Sunday, 28 May 2017

Gaming and the Storyteller

(image source:TechnoBuffalo)

Looking at this blog one might think my life revolves around books, writing, and bunnies. While that assumption it is not entirely wrong, it is not completely true either. In recent weeks, I have allowed myself to get distracted with computer games - Skyrim and Lego Lord of the Rings in particular. Two very different games in terms of game play and story depth, yet both managed to appeal to my inner storyteller. One because of its familiar content, the other because of its richness.

Lego Lord of the Rings

My OH greatly enjoyed introducing me to this, because who better to play this game with than a Lord of the Rings geek? Alongside the obligatory rant about how game Faramir ended up being movie Faramir rather than book Faramir (can you guess he's one of my favourites?) or that Arwen had a major role and Glorfindel did not, my OH had the pleasure of having me rattle off the dialogue alongside the cut sequences. I may have seen the movies one time too many, and I would say the same about the books, but you can never read a good book too many times. Did I mention I can rattle off entire poems?

*discovering Gil-Galad is available to buy on the map*
OH: "Who is Gil-Galad?"
Me: "Gil-Galad was an Elven-king
of him the harpers sadly sing..."

Intersperse the silliness that I hear is typical for the Lego games with my geekiness and exclamations of "Look at me! I'm a wizard AND I sound like Ian MacKellen! I couldn't possibly get any cooler!" and your rainy Saturday afternoon has found its perfect alternative from the usual reading/writing agenda. It was a lot of light-hearted fun, a game not taking itself or its source material too seriously, even while following the movie plot line quite closely. It did not add anything to the original story, apart from a few gags, but it did not need to. It was not intended to, because it never tried to be more than light entertainment, at which it definitely succeeded.

The only thing that ruined the fun for me was the fact that the game was very glitchy and several things had to be done multiple times because a character ended up with his head stuck on the underside of a bridge, floating in mid-air, or items not displaying. If I were to rate the experience, it would get 4 out of 5 stars.


Years ago my friend gave me a copy of Skyrim for my birthday. I started the game and died. A lot. The camera and I were not friends and by the time I managed to locate the wolf chewing away at me, there wasn't much left to chew. So, after only a few hours of gameplay, much of which was spent on the loading screen, I gave up. While I liked the premise, I felt the fact that I wasn't a regular gamer and had never dealt with a separate controllable camera put me at a disadvantage.

Fast forward to two months ago, when after many hours on Lego I decided to give it another shot. First off, no, I was not entirely happy with the camera controls and spent a lot of my first month's gameplay time dying because I was looking at the ceiling rather than the enemy (yes, I am a complete camera klutz), but as the hours passed and I died less, I managed to get to grips with it. Now I am so happy I gave this game another shot. While I still spent a lot of time dying, I was beginning to really appreciate the story. There is so much detail that went into it, from the graphics, to the map, to the architectural design of places, to the people I meet.

But what really impresses me even after many hours of playing is the world building, for Skyrim really is world building at its finest. I have already hinted at the different look and feel of different places, but to me that is design. What makes it possible for me to completely immerse myself in the world is the cultural, societal, and historical background I get while walking through Skyrim. I don't even need to try to find things out, because all these details are embedded in the game itself - through books I pick up, people I talk to, and places I visit. I cannot even imagine how many hours of work went into creating that level of detail, but what I can say is that it works. It did not take long to get a feeling for the place and its people and to feel myself part of this world. All without trying. The information is just there for you to get as part of the greater story.

While the medium is different this is what I hope to achieve when it comes to my own world building goals: create a world rich in history and culture and provide the reader with all this information without trying. The information is there between the lines or in the dialogue and description, but not as a massive info dump to remind the reader of the world they are currently inhabiting. Instead, I want my world to draw the reader in. I want them to not have a choice but get lost in the rules, culture, and wider historical and political nuances of the place. For the time they are there, I want them to become denizens of that world, who would feel perfectly capable to handle everyday life there, because they would know, without being explicitly told, what society, culture, and history expect of them.

All in all, I highly recommend Skyrim.

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