Friday, January 28, 2011

5 video games writers should play

Now, I'm a video game geek. Unfortunately, video games are one of the things that get the most flak in entertainment media because a lot of people think they're vapid and childish. I won't deny it. This assumption is, at times, correct. However, like most stereotypes, it is not always correct.

In fact, I think we as writers can learn a lot from video games. Writers spend so much time absorbing elements of books and movies, but we rarely look at video games because of the aforementioned reasons. But video games can have all of the good things: dialogue, atmosphere, world-building, etc. Video games have just as much potential as books and movies.

As a writer, there are video games you should play. Lots of them. Far more than I'm listing here today. But if you're curious, here are five to get you started:

Beautiful, beautiful box art, yes?
Uncharted 2: Amongst Thieves (PS3)
The story of Nathan Drake is basically the story of Indiana Jones with a modern twist and less of a religious focus. So even though it's well-executed, it's not particularly original. But that's not the reason you should play this game. You wanna play this game for the characters and the dialogue. The banter is witty, yet natural, and all of the characters stand on their own two feet. The original, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, is also pretty sweet.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (PS3/XBOX 360)
Enslaved is loosely based on the Chinese legend Journey to the West and the characters in this game are awesome. But world-building baby, this one's about world building. Post-apocalyptic society in the ruins of New York City? Sign me up. Here we have foliage amongst skyscrapers, remnants of technology, crazy mechanical creatures that want to kill you, and the ever-looming threat of the "slavers." It's pretty, it's lush, and I wish there was a sequel.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (DS/Wii)
This game is basically Law & Order on crack. It's also awesome enough to have two sequels and two spin-offs, with a third on the way. Why play this game? To remember the simple things again. Phoenix Wright is surprisingly heartfelt and genuine. Your story doesn't have to be the Next Great Novel--it's okay to talk about siblings, murder, and long lost friends. The game is also hilarious and makes you use your brain to solve mysteries and such.

Bioshock (PS3/XBOX 360/PC)
Okay, I'll admit, I haven't actually played Bioshock, but I watched someone else play the entire game while doing homework. If you want to study up on setting a mood, then this Bioshock is for you. For one thing, the game takes place in a egoist, underwater, utopian city-gone-wrong named Rapture. It's also populated with insane people that want to kill you. And that sums up everything, because the entire atmosphere of the is gorgeous and horrifying at the same time.

The World Ends With You (DS)
One of the best things about The World Ends With You is the fact that you don't know what's going on half of the time. In a good way. Play this game for the story because it will not let you go. That and there's crazy plot twists. As writers we need to focus on what makes a story grab people and what makes an awesome climax. Another perk? The gameplay is the best I've ever seen in a Nintendo DS game.

So, what do you think? Video games: a waste of time, or a good investment? Have you ever played any of these games? Tell me in the comments.


SqueezeBox said...

Hooray!I've been waiting for this post since our conversation about it.

I agree with your points and your assessments of why these are awesome games for writers to play. I think evaluating more than traditional forms of creative media can only help in writing.

Annerb said...

Good choices. I love some of those games. (Would be more articulate, but I can't manage it right now.)

Brad Jaeger said...

I especially agree with Uncharted 2, and Bioshock.

Just last week I actually wrote a similar article about video games that would make great books. My first choice was Heavy Rain from the PS3.

Sarah Robertson said...

@Brad Jaeger

I was wondering if someone was going to mention Heavy Rain or not! I actually haven't had the opportunity to play it yet, though I've heard such good things about the story.

Kate said...

I agree that there is great world building and characters in both Uncharted and Enslaved. Phoenix Wright is fun too. I don't know about the others. In fact I don't think anything is a waste of time as long as you have some balance. You do need to still leave some time for the actual writing.

Jackie said...

I love Bioshock! But, I can't play it longer than 20 minutes at a time because it scares me so much! I haven't played the other games. Although, I'll be sure to check them out. <3 video games so much.

Sarah Robertson said...

You know, I'm not sure I could actually handle playing Bioshock. At least not with someone else in the room. My imagination is too overactive!

You'll have to tell me what you think of the other games though once you get a chance to play them! :D

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