Friday 14 December 2012

Video Games!

Goodness, I've had a long and stressful week. What better way to unwind than with some video games?
Thankfully I've gotten this month's essay out of the way, Xmas shopping is all done and mostly delivered, so all I have to worry about for the next couple of weeks is staving off a winter cold and getting some writing done! And blog posts. Today we're going to talk about video games.

I try and keep this blog focused around writing, erotica, and sex, but another great love of my life is video games. I'm not what you'd call a hardcore gamer (I barely buy half a dozen big titles a year), but ever since studying some game design in university I've had a passionate interest in the medium.
What fascinates me most about video games is their potential as an artistic/storytelling form of media. When it comes to writing, whether it's for a book, film, or play, there are certain rules that inform the framework of any successful story. With video games however you have a completely different set of rules in play, and while the same basic tropes of storytelling still apply, the ways in which games can convey narrative and emotion are vastly different.

The obvious difference is the inclusion of the player. A good video game isn't just created as a series of events that unfold for the audience to experience, it's a series of events that involve and engage the player at every turn, making them just as much a part of the experience as the mechanics happening on-screen.
A great example I came across recently happened when I was playing The Walking Dead, a fantastic story-driven adaptation of the comic book that inspired the TV series. In this title the gameplay itself is very bare-bones. It's often reduced to pressing a single button or clicking the right spot on the screen at the appropriate time, but it uses this so effectively that it creates an experience entirely unique to anything you might find in a book or movie.
In The Walking Dead there's a sequence where you back an armed crazy woman up a flight of stairs while she holds your friend hostage. The only thing you're able to do at this point is walk slowly forward with the W key, and occasionally click on the woman to talk to her. She's unhinged, she's yelling, lightning flashes through the window, and she screams at you to stay back as she alternates between pointing the gun at you and pressing it to the head of your friend. Then the flailing arms of a zombie poke through the banister at the top of the stairs, inches behind the crazy woman. She'll be in its grasp at any moment, but a moment's all it'll take for that gun to go off.
So even though all you can do in this situation is to edge forward with the W key, that decision to move and back the woman away from you is the single most important thing in this entire scene. It's completely in your hands as the player, and you're constantly on the edge of your seat desperate not to scare your antagonist by moving too fast, hesitating to see if the zombie gets any closer, wondering how long you've got before she snaps and blows your friend's head off, and knowing that whatever happens rests squarely on your shoulders.

That right there is a storytelling experience that you just can't replicate in any other medium, and it perfectly embodies exactly the kind of emotional response that video games excel at drawing out of their audience. It's why I love them and find gameplay just as fascinating as the nuances unique to prose or cinematography.

I'll probably talk more about video games in future blogs at some point, but there's my little introduction!
Because I've been so busy my next release might be a day or two late, but for now I'm working on a steamy one-off M/M encounter in the college gym showers, the next Darkest Desire instalment, and I've gotten an idea for a paranormal erotic romance featuring werewolves into my head these last couple of nights. My plate's going to be pretty full over Xmas!

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