The rise of video games over the past three decades has changed the way we tell stories.
The first video game I ever became obsessed with was the original Siphon filter. I’ve played it around the clock trying to save the world from a deadly virus, but most of the time I died on the level of all the burning trains. What impressed me about this game were the story moments where we dug deep into our agent’s past and learned what made him such a brooding spy.
Then games like The escape delighted me with their almost Guy Ritchie quality of storytelling. As I got older, it seemed like the stories in the games got better and better. Now it feels like the stories in games have gotten more complex, deeper and more experimental than any other visual medium.
As the media continues to change, so does the way we tell stories. And video games have challenged what we can know, who we can experience the story as, and how we judge the actions of the characters.
Check out this video essay from The cinema cartography, and let’s talk after the jump.
Video games have changed storytelling
There is so much to differentiate in this video, which is over an hour long. I think the most important thing to realize is how much storytelling has evolved in games. They used to take pride in being “cinematic,” but as games got more complicated they ditched the comparisons of film and television and became their own thing.
They are partly modern art, partly experience-oriented storytelling and partly immersive entertainment. They deal with the chaotic state of people and find meaning in people experiencing them. They have to be actively involved. They find purpose in finding something useful in them.
The ability to change your point of view in games changed everything. You can play as a character and see the world through your eyes, but games can change who you are, what you experience, and how you interact with the world. Sometimes it is your free will to decide whether you are good or bad or not.
Not only that – the ability to play plot points where you are in control and then go back to segments of video where more story is told has become incredibly interesting. These video segments can motivate your actions or you can rebel against them.
Aside from the choice, we often see the genre reinvented. Whether it’s about facing the horror in something like Bioshock or even the deconstruction of the espionage and military genre Solid metal gear, Our preconceived notions about what can and will happen in the genre end once we take control of the characters. And once the designers realize that the best thing about video games is that they never have to stick to the prescribed “rules” of any other storytelling format.
We have side scrolling, RPG, and immersive MMORPGs that change the player’s purpose. You have goals to beat some of these games, but not all. Sometimes these games just turn into experiences and don’t have to end. They become experiences where history is what you weave into every day.
It will be interesting to see where the games go in the future. Right now they are the most interesting addition to storytelling in the media. What do you think is next
Let us know in the comments.