Highbrow High Score

The Art of Gaming Intellectually

Archive for May 2012

Narrative Gaming

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“Don’t despair for Story’s future or turn curmudgeonly over the rise of video games or reality TV. The way we experience stories will evolve, but as story telling animals we will no more give it up than start walking on all fours… Rejoice in the twisting evolutionary path that made us creatures of story, that gave us all the gaudy, joyful dynamism of the stories we tell and realize that understanding the power of storytelling, where it comes from and why it matters, can never diminsh your experience of it.”

– The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human by Jonathan Gottschall


After I heard this on a summer reading list from NPR, I was drawn to this idea of narrative and how it is viewed. Although I haven’t had the chance to read it yet, Gottschall seems to champion video games here as an evolution of how we tell our stories. The interesting part of this excerpt is the use of “curmudgeonly” to describe the old-world view of what the narrative is and what stories should look like – they should certainly not be experienced through video games, as if that would somehow degrade the art of storytelling itself.

But video games are not novels. We experience games distinctively, as both the audience and the author making the interaction idiosyncratic, rarely finding that blend in any other medium. Pieces like Heavy Rain and Shadows of the Colossus are heralded as narrative wonders of the industry. Beautiful though they may be, “quality” does not define content. Video games are more sensitive to subjective judgments like these because to be impressed by a story is rare in any form, but to be brought to tears by modern entertainment is almost unheard of outside of the gaming geek culture. To have a New York Times reviewer state that “no single-player game has made me feel as profoundly connected to the outcome of a story…” writing about Heavy Rain legitimizes video game story telling and it’s unique narrative form.

Yes, we have BioshockSilent Hill, and Final Fantasy that are engrossing stories that express emotion and narrative with depth and style. The art of video game story telling can be exciting for the player in action and in recollection of how it made him or her feel. And, yet…

There are still those who don’t see it that way, for whatever reason, and scoff at the idea. Literary elitist or technologically averse? Does content of Dead Space make it any more or less of a story than 20,000 Leagues under the Sea? Is it the audience or the marketing? Or just the curmudgeon’s futile dismissal of the narrative’s latest evolution?

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Written by highbrowhighscore

May 26, 2012 at 2:59 pm

The Retro Blues

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I recently sold my PS3 and all of the accessories and I wasn’t the least bit sad about it. Although I did invest a good deal of money into it, I found myself playing it less and less and instead focusing on my 360 and emulators on my PC. Although I enjoyed a few titles on the Playstation 3, new titles became increasingly less interesting.

I’ve mostly been focusing on SNES games as they seem to be the most readily available online and I’ve been feeling some nostalgia flaring up. I bought a USB SNES controller and it’s been great for Street Fighter (I’m a little ashamed to admit my girlfriend kicked my ass completely on this one). I’ve also been enjoying Super Metroid, Aladdin, and my personal favorite Zombies Ate My Neighbors.

RetroLink SNES USB Controller

Thank you Amazon.com!

I’ve also found new (old) games that I didn’t get to play the first time around like E.V.O. The Search for Eden, a platformer that follows forms of life as they evolve towards perfection with the aid of Gaia, the embodiment of Earth.

The vastness of the retro library is almost frightening and I sometimes find it hard to make a decision as to what I want to play. I’ve even been toying with the idea of buying an old Dreamcast or Playstation 2 and playing underrated games from that generation. But I don’t know if my nostalgia would fade after a few plays of Crazy Taxi. Even going to my parents and finding my N64 would be fun for a few hours, but could I replace higher powered consoles with Mario Kart 64?

In any event, I wouldn’t be out a ton of money even if I found all three systems and a few decent games for them. Any suggestions on older games from the SNES or Genesis generation or tips on which obsolete console to check out again?