Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Dissecting the video game

Author Tom Bissell (Extra Lives: Why video games matter) is on a mission to find depth in first-person shooter games beyond blood spatters, big guns and scenic mazes. His latest book argues for more developed storytelling in video games – for example testing the medium and using it to create literate and complex masterpieces.

I’m somewhere between the Ebert “videogame illiterate” and a legitimate gamer. The playing I do is merely social and often does not get me past the second level (Read: I’m terrible.) But where I am not a novice is in literary and media criticism…the idea that the video game channel may open up a new type of narrative style is fascinating to me. I spend the most time around video games watching them played – so I’m fairly familiar with the plotlines of the majors (Tony Hawk, Modern Warfare, Halo, Left4Dead) as seen from the observer’s point of view. But Bissell would say that I am seeing a game that is co-created by game player and game creator. In fact the consumer of the game, making the decisions and navigating the environment, has much more agency in the tale than in more traditional storytelling mediums: TV, movies, books, etc.

So perhaps the reason video games have become so popular (and recession-proof) in an Internet age is that they so mirrors what is also possible in Web 2.0 media --- collaboration, interaction and manipulation between the originator and the consumer. Will this style of consumer agency also shape the future of blog lit and other Web 2.0 interactions?

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