Video games: The Literature of the Future

Video games already all have an objective. From Pacman eating pellets and fighting ghosts, to the elaborate objective of solving a mystery with a newly found rewind power in Life is Strange. Life is Strange however, is a different type of video game, it’s in the category of video games that I would qualify as literature. A lot of video games now fall into this category. In the future, more and more video games will be able to not only tell a story, but also be immersive in that the player feels involved in the story rather than just following it.

Video games such as The Walking Dead and Life is Strange already have very immersive gameplay and the player feels attached to the character. Yet, there isn’t a game (at least that I’ve heard of) that the player feels as though they are the player-character. Book forms of literature are the same way. The reader gets attached to the character but they don’t feel as though they are the protagonist. The closest form of reader involvement as the protagonist started in 1979 with choose your own adventure books.

Choose your own adventure books dated back to the late 1970s. Joëlle Delbourgo wanted to change the way children read books, so they developed the Create Your Own Adventure series The Cave of Time where there the reader took the role of the protagonist. The reader would read the story, then every so often they would have to make a decision and turn to a certain page based off of their choice. The more main-stream version of this are the Goosebumps books that adapted this idea. These books were more immersive than the traditional books, but the reader couldn’t move the character where they wanted them to go, or interact with objects unless it was along the lines of “if you chose to pick up the wrench go to page 45!” Video games already have the interactions that these books do not. The extra step needs to be that these literature games are even more immersive. With Kinnect, the Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard and other items that digitize the player’s surroundings to make it seem more real, video games can really kick off.

Google Cardboard simulates virtual reality through applications on a smartphone. A lot of these applications are educational in nature. The game InMind and InCell for the Google Cardboard both educate about the human body while in a virtual space. The player is immersed in the game and it creates a new platform to learn information. If these games were developed farther technically from a coding standpoint they would be even more immersive. Bill Crosbie, a game programmer, said that creating details is the most time consuming and difficult process, but as technology develops, it will be easier to have realistic surroundings to back up virtual reality gaming experiences.

Jessie Merandy created a game that educates people on a poet. The player downloads the app and has to physically go to different locations to get more of the story. Merandy said that learning through reading is just one experience, but actually going to the place and seeing the story is different. This type of game is even going a step further as having the player travel large distances. I see most video games in the future stepping out of the simple experience of just pushing the player through the story, but including them more in choices and physical actions. Some games already have voice commands, and require the player to shake a wiimote but that’s just one aspect. Games should have more story development and immersion mentally and not just physically.

A player shouldn’t blindly follow the story, but question the actions the game is requiring them to do. In fact, sometimes the correct decision to make should be unclear. If moral decisions were added to educational VR games, and a story was incorporated, then the games would be on a completely new level of immersion. Moral decisions added to story-based games give more meaning to the experience (Burks). Moral decisions in games intrigue the player and keep them interested in the game play, pair this with the player feeling as though they are playing themselves rather than playing as a character and the game is golden. When playing The Walking Dead in class, I often hear my classmates talk about their decisions and saying “this isn’t what Clem would do” but what would they themselves do in this situation?

With a mix of technologies such as the Kinnect, Oculus Rift, and Google Cardboard, plus literature aspects such as character development and a plot climax, a lot of games would have extremely immersive gameplay that many games do not have today. If you add in some decisions that question your morality then even Pacman could evolve into the video game of the future.

Burks, Robin. “Good Video Games Are As Meaningful As Literature And Cinema.” Tech Times. N.p., 2015. Web. 29 Apr. 2016.
Crosbie, Bill. Guest Speaker at Stevenson. Stevenson University. 4 May 2016. Speech.
Merandy, Jessie. Guest Speaker at Stevenson. Stevenson University. 27 April 2016. Speech.
Rossen, Jake. “A Brief History of ‘Choose Your Own Adventure'” Mental Floss. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2016.
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