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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Story play

I always thought video games were for the braindead.

This was until last Christmas, when my boyfriend welcomed me into the gaming world. He gave me a Nintendo DS.

To my surprise, I loved it. I had always found pleasure in a quiet night reading. To me, that was the only way to really understand a story and become involved with characters. Video games were simply modes of superficial entertainment. My view evolved slowly to encompass a love for appreciating the story on the screen. I found that not only was I entertained, but that my experiences with video games would enrich my writing.

At first, I saw a lot of shooting (and a lot of guts). I was aware of one character talking to another, but didn't see past that. Since then I've become glued to certain games, like my New York Times Crossword puzzle game. I've completed video game surgery (I was very sad when I killed patients). I've been in video game court rooms. I've felt the whole gamut of emotion as I followed a character's story.

Even after this, I'm still a novice.

Last week I accompanied my boyfriend to the Fallout 3 opening. We waited in front of the store with two other Fallout fans. Being a beginner, I didn't have a lot to say about the game, but I found myself hearing familiar words like "main character", "point of view", "perspective", and "plot". I felt like I was in creative writing class!

I heard them talk about how a character's strengths and weaknesses change the mood of the game as well as how the game is played. Just like the main character affects the mood of a book. A video game character can be played in first person. A game can also be programmed to be viewed in the third person. More recent games allow the player to choose what they say during dialogue. Some games, called RPGs (Role Playing Games), let the characters take turns at tasks. This allows the player to experience different points of view. Just as a book can change points of view.

In movies and books, I witnessed events happening to characters. In the game, I directed my character. The ability to control my character sparked my creative senses. The dialogue and the setting were programmed, but with each turn in plot, I found myself thinking, "What if...?" What if this villager wasn't able to give me the magic jewels? What if the jewels didn't help me defeat the monster? What if Mario and the Goombas were friends? These questions lead to story ideas.

My writing was officially inspired by "Dead Space", a game about a hauned spaceship filled with mutated people ready to attack at any moment. I had a school assignment to write a gothic story, a genre into which I had never delved. I didn't know what to write about, and watching the game helped me jump into a paranoid mindset. As I wrote my character, I anticipated his horrible death at any moment, and was able to give him the tools to confront and defeat the danger.

To my boyfriend, a video game has the potential to elicit the same amount of emotion as a movie or a book. A well- written game, just like a well- written story, can have a deeper meaning "written between the lines". In fact, video games encourage reading on the game websites. They encourage writing and socialization on their forums.

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