Highbrow High Score

The Art of Gaming Intellectually

Narrative Gaming

with 3 comments

“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

3 Responses

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  1. For every Tale of Two Cities there are hundreds of Twilights. For every Citizen Kane there are hundreds of American Pies. For every Dead Space there are hundreds of Call of Duties. What is good, Phaedrus, and what is not good – Need we ask anyone to tell us these things?
    The fact that one man scoffs at videogames becoming a medium of story is irrelevant. It’s not a question of should/shouldn’t happen. It’s going to happen. It is happening already.

    D

    May 29, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    • It’s not so much the value of the story itself I’m concerned about. Sure Citizen Kane is gajillions times better than American Pie in the sense of classic, academic film study; but, that doesn’t change the fact that there is a character that we are supposed to relate to who experiences things we experience.

      What I’m worried about is that video games are seen as the entertainment of the unwashed masses and aren’t given credit for innovating how humans relay experiences in the narrative form.

      highbrowhighscore

      June 4, 2012 at 4:26 pm

  2. I’ve got an awesome narrative for you. The chief characters are me, a sackful of half-starved wolverines, and your face. And the climax will BLOW YOUR MIND!!!!

    l3gi0nnair3

    May 31, 2012 at 12:40 pm


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