For nearly five years, I’ve written story after story for The Spectator about one of my favorite things that I think is evolving into the most brilliant modern form of expression and storytelling in the world (big claim, I know!) And hopefully for non-Gamers and Gamers alike, I’ve done alright in explaining why one might think so.
You see, when visionaries and auteurs are given the technology and the medium to create fully fleshed-out living, breathing worlds that are not bound by any conceptual limits, therein lies the making of a medium that is more alive than any other form of art we can experience today.
For a Gamer, a “video game” can be as expressive as a painting, musically intimate as a living soundtrack, cinematic as a film, leave as much to the imagination as literature, be as challenging as the most mentally taxing puzzle and as magical as childhood make-believe.
Never ending discoveries.
No separation between the player and a fictional world.
Think about it, not just a blank canvas but a blank realm that suspends your belief inside a heightened immersive experience. An endless number of personal experiences. An infinite number of interactive possibilities! That’s what a “game” is today.
Video games could even be the future of storytelling itself (the very beginnings of a Star Trek-like “Holodeck?”) At the very least, I know they are the best escapes from reality that take advantage of how our ape-like brains aren’t used to simulations which can affect us in ways real-world scenarios do (play a horror game and you’ll know what I’m talking about!)
And it is that potential, that potency and that narrative power that has inspired me to write about the many possibilities! These are just a few titles I’ve reviewed that have pushed boundaries and dared to reinvent the wheel:
Titles like Okami beautifully demonstrated how virtual worlds can be stylized and made to be so abstract that they’re metaphorical. Where in it, players take on the role of a Shinto goddess reincarnated as a wolf creating miracles by using the controller as a brush to paint on a human world personified as a painting.
LIMBO made us realize that games don’t even need words or more than shadows to divulge a baffling, thought-provoking and shocking story to us. Which it achieved by simply by using horrific sound design effectively with it’s ambiguous disturbing imagery.
Small indie games like Thomas was Alone allowed us to interact with characters from worlds that defied all ideas of what a reality even was. Where it incorporated a brilliant voiceover performance that emotionally attached to us to the strife and struggle of anthropomorphized shapes of all things.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword not only gave us the chance to experience one-to-one motion control but also demonstrated how a gaming franchise can continually reimagine itself after 25 years and still feel like a new experience.
Bioshock Infinite proved to us that even a first-person shooter (stereotyped as a “mindless” genre) could take us on a very thoughtful intimate journey. All while it’s setting dared to give us a story that did not shy away from controversial themes like racism, nationalism, religion and objectivism (mixed in with metaphysics and the nature of time and reality.) Suffice it to say, this one was a head trip…
Fighting games like Soul Calibur 5 or even Playstation All Stars showed us how mentally taxing and truly challenging competitive games could be when veteran eSports players spend years refining their skills to be more cunning, quick and strategic than the next.
Slender, Dead Space 3 or Lone Survivor showed us that horror games are not only the most frighteningly real experiences out there, they know how to use psychological game and sound design to get inside our heads and make us feel genuine dread, mania, isolation, anxiety and emotional vulnerability.
Heavy Rain became the first true fusion of a game and a film, showing us that games have graphically evolved to the point to where they can match the emotional performances of film. All while Heavy Rain allowed us to form genuine relationships with the fictional characters we got to know; involving us with their most painful life choices first-hand, feeling the stakes as if they were our own.
The Unfinished Swan played on enigmatic themes we would never acquaint with a game using emotional sensibilities that were so familiar; inspired by the mystery, wonder and the impending existential angst of our childhoods.
While finally, Journey showed everyone how a game could take us through a personally revealing, deep, profound and even spiritual experience. An experience that allowed us to project our own hopes and dreams onto a very unspeakably moving quest that made us reflect on how we felt about the significance of ones life and our own mortality.
Honestly, I could go on forever and give so many examples of experiences only possible in video games today. And these were just a few of the games that I have had the opportunity to share in my five years writing for The Spectator.
As a whole, what these titles represent is how we have arrived at a time in gaming where the definition of a video game is now constantly being reinvented. Boundaries pushed. New narrative experiences tested. One’s personal idea of a “video game” challenged, as I’ve always continually asked all of you to do the same.
Please feel free to CONTACT ME about this story or about writing for your publication!