The rise of video games over the last three decades has changed the way we tell stories.
The first video game I ever became obsessed with was the original Syphon Filter. I played it around the clock, trying to save the world from a deadly virus, but mostly dying on the level with all of the burning trains. What struck me about that game were the story moments where we would dig deep into our operative's past and learn about what made him become such a brooding spy.
After that, games like The Getaway enthralled me with their almost Guy Ritchie-quality of storytelling. As I got older, it seemed like the stories within games got better and better. Now, it feels like the stories inside games have become more complex, deep, and experimental than across any visual medium.
As media continues to transform, so does the way we tell stories. And video games have challenged what we can know, who we can experience the story as, and how we judge characters' actions.
Check out this video essay from The Cinema Cartography, and let's talk after the jump.
Video Games Have Changed Storytelling
In that video, which is over an hour long, there's so much to pick apart. I think the main takeaway is how much storytelling has evolved within games. They used to pride themselves on being "cinematic," but as games got more and more intricate with their play, they shed the comparisons to film and television and became their own thing.
They're part modern art, part experiential storytelling, and just part immersive entertainment. They deal with the messy human condition and find purpose in people experiencing them. They have to be engaged actively. You find purpose in finding something meaningful within them.
The ability to change points of view in games has changed everything. You get to play as one character and see the world through their eyes, but games can switch up who you are, what you experience, and how you interact with the world. Sometimes it's your free will to choose whether or not you'll be good or bad.
And it's not just that—the ability to play out plot points where you are in control, and then fall back into video segments where more story is given, has become incredibly interesting. These video segments can motivate your actions, or you can rebel against them.
Aside from choice, we are often seeing the reinvention of genre. Whether it's confronting horror in something like Bioshock or even the deconstruction of the spy and military genre with Metal Gear Solid, our preconceived notions about what can and will happen in genre end once we gain control of the characters. And once the designers realize that the best part of video games is that they never have to follow the prescribed "rules" of any other storytelling format.
We have side-scrolling, RPG, and immersive MMORPGs that change the purpose of the player. You have goals to beat some of these games, but not every one. Sometimes these games just become experiences and also don't have to provide an ending. They become experiences, where the story is what you weave into every day.
It'll be interesting to see where games go in the future. For now, they have become the most interesting addition to storytelling in media. What do you think is next?
Let us know in the comments.