What? I thought it was all about killing monsters and conquering lands! Wait, let's rewind.
J.F. Jenkins is a mother, fantasy writer, and gamer fan. If you ask me, it’s a good combination as any. When she came to me with the idea for the article, I was pleasantly surprised. If you think that gamers are only into their games and don’t have much time for anything else, you’d be wrong. This lady here has published a book called Legend of the Oceina Dragon (Kindle edition), and she is plotting the rest of the saga as we speak. In addition, she gives sneak peeks from Book 2 on her blog, so go check it out.
Yet another thing you should know about this minx is that she leads another blog called Team Introversion, which is basically a part of a fictional ‘reality show’ called Escape where the teams have to complete a series of challenges to get ahead. If you’d like to check it out, you can find the breakdown here. And finally, she tweets under her name: @jfjenkinstweets and her team’s: @introv3rsion.
Now, let's get onto business. Enjoy and tell us what you think!
Storytelling in Video Games
by J.F. Jenkins
An orphaned boy is plagued by nightmares. One day he wakes up to find his home village in the forest attacked by monsters. As he does his part to protect his people he discovers that he is not of the same race as the other people in his village. Embarking on a quest across the kingdom, he finds a princess who enlists his help. After unearthing three precious gems, together they are to summon a great power that will protect the entire kingdom from crumbling.
This sounds like a plot to some kind of epic book series or movie, doesn't it? It doesn't come from either of those places though. It's from a popular video game franchise. Yup, video games. They do have plotlines. Today, I'm going to be telling you how video games are a good example of how to write a good story.
The thing video games and books have in common are that they need to hold the attention span of their audience for long periods of time. Video games can be anywhere from 8-100 hours in length. Yes, that is correct. 100. Hours.
Some people would get fed up by this idea, but how is it different than investing that time to a 900+ page novel like say, Stephen King's “The Stand”? I'll tell you what's the same: the story keeps me going.
Games follow the same kind of story patterns as novels. There's the protagonist and their antagonist (or several of them). There are secondary characters, and each has their own history, personality traits, and overall goals being explored as you progress through the story. There are subplots, romances, yes ROMANCES in video games (some of my favorite romantic pairings actually come from games). And there's the journey of self discovery, just like in a book.
The key to holding the interest for such a long period of time is pacing. Just like in a novel, the description of the journey needs to be properly laid out. Too much action and the feeling for the characters is lost. Too much emotional character development and the audience begins to feel frustrated by the lack of moving forward. Games are actually starting to become more 50/50 in terms of how they're dividing up their story scenes and the actual amount of time playing the game.
I encourage everyone to analyze the next game they end up playing. For those of you who don't play games, you can find a lot of great material on YouTube. Here are some great examples. Most of them are pretty romantic. ;)
This is from Final Fantasy XIII. Yes, it's cheesy, but I love it anyway. I need a good cheese fest sometimes. But notice how much of the story is told just through their words? This is the first time all of this information is presented to the audience, and it works well.
I'm a Final Fantasy junkie, so naturally most of these are going to come from there. But this is a scene from FFX. What I love about this is the intense amount of creative world building.
Here's a sappy scene from an older game called Grandia. These games couldn't rely so heavily on the visuals obviously, so they did most of it through great dialogue.
And the last one is from Final Fantasy VIII. This game is especially one I would play/YouTube because it does such a great job with character development through dialogue and using effective flashbacks.
I could come up with several more examples and from multiple genres, but I picked these because they are my favorite and they are great models of effective storytelling.
Oh, and the plot mentioned in the opening is from “Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time”.