For Me, Story Was the Game Changer

The importance of a good story cannot be overstated. Whole cultures are shaped around their common stories, and it’s not hard to think (at least in my own life) of the influence of various stories, least of which is the gospel “story.” This must explain why I have recently developed such a fascination with the Xbox 360.

I’ve never been much of a gamer. Beyond a few casual play sessions and a few random purchases of older systems I never did bother with video games much. But as I have read the game-related writings of my fellow CaPC writers, and others, and as I have seen the games played by others I must admit that I have grown fascinated with video games. The stories that surround many of the most popular and acclaimed games are compelling and powerful. Add to this the fact that video games allow me suddenly to participate in these stories in ways that I had never considered. With each game I am being forced to ask myself meaningful questions about ethical living and the moral response to various conflicts. I’ll grant, of course, that the worlds of BioShock and other games are fictional, yet these fictional stories (like all good stories) make me ask questions about real life. Owning an Xbox 360 has in many ways changed gaming for me.

I am still probably not much of a gamer, but taking time to consider carefully what games I play has brought me to consider carefully a host of related issues. I can’t play Dante’s Inferno and feel comfortable with the images and the actions the game calls me to take (like, for example, killing deformed babies). I love acting as Batman and rescuing Arkham Asylum. And I feel the eeriness of Bioshock along with its characters. These stories make me ask questions about parenting, about redemption, second chances, oppression, heroism, and a host of other ideas that I dont’ take enough time to consider in my day-to-day comings and goings. It’s not that gaming itself has done this for me. It is the compelling story lines and gameplay, much of which has changed the face of gaming.

As a Christian I must appreciate the stregnth of good storytelling and the importance of stories (especially true ones like those of the gospels). That’s why this pastor has found a little bit of time every now and again to enjoy a video game. Some of these stories do matter.

About Dave Dunham
  • http://electexiles.wordpress.com/ Drew Dixon

    David, I am glad to hear you are doing a bit of gaming. I think its a medium with massive potential. I have actually started gaming more this year and consequently reduced my intake of other mediums a bit–mostly I have watched less TV–I have read more probably which is weird. Anyway, I think I may just write about my experience playing more games this last year because I think the results are varied. I am getting ready to have a daughter, so I realize that I will inevitably have less time to play games–so one of my new year’s resolutions is to play better games.

    I think a lot of folks still scoff at video games merely because they have never played any good ones nor do they realize how much games have changed in the last 10 years. Anyway–I may post some recommendations soon but suffice it to say story draws me in as well and what makes games unique is the way they involve you in that story and consequently there are many more experiences worth having in the world of games than many people realize.

  • http://www.christandpopculture.com/ Richard Clark

    Obviously I applaud anyone who realizes the value of the medium. Yay, David! Yay, Drew!

    Also, though, I think it’s valuable to point out that even games without solid stories can be extremely valuable for the way they allow us to create our own stories. I’m thinking of things like Far Cry 2 (BOTH OF YOU: BUY IT. IT’S CHEAP), Left 4 Dead, and things like that. You’re presented with simple goals, and you are allowed to fill in all sorts of blanks, from the purpose of those goals, the methods they are accomplished, etc. In a way it’s the exact opposite of the story-driven games that you guys love so much, but in another way, it’s just an exercise in extreme subtlety that most benefits the medium.

  • http://electexiles.wordpress.com/ Drew Dixon

    I agree with you there Rich– I would add the Fallout games to that category–particularly: NV encourages you to make your own story. I actually have Far Cry 2 on PC–I probably played 5-6 hours and ended up playing other things and never went back to it, but I appreciate the game in many ways and its definitely on my list of games to pick back up eventually. I also have Left 4 Dead 2 on PC and I really enjoyed it though I still haven’t played it enough to really appreciate it.

    David–you mentioned Bioshock–have you played Bioshock 2? The second game is in many ways better than the first if not as groundbreaking and original. What I appreciate most about that game is that it presents you with some pretty tough decisions that play themselves out significantly in the end. Anyway–that is one that you can find on sale at times–but by next year it will be cheap probably.

    If you are interested in branching out beyond action/shooter games and want to play some more casual but meaningful games, I would say Braid, Limbo, and Lucidity are fantastic and do not require massive time commitments to play. Even though its first person–Portal was a game that really changed the way I think about the medium–its really really great and you can get it super cheap in a bundle with Half-Life 2 which is also fantastic.

    I’ll stop there out of fear of overwhelming you!

  • http://www.christandpopculture.com/ Richard Clark

    Bioshock 2 is about $15 these days at target or wal-mart or whatever.

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  • http://identi.ca/cafemap02 Get the facts

    The following time I learn a weblog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as a lot as this one. I mean, I do know it was my choice to read, however I really thought youd have one thing interesting to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something that you may repair when you werent too busy searching for attention.

  • Richard Clark

    hahaha


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