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Living forever through video games

As I wrote in March, I’ve always preferred video games to films. The latter present a plot which can’t be changed but with the former, there’s always that feeling of being able to affect the outcome even if it’s just an illusion of choice. We may ultimately arrive at set-points determined by the developer but those choices we’re presented with along the way change it into our own story.

Narrative in gaming has come on a long way since the days of rescuing princesses from castles. And we now have access to a wide range of protagonists which aren’t always the stereotypical white male hero, and it’s far easier to find one we can relate to and admire. Each character is fully developed with their own backstories, intentions, strengths and weaknesses, and the conflict they encounter drives the story forward in a way which makes the player care about their journey.

Think of all the protagonists you’ve stepped into the shoes of in all your years of gaming; how many have there been? I’ve broken all the rules and battled mechanical beasts throughout Mother’s Heart as Aloy. Taken on zombie-ghost-pirates with nothing more than a bottle of root beer as Guybrush Threepwood. Struggled with depression and been helped by good friends (as well as getting up to mischief with them) as Mae Borowski. And that’s just the start of a very long list.

I’ve been on adventures both big and small with so many digital people and although their story has become my own, it’s also become that for so many other gamers around the world. Thousands of other players have taken on the role of the same character and walked those same steps. Each of us may have experienced their tale in a different way, been affected by different elements or learnt different lessons from the encounter, but we’ve all felt what it’s like to be that protagonist and live in their world.

Video games give us the chance to live multiple lives in hundreds of ways. One day you can be a Dragonborn, going up against Alduin and an army of flying beasts raised from the dead; the next you can inherit your grandfather’s old farm and spend your time peacefully tending to crops and livestock. You might vow to end the Reaper threat, sailing through the stars and visiting distant planets. Or you might decide to go home after being away from your family for a time and find out what’s happened to your sister.

You could almost say that games can grant us a certain kind of ‘immortality’ when you think about it in this way. Although our time here is limited, the characters we’ve played as throughout our years never really die and their influence is felt in future releases and narratives, and even in the lessons they’ve taught each player. A protagonist’s tale becomes our own during those hours we spend alongside them; and as soon as another person picks up a controller, it becomes their story too.

Of course, it’s possible that at some point a game may be forgotten or the servers might be switched off once popularity wanes. But each character is never truly gone. They will always remain a digital possibility somewhere, waiting for someone to relive their tale – and ours – once again.

Kim View All

Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.

5 thoughts on “Living forever through video games Leave a comment

  1. While I’m still a very big fan of movies, I agree with you. There was always a time when I stopped buying (but never watching) movies, but I’ve always collected games and even if it’s all a rather time-consuming hobby (not even mentioning costs), I wouldn’t want to miss this medium. Of course there are books, too, and maybe comparing books to games would work even better. Of course they’re linear experiences, but as you wrote, you feel as if you’re the character experiencing everything, something many movies simply can’t achieve in a short amount of time (not even TV shows). What I also find fascinating is how you can share a gaming experience with someone else. Playing through a game, even single-player titles like adventures, is much more personal than simply watching a movie. Of course you can remember a movie or TV show when you watched it with someone special, but I still think games stay with you longer, probably because it takes longer to complete them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know exactly what you mean! I remember the video games I’ve played with my other-half far more than the films we’ve watched together. Maybe that’s something to do with the amount of interaction you have throughout; with a movie you might make a comment here and there, but it’s largely silent in terms of conversation until afterwards. With video games though, you’re constantly discussing where to go, what to do next, which decisions to make.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Both mediums have their advantages and disadvantages. Films are perhaps the most concise out of all three major methods we have to convey stories today. With a standardised length set at just over an hour to up to two hours. This tight pacing and swift character development give short synopsis and frameworks to view broader stories, that are lived out. Books probably sit at a comfortable medium, with most titles being able to be read between 5-10 hours. The greatest advantage books have is that of all the mediums they are the most abstract and symbolic relying upon the language they are written in alone to parse the information to the reader. This makes the engagement of the reader far more as they actively imagine the setting and characters. Games do sit at the longest with epic RPGs sitting at over 100 hours to complete. With engagement of course directly realised through the “illusion” of player choice (that illusion is a cleverly crafted one) and mechanics of combat and puzzles etc. Whilst some films demand engagement and thought from their audience it is indeed the most passively receptive of all three mediums, though perhaps that at times gives more credence to authorial intent than viewer response. Whereas in games it’s far more about the players own emergent experience, what they create that gives far less ability to share a particular focus or theme. What games do offer that even books don’t though is the ability to shape a certain approach to give the player the ability to formulate their own message from the game, (or at least one of multiple messages the writers have been able to craft into the medium to diversify their story).

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s one of the reasons why I love video games: you can play the same title as the person sitting next to you, but approach it in a completely different way and take away an alternative message. I’ve had some very interesting conversations with bloggers about certain games where we’ve had a totally different experience, and their own has opened my eyes to different meanings!

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