Cyberculting

A blog about Cyberculture and ICTs.

Lose yourself

Posted by candacewhitehead on August 3, 2008

In my first blog post, I talked about how people could lose themselves in their Internet identity: they choose an avatar, a nickname and ultimately, an alter-ego if they wish. The same is true of gaming – and the escapism for me is more intense than any of my cyber alter-egoes.

I researched this topic quite thoroughly throughout my July vacation. I clocked Dungeon Siege II, started and finished Fable: The Lost Chapters and carried on a bit more with my Morrowind character (which has been a work in progress since December, really).

The majority of the games that I play are fantasy-genre, you see. I love to take on magic-using characters, and for a couple of hours I can be a powerful sorceress (or sorcerer, if your game constrains you to one character of one sex) who battles against the evil of the world. I love the freedom, I love the possibility, but most of all, I love the story.

Successful games, I have decided, are actually good literature. The ones that I love the most have strong storylines which carry your character through the game. The only difference with literature is that you are shown what the character is doing – either through reading about Harry Potter’s last and great battle wih Lord Voldemort, or through watching the aliens battle it out in Aliens vs Predator, you aren’t in control. However, in a game, you are in control – or at least, in as much control as the developer allows you to be.

The hundreds of literature-based games available reveal just how important the story has become within the game. Mobygames.com gives a relatively comprehensive list of these. Serious gamers I have spoken to criticise a game on a number of criteria: one of the most important of these being the storyline. Is it plausible? Does it carry through the game? Am I still interested half-way through?

Gaming series such as The Elder Scrolls series have created an entire world for their games which resemble the worlds of great fantasy writers. Indeed, fantasy writers are often brought in by game developers to write storylines for games, or even to assist in developing games based on their books. Raymond E Feist, author of The Riftwar Cycle and novels such as Magician and his latest offering, Wrath of a Mad God, was approached by game developers to assist in developing games based on Midkemia, the world his books are set in. Eventually the games were turned into books, and have become an integral part of the Riftwar Cycle. Good games become good literature.

It boils down to escapism. I want to get lost in a good story – I want to sympathise with the main character and share their triumphs and their losses.

Gamers often cultivate their characters, rearing them as they would children, where each level-up is a personal triumph and a decision that is the gaming world’s equivalent of where to send your favourite kid to university.

I know that this is what I do. I want to forget how crappy my last week was, and I want to delve into a world as far-removed from mine as possible. And what easier way is there than to actually become someone else for a few hours, even if they are just a few pixels on a computer screen?

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One Response to “Lose yourself”

  1. The successful translation of literature and books to games and games to movies (the forthcoming Halo movie and Tomb Raider is case in point)are part of big corporate phenomenon of licensing content and characters across multiple platforms to maximise on existing audiences and profits (in other word hits which have become more and more scarce in the face of greater choice).

    I’m interested in the growing culture of people who write mobi books (it’s big in Japan…seriously) and fan fiction as means of either paying homage to or subverting the dominant readings of literary texts. Here lies our next generation of storytellers. And you have to take it seriously when Steven King makes his next short story available in mobile installments

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