Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn wasn’t the first RPG I had ever played, that’s an honor that belongs to Pokemon, but it was the first game that taught me that stories were not just window dressing for game mechanics. It was the first time I had truly paid attention and engaged with the characters, the story, and my motivation was not just driven by trying to defeat the final boss but in trying to find out what happens at the end of the story. It read to me like all the books that I loved, but this time, I was actively trying to help these characters move through the narrative. Mercenaries fighting for a cause, battle-ready princesses who were ready to join the fray, and an overarching mystery I had to solve; it was unlike anything I had ever played before and I knew immediately I needed more like it.
I could say I have a long history of gaming, ever since my sister and I received a Nintendo 64 when I was 6. We didn’t play too many “story” games back then, a lot of Mario Kart and other Mario Sports. Pokemon came a few years later and I could have paid attention to the narrative then but my 10 year old self was more concerned with making my way around Kanto with Pikachu at my side. I went through some simulation games (like The Sims and Zoo Tycoon) over the next few years, but it would be Super Smash Bros. Brawl that led me to a genre that would ultimately change my life. Like many who knew Fire Emblem before Awakening, I stumbled across the series by way of the question: “Who is that blue-haired sword wielder?” (There were many more where that came from, apparently.) It was then I was able to confirm “my genre” as RPGs, and it would be several years more when I would add Dragon Age and the Persona series to my list of favorite game series. So where am I going with all this?
While studying for my English degree, I realized the things that I was learning about literature could also be applied to video games and how they work as a storytelling medium. It’s easy to limit the gaming experience to just strategy and mechanics: what armor has the best defense? What sword/bow/staff should I have equipped? Where is the best place to stand to attack this monster? However, there is this big emphasis now on the narrative and characters of the game. Just take a look at the recent popularity of the Telltale games, Life is Strange, Overwatch…. Heck, look at the games that have won Game of the Year in the past several years. I have long advocated (to any of my friends and family who will listen) that video games are a valid medium for storytelling. With this blog, I want to explore more of that. Video games can be just as meaningful and profound as a book, movie, or a TV show, and I want to analyze games that do just that. I’ll be looking at games with good narratives, well rounded characters, and games that utilize their mechanics as a way to uniquely tell their story. Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with some college English essay on the color symbolism of the Super Mario cast, that’s not why I’m here, but I’d like to take a look at how well game developers got their story across and the unique ways they used the video game medium to do so.
I will post on select Fridays, either discussing my first impressions on a new game I’ve played or discussing storytelling elements of a game or games. Be sure to be on the look out for new posts, either through my social media or by subscribing to me here!