Interactive Storytelling pt 1: Video Games

You might not think it, but video games have become very much intertwined with literature, pushing sales and expanding universes of some of your favourite stories.

Novels have been made into games for years; Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, anything by Tom Clancy, 007 (GoldenEye remains one of the best games of all time), and more recently, The Witcher has taken the gaming world by storm. If we’re including graphic novels or comics in this, there are a dazzling amount of Spider-Man games, the incredibly crafted Batman Arkham series, X-Men has a bunch, and even the Walking Dead had an award winning “episodic interactive drama graphic adventure video game”. Granted, it’s easy to come up with video games for genre fiction. You don’t see Ubisoft running to make a game of The Sun Also Rises (though, some think it could be quite interesting). However, some books scream to be made into a film or television series, and some just need to become video games.

The great thing about video games is that you get to explore the world the author created without bounds. I remember being ten and making couch forts with a friend and staying up till 3am exploring the Forbidden Forest in some early Harry Potter game for PS1. That happy memory holds very strong in my mind, which only increases my love for the Harry Potter series. I could say the same with any number of games I’ve played that are based on books. Is Two Towers my favourite Tolkien book because of the book itself, the film, or the amazing game? I like to believe that all three together combine to make a fuller experience than any one by itself. Enhancing a story through other mediums, such as film, television series, graphic novels, and now video games, also benefits the source material. Andrzej Sapkowski, author of The Witcher series, had this to say about the subject in an interview with EuroGamer.

“Of course I don’t want to diminish the role of the video game, it is obvious that it had a positive impact on the interest of foreign publications and the number of translations. A lot of gamers, of course, have only gained interest in the books because they liked the games. Otherwise, they would have never read it.”

But it’s not all sunshine and roses when a book is turned into a game.

“It is also important to note that there is a negative aspect, damages if you like, that I bear because of the game…but neither the game or, God forbid, its creators can, of course, be blamed for such state. Some foreign publishers are doing me a disservice by painting my books with artwork borrowed from the games, and including game advertisements and game related blurbs inside…Though I praised the knowledge and familiarity of fantasy readers, there are some among them who have less of it. Sometimes, by looking at the covers, they reject books as game novelizations, products secondary to the game.”

Video games can be a double edged sword, but all media is. The 007 film franchise has long been more popular than any of the novels. Hell, I didn’t know they started as novels until I was in my teens. HBO’s Game of Thrones gets more views weekly than A Dance With Dragons has sold since it’s release in 2011. But it’s not all bad. The different mediums push the sales of the books, and give more of what the people want. More stories, more adventures, more exploring, a deeper understanding. I don’t think videogames are the future of literature, but they are a welcome accomplice

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