Video Games: The New Literary Genre
The relationship between video games and literature has always been a difficult argument to settle. Video games, in general, offer depth and development into the story, characters, and complex themes or ideas of the particular game. However, can a video game offer the same depth into these subjects as a novel or even possess greater depth and understanding between the player and the game? The answer depends entirely on the video game itself. Like all works of literature, video games vary greatly in many aspects whether it is through the storytelling, character development, interaction within the game, or simply gameplay mechanics. Though all the genres of video games can tell some sort of story, even if it is as simple as a yellow sphere character running from ghost in a maze (Pac-Man). Some of the most prominent story telling game genres, role playing and adventure games, can be considered works of literature above all others through their ability to immerse the player into the game’s universe.
Surely many will argue gaming and literature have no commonalities and should be regarded in completely separate criteria. However, Gaming and literature at their core are all about storytelling. J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit delivers a powerful literary narrative and is an all-around great work of literature. Game developers set out to deliver a powerful story or message within the game the same way an author would in a book. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit series were actually developed into many games since the films were produced, from games which follow the story exactly to games which focus solely on separate events within the universe created by the novel. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Electronic Arts) follows the story of the book series, however The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age (Electronic Arts) immerses players into a story parallel to the novels. Another example of a game derived from a work of literature, Metro 2033 (THQ), based off the popular sci-fi novel Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovsky. Metro 2033 tells the story of the survivors of a nuclear disaster living in the metro tunnels of Moscow. The game does not follow the book except for the setting and themes established by Glukhovsky, instead it lets the player immerse themselves in the world and tell their own version of the story through different choices along the same path. This immersion of the player is something books and films cannot deliver. Video games allow the player to control the fate of the characters and the world around them and in turn make a more personalized experience to the player. An example of a direct relationship between a famous work of literature and a video game is Dante’s Inferno (Electronic Arts). Dante’s Inferno is a grisly retelling of Dante Alighieri’s “Divine Comedy” featuring the same setting, characters, and partial story of the great work of literature. In the video game the protagonist, Dante, is a battle worn crusader fighting demons and wreaking havoc through the circles of Hell to rescue his wife Beatrice. Consequently changing the original story where Dante is a poet simply observing the circles of Hell to better understand his purpose in life. This modern twist, as destructive to the original story as it is, was necessary to create an alternate version of the story to satisfy gamers who are familiar with the themes and topic of the epic poem. The game itself still uses the settings, characters, and motifs originally established by Dante Alighieri to stay true to the feeling of the poem and allow gamers to experience the story in a different way.
Other types of storytelling in video games derive straight from the game developers and not a pre-made universe to start from. The popular Mass Effect series (Electronic Arts) is widely considered the greatest achievement...