Many people act as if videogames have nothing to offer beyond an endless barrage of violent acts and expletive-laced dialogue, all delivered between stereotypical characters with little to no meaning behind it, besides pushing the player into another outlandish set piece of nearly insurmountable odds. While many games fit into this category, especially considering the medium the farther back you evaluate it, a great deal of modern software is coming out that places a significant amount of importance on the narrative it tries to convey. The gaming medium is evolving. With that, the stories follow suit.
The perceived notion that games are mindless entertainment can be traced back to the beginning. Much like movies in the early days, the creative teams were taking new technology and trying to get a handle on the concept of film as a whole, much like the original game developers were doing. Games like Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and Super Mario Bros., iconic as they were, did nothing beyond present a simple premise and allow gameplay to reign supreme. This can be attributed to many factors, but in my opinion, it simply boiled down to the technology available. The limited story mirrored the limited tech and understanding of it.
Since then, the stories have become more and more complex as the technology has become capable of rendering them properly. Games like Metal Gear Solid were early examples of stories taking precedent. This trend has continued through the years and this generation of consoles in particular has become a breeding ground for creative storytelling. My prime example at this time is a game I finished today. It’s called Alan Wake. The story focuses on a once-successful and prolific writer whose wife is kidnapped while on vacation. From there, a mystery involving pages of a novel he does not remember writing is brought to the forefront. With that set-up, the game tells a twisted, detailed storyline that takes cues from the likes of Lost and The X-Files. It’s even told in the form of a television serial, with end credits and cliffhangers between episodes. The experience of being asked many questions and few answers, with each episode leaving you wanting so much more (again, like Lost), rivaled the best stories I’ve experienced, in any and all mediums. Deeper meaning is possible in gaming. You just have to be patient enough to find it.
This particular memory is a complicated one. It was of Halloween 2009. I walked to my friend’s house to find our whole group at the time, sitting around, playing games etc. Everyone was laughing and having a good time, including me, but that changed pretty quickly. The jokes about me began to pile up and I was in too good of a mood to fight back. But it eventually got to me, and I stormed home at 2am by myself. That was the last time the whole group was there with me. The next day was my first date with her, and it signaled my transition into a new group for senior year. Just that alone makes it bittersweet.