Press START for Stellar Story Writing

Given the primarily lesson-oriented nature of my blog, one that discusses English, literature, and all things writing in-depth, I feel that, naturally, I should assign some sort of homework to you, the reader. Well, my assignment for you is this:

Play video games!

No, really.

While seemingly endless hours of entertainment, video games are also a notorious medium for interactive, in-depth storytelling. Games such as Bioshock, Portal, The Walking Dead, and Mass Effect, among other prominent titles, all manage to engage their users in detailed storylines, profound character development, and often dark, provocative themes within their genres.

Consider Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us, a game whose story can only be described as cinematic, and one you should seriously consider playing in the future.

The game takes place twenty years after the world has fallen to the Cordyceps virus, a disease that attacks and infects the brains of humans, transforming them into raging, murderous vessels through which the virus can spread.  Joel, a ruthless and morally ambiguous survivor, lives as a black market smuggler in one of the last remaining quarantine zones of this post-apocalyptic world when he receives a job to smuggle a fourteen-year-old girl named Ellie to a separate quarantine zone protected by the Fireflies, a group of rebel soldiers at war with both the military as well as the countless infected. A story primarily of love and redemption, together the two must learn to trust each other in order to survive the dark realities of this new post-pandemic world.

I don’t believe I emphasize enough when I say that there were times when the game felt more like a movie than a Playstation exclusive, if this synopsis was any indication. Truly, not only does The Last of Us embody the very best of breathtaking graphics and stellar gameplay, it also shows the very best of in-depth story, plot, and dialogue, not just in video games but in all forms of media. Clearly, I could rave about this game for hours, but it’s not the singular, pinnacle game dedicated to superb storytelling and writing in its genre. As the year progress, more and more video games are becoming more involved in involving their users in their stories, combining the best of plot and graphics to create truly memorable works of art.

So, how does this relate to writing? Well, once again I’m going to invoke the repetitive, mind-numbing, golden rule of writers: the best way to improve your writing is, of course, to read.

Honestly, I feel that rule can be expanded to incorporate far more than just the written novel. Now, don’t misquote me. It would, of course, be absolutely blasphemous of me to undermine the traditional novel as those are still incredibly, irreplaceably valuable and important. However, I believe writers should also engage themselves in all sorts of story-telling media. Movies, comic books, graphic novels, TV shows and, yes, video games are all delving deeper into provocative themes and remarkable, thoughtful writing within their genres. Video games in particular are unique in their ability to absorb their users into their universes, to (literally) make their users feel as if they are truly living within the story of the game. While graphics and gameplay have much to do with this process, the creation of dynamic characters and stellar writing are just as, if not more, important to this equation of excellence. In The Last of Us, you fall in love with Ellie because of her character, her heart and, of course, her smart, uncensored vocabulary. You’re invested in the game itself not simply for its action oriented gameplay but also for of its dramatic and unnerving story, one you want to see through to the bitter, unsettling end.

Isn’t this every writer’s goal: to create a story so breathtaking and involved that the reader simply feels immersed within it? Truly, video games excel in this regard, and as reading novels improve one’s composition and writing, the experience of video games, among other forms of story-telling media, improve one’s creation of in-depth plot, character, and story.

And if nothing else, I just gave you an excuse to spend hours playing Xbox. Greatest homework assignment ever, no?

Happy gaming!


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