t have the type of exposure we have had to games. I will explain momentarily.
A moment has passed? Oh good. You see, games are generally perceived as a frivolous waste of time. Something mindless that you can do for the sole purpose of keeping yourself entertained long enough so that you don’t kill yourself. I asked this lecturer what games she has heard of and this is the answer I got: “Oh you know, Sims and that Call of Duty thing,” I was almost at the verge of frothing at the mouth, but I do understand that not a lot of people know about the various intricacies and small details that make gaming great because they either had too little exposure or didn’t care to look past the shallowness and into the depths.
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What I followed to say blew my lecturer’s mind. I said that games have the potential to have stories that are longer than 20 hours and contain intricate mythos and events that would shock even the strongest man. I said that some games even have the potential to bring a grown man to tears and make you genuinely heart broken and sad at some of the events that occur. You get so attached to characters when something catastrophic happens to them that you feel the impact just as much as them. The lecturer was shocked at what I just told her.
This whole fiasco reminded me of how great gaming’s narratives can be perceived. It’s genuinely an art form with regards to storytelling. If you want an example then look at a game such as The Walking Dead. The game had an intricately woven storyline with various characters from extremely different backgrounds and follows a story so well told and so meaningful that it brought tears to the eyes of many that witnessed its shocking conclusion. Don’t tell me that a novel and some poems are the only things that can pull that off.
Gaming has grown from just a few pixels on a screen that shoot lines at each other to a medium that demands respect for its storytelling capabilities. There are hundreds of games that have managed to pull off such an amazing story that some would be forever etched into our minds. Stories in games don’t slouch on the content as well. Just look at Dragon Age: Origins. The various entries you receive into your codex can possibly stem quite a few novels worth of content. The world is so massive and so rich with back-story that you could possibly create an entire world with just some of the content on offer.
Stories in games are getting grander in scope as well, spawning entire sub-plots and different universes. Just look at some of the content that has been created within the world of the Halo franchise and even that of Gears of War. Games where you “mindlessly” shoot random creatures in the face have entire universes and side stories that it would make your head spin.
Sure, you get some games that exist for the sole purpose of being mindless fun and that’s okay. Sometimes that’s all we need. But show some respect to the scope and the potential that games have for brilliantly mastered stories.