Monday, September 24, 2007

Digital Stories

On the website I write for, CinCity2000, we're making the move to having a Video Game Week starting today. Normally, we're a cinema website run by a small cult of film geeks, so taking on video games is branching out for us: my first piece for the week is up, Fighting Purple Tentacles: A Wasted Youth Playing Adventure Games.

The fundamental difference between film and video games is in the interaction. When we talk about film, we're talking about a story that exists the same in static form no matter who is viewing it: while viewers bring different knowledge into a film and a different interpretation out of it, the film itself is unaffected. Video games change to the player: the order of events and even the outcome can change depending on the player's approach and skill. Talking about the experience of a video game, then, becomes more personal: a player might remember spending hours trying to "beyond the pail" in Companions of Xanth [the final solution involves a catapult] or finally consulting a hint book to find out where a hidden key is concealed.

I remember all the games I grew up with in context of the time: when I go back to play these games now, it's far from the same experience. I'm not living with the parents who used to be my companions in adventure. I feel like I'm slower with the puzzles than I used to be, as if the logic that I used to rely upon for those types of journeys went rusty when I started higher education and started taking in too much literary theory. Still, there's the same sense of accomplishment in figuring out a puzzle to get butter from a butterfly or save the world from a rampaging purple tentacle.

Meanwhile, the face of games is changing, and the adventure game's almost disappeared into obscurity while games like the latest iteration of Halo [reviewed by my colleague Big Ross] transform gaming from a hobby for geeks in their basement to one for frat boys and normal folk, kindof like film itself.

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