Creating a Digital Narrative Through a Video Game

It’s easy to overlook the thought and development that goes into creating a story-line for a video game. Sometimes, it’s easy to say, “that looks fun, I’ll give it a go” without really considering the story that pulls it together and makes it interesting. Usually, at the end of the game, gamers want to know what’s next. It’s not just the awesome game play that leaves you yearning for more; it’s the story.

Of course, what is a good story without a cliffhanger to keep you going? The anticipation has to build up so that when the next game, or book, comes out, you’re anxiously waiting for the release. It’s probably the best and worst part of a narrative.

Is the effect the same if there is no cliff hanger? What if you have complete control over every aspect of a narrative?

In the novel Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, each person is given the opportunity to create their own narrative of their own life however they want. In the year 2044, the “reality” world has gone into chaos as natural resources are running out, living space is hard to come by, and trying to exist in any way is nearly impossible if you aren’t rich. Similarly to now, when Wade Watts, the main character, or any of the other citizens of this futuristic earth, want to escape from the misery of their reality, they play a video game.

ready player one

The OASIS is the video game that everyone owns, but it’s not just a video game; it’s a new way of life, and a new way that people live, work, and communicate. Think of the ultimate social networking site plus a MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role playing game) with quests and all that comes with it.  In a way it’s Facebook meets World of WarCraft, but so much more than that.

In the OASIS, people go to school, have houses, form relationships, have paying jobs, and everything else that one would do in reality. The currency in the OASIS is how people buy things in real life too. The OASIS is the replacement for reality. You can be whoever you want, do whatever you want, even live in any type of world you want (Firefly, Star Wars, anything).

The book is filled with 80s references and video game, movies, and TV shows that any nerd or 80s aficionado would love. I won’t go into super details about the plot other than to say that it becomes a competition to who will inherit the fortune that the creator left behind. There are flaws in the writing overall that makes one question the story, but that’s not why I’m writing about it. The focus for the sake of this article, is the OASIS.

The thing that is most peculiar to me is how “into” the video game and console a user can get. This book creates a completely new way of socializing with the world around us. It gives users the opportunity to travel across time and space without leaving the comfort of their seat. While it is still possible to talk/interact with users, you can manipulate your voice so that users hear a different voice talk.

This book took what video games do and made it a reality. Video games are developed with story-lines and characters that are able to change who you are (in a sense) so you can play out a narrative.  This narrative may be pre-planned (like in a game such as Assassin’s Creed) or a narrative that you create based off of decisions that you make (like in the SIMs franchise).

sims3 sims screenshot

Though this narrative is already completely planned out, it still makes the reader wish that this OASIS was a working video game system in today’s society. There is nothing that is specifically like this, but similar in that they let the player create their own narrative.

The wonderful thing about video games, and specifically MMORPGs like the OASIS in Ready Player One or World of Warcraft or Second Life is that each individual player has complete control, or authorship in a sense, over every aspect of the character and narrative they create in that world.

Creating a story within the video game world like this gives every person a chance to write a narrative that they may not otherwise have. Just like with writing, we create an entire narrative around a character and a world that we’ve created. It’s a start of the writing process that is being played out.

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