Talking with some other #pulprev friends today, one of the best points brought up about stories in video games is that players often focus on the story because they don’t read.
I’ve made this point numerous times regarding video games and stories within them – if your goal is to tell a tight story, a game is not a very good medium. Gameplay is the art that is unique to games; this doesn’t mean you SHOULDN’T tell a story with a game, it just means that if your primary goal is a traditional, highly constructed story, you are better off writing a book.
Why is this?
While gameplay can help tell a story in a unique way, if you just want to tell the story, the gameplay will disrupt that, even more so if your gameplay is not good on its own. Subjecting a player to boring or annoying gameplay to justify a CG movie packaged as a game is not my idea of a good time.
And yet, there is a big part of my generation and younger that seem willing to tolerate that.
They aren’t getting the stories they want through movies. They want the depth, the time with the characters, and the ability to really understand a setting.
Books do all of those things! So why aren’t they reading?! Do they just need cool aesthetics (in other words, should I be throwing money at illustrators for my fantasy books? – seriously, let me know)
I can’t answer for sure, but as a teacher I suspect that our approach to schooling, at least here in the USA, is to blame. Reading is a terrible experience for most kids, especially boys, during and after the middle grades. It gets worse into high school.
The books chosen for English class are not chosen because they are great reads. In fact, I’ve never heard an educator ever justify choosing a book for a class because it’s really fun to read, or the story is really good, or anything that is focused on delivering a good experience to the kids.
Instead, it’s always how the book is “important” in some social-political-cultural way. It represents some important time period, or is involved in some important social issue, or is written by a member of a marginalized group.
We’ve trained generations of people to hate reading – books are full of lame, boring shit, not fun stories like Star Wars! And our educators wonder why nobody wants to bother opening a book. Why would they when they’ve never seen a story they enjoy inside one, or seen so few they just don’t want to bother.
Kids (especially boys) ought to be reading Tarzan and Princess of Mars, Conan, The Hobbit, Earthsea, Hawkmoon… hell, they should be reading Vampire Hunter D. We should also teach through these books, but the furthest the education system goes for fun books is book reports. LAME.
Of course, to teach through these books, you’d have to convince all the literature majors that they are focusing on all the wrong things – good luck with that!
As a parent, I look forward to teaching my son through the stories that he actually likes.
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