Western culture has an odd fascination with liars. So many people, telling lies so blatant that everyone’s learned not to trust them, yet still we place them at the highest echelons of our societies. Politicians, corporate executives, lawyers, and the like, all very well known as fibbers of the highest order. Yet still we raise them up, largely because of their lies, giving them some of the highest salaries and greatest honors our communities have to offer. They’re some of our culture’s most accomplished false witnesses, some of the most public liars, yet they are far from the most blatant. No, the most devious, the boldest, the most blatant liars take up an occupation that generally gives them a lot less income or prestige, but it’s worth it to them because it affords much more opportunity to lie. Most professions at least have to give off the impression that they’re there for legitimate reasons, but this one, we’ll readily pay them to lie to us. In all of human history, has there been a bigger rat liar than the humble storyteller?
Authors, writers, dramatists, playwrights, that whole blasted trade. They will give us the most obvious lies imaginable and expect us to take them with a smile. These are the people who will just make up a tale from whole cloth then devote themselves completely and utterly to making us believe it could be true. They’ll do their best to convince us, through words, details, and any other tool of their trade, that their imaginary words are real, that their characters exist, that their stories are actually happening, even as you read them. They will do anything they can to immerse you in their lies, to make their words leave the page and overtake your own reality, at least for as long as you’re reading them. These are the mendacious folk who will just spawn a character from their own twisted minds, then make them complex and fleshed out enough that we feel for them just as much as we do those in real life. These are the cruel beings who will use their wicked powers over words to make us feel every twist and turn in the plot as if it was actually happening to us. The author is the malicious mage who draw us into their cold, cruel worlds and personally feel every smile and tear their characters go through. It is they who trick us into making the unreal real in our own minds, in tearing and boosting our emotions with nothing more than their tall, tall tales.
Every form of art, every bit of media, every story told, it all relies on the reader’s interpretation. That’s just how these things work. Everyone has their own personal lens through which they view these things. Stories do have different depths, of course. Something like George Orwell’s Animal Farm is meant to be analyzed at a far deeper level than the average Jason Statham face-kicking action movie. They both still require interpretation to get their point across to the viewer. Every artist has to leave it up to the viewer to interpret why it’s OK for Jason Statham to kick all those faces off, why his face-kicking cause is a noble one, and why kicking everyone’s face is going to help him achieve his goals. Thing is, it’s impossible to tell how one random person is going to read things. Everyone has their own unique set of experiences, preferences, morals, etc., and that colors they way they absorb this sort of stuff. Everyone’s going to read a story just a little bit differently. All the artist can do is put their content up there and hope the viewer is going to read it the way they expect.
Stories are what the reader reads, not what the writer writes. That’s just the way they work. The writer can use all the pretty prose and flowery phrases available to them when writing the perfect content to get across their point, but no matter how well crafted they are, words on paper are still just words on paper until the reader absorbs them. And readers don’t always read things the way the author intends. Those pesky consumers are always applying their own perspectives to what the artist lays out. It’s a beautiful thing, though. That’s what makes morals hit home, makes art more than just ink on a page or lights on a screen, makes stories apply to you personally. But what happens if the writer intends one thing, and you see another? Or what if the filmmaker intends something simple, while you find something deep and grandiose?
Hey, do you remember this post and this post where we talked about the advantages video games had with storytelling? Those were pretty awesome times, right? Talking all about the ways narrative was improved within our favorite medium, and only getting a little distracted with me mentioning how good I look all the time. Well, we weren’t finished with our discussion there. Every medium has both advantages and disadvantages when presenting a story. Video games are no different. I know, I know, it’s hard to discuss and read bad stuff about stuff we all love and negativity sucks in general, but I think it’s worth discussing the challenges a lot of games face when presenting a story. So, below the jump, lets talk a bit about the disadvantages video games have when telling their tales, and what developers are doing to overcome these challenges.
Here’s part 2 of the wildly popular series! Part 1 is over here. Or you could, you know, just scroll down a little bit. It’s like, right there.
Last time we covered how games have unique potential to immerse the player, how games have the advantage of a really flexible span of time in which to execute their tale, and how both of those enhance a game’s ability to tell you its story. Today, we’re going to go over three more advantages video games have when telling its story. What are they? Oh, I can’t wait to find out! Join me after the jump, and we’ll see together!
Are we a video games blog now? I think we are. As of this post, roughly 2/3rds of my content is going to be about video games, and that first post barely counts as anything. You know what? I can dig it. If I got words to say about video games, then that’s just where this blog will be, until I decide to talk about something else. Probably ponies. I do love ponies.
Anyways, there’s been a lot of discussion on the games=art concept over the years. And because most of that discussion has taken place over the internet, there’s also been a lot of arguments over the years. Bad ones. By the types of people that leave those really dumb comments on YouTube videos. You know the ones I’m talking about. We’re not going to get into that argument today, but there is a related topic I’m wanting to talk about. Whatever your feelings on games as art, you can’t deny that storytelling has been growing into a more and more common component of our interactive electronic entertainment systems over the years. The importance of narrative in video games has long been on the rise, to the point where it’s the primary purpose in some games now. With this post, I’m wanting to talk a bit about what advantages video games offer to stories.