Recently, I finished reading Character Development and Storytelling for Games by Lee Sheldon. The author has a long history of working both in the games industry, as well as in television and fiction — enabling him to draw directly form his own personal experience in a variety of mediums.
Sheldon’s book provides a significant amount of interesting detail about character creation (roles, traits, encounters, etc.) and the ways in which games differ from other storytelling mediums. He uses examples from a variety of sources, including classic literature, film, and television, as well as games, in order to provide evidence for the theories on storytelling, theme, and structure that he presents. He makes some interesting connections between these different mediums. However, sometimes his chapters are so heavy with references (many of which I’ve never heard of) that I sometimes found it somewhat overwhelming to process the lessons he is trying to impart.
My copy of the book was the first edition, published in 2004. While discussions of character and story are everlasting, when the book speaks about the future of games, it sometimes felt a bit out of date. Apparently, a second edition was published in 2013, which likely provides a more modern perspective and up-to-date cultural references.
Regardless, one section in particular presented me with a new way of thinking about story — namely, modular storytelling and how it can help blend gameplay and story into interactive narratives. And I was surprised to learn that classic literature could provide an early example of this kind of structure.
I feel like I’ve completed more games in 2021 than I have in the entire last decade, and most of those games occurred in the last few months of the year — partially initiated by the Game Writing Master Class that I took, which inspired me to explore gameplay from a new point of view.
In general, I’ve found that games provide a unique escape from the day to day grind, whether its the heart-pounding exploration of a horror game to the delightful antics of a more relaxing puzzler. Out of all the games that I completed, here were some of my favorite experiences.
Continue reading on Once Upon the Weird.
Sometimes I have bad days, or even weeks. Over the past few years, these bad days have manifested for me in two opposing and yet integrated ways. The first is a deep longing for solitude, a desire to find some far off place away from people and the world, somewhere I don’t have to interact with or perform for anyone. The second is a strong feeling of disconnect from the people around me, bringing on a sense of loneliness that seeps through even in a crowded room and carrying with it the belief that no one would notice if I was gone.
So many people experience such things. Depression, sorrow, and anxiety can feel like being lost at sea, floating on desperate dark emotions with no sign of land or refuge in sight. Sea of Solitude, a game developed by Jo-Mei Games, powerfully expresses these experiences through the exploration and healing of its watery world.
Continue reading on Once Upon the Weird.
Hosted by published authors working in a variety of genres and with decades of experience in the industry, the Writing Excuses podcast offers quick 15-20 minute long episodes packed with insightful writing, craft, and business advice.Â This year, the podcast has shifted its format to focus on eight-episode intensive courses that drill down into a particular subject — in this case, game writing.
Along with regular hosts Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Taylor, the eight episodes on game writing were led by two guest hosts, Cassandra Khaw and James L. Sutter, both of whom have extensive experience writing for games. Kaw has worked as a senior scriptwriter for Ubisoft Montreal and as a freelance writer for various indie video game developers. Sutter is a co-creator of the Pathfinder and Starfinder table-top roleplaying games.
Continue reading on SUPERJUMP.
One of my great pleasures in life is sitting back and watching a good horror movie. My tastes are wide ranging, from horror comedies to supernatural scares, gritty psychological horror, and body horror. I’ll watch it all.
But horror video games have always seemed too intense for me. Watching a horror movie is a passive experience, allowing me to observe the character’s progress through the haunted house and judge their decision to go down into the dark basement.
Video games on the other hand remove that passivity from the equation. As the player, I find myself suddenly immersed in the experience. Instead of watching the character step down into the dark, I’m the one in control, the one who has to make the decision to go down the stairs, even though I know something terrible awaits.
Over time, however, I’ve gained a growing appreciation for scary games. It’s been slow going, starting with games that feature more of a creepy aesthetic than actual scares and growing to a love for the intensity of survival horror.
If like me, you’ve been curious about playing scary games, I’ve put together a list of 10 video games to help you baby step your way into horror, recently published at Keeping It Spooky.