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Archive for the ‘Video Games’ Category

As previously mentioned, I have a love for good Story, and I actively seek it out in every medium I can find it. As a child, I spend the better part of my time behind a good book or in front of our television set. Whether I’m watching a movie, reading a novel or playing a video game, I love immersing myself in worlds unknown. I always found the gaming approach to story to be particularly intriguing, as it demands a higher level of active participation from the player. Each experience is unique, not one play through will be exactly the same. I’ve thus saved a place in my blog to discuss games that I find interesting in their use of Story.

I recently finished Alan Wake, a third-person shooter developed by Remedy Entertainment for the Xbox 360 (later released with enhanced graphics for PC). This game’s a psychological horror that follows Alan Wake, a big-city writer who’s struggling to continue his career after a two-year hiatus. In an attempt to rekindle his creative flame, Alan and his wife Alice travel to the small town of Bright Falls, where Alan becomes ensnared in his own nightmarish fantasy story come to life… one he has no recollection of ever writing. When Alice disappears from their lakeside cabin, Alan must follow the clues left in the pages of his own manuscript, becoming the protagonist of a novel rapidly deteriorating into a paranormal horror story.  Alan must fight the shadows of his own imagination, dark things made real as the town’s people become taken over by the Dark Presence residing at the bottom of Cauldron Lake.

The game is heavily atmospheric, seemingly straight out of a Stephen King novel, and Bright Falls recalls the eerie small town ambiance of Lynch’s Twin Peaks. As with all good horror fiction, the world of the game is its greatest strength. The Dark Presence that envelops the town infuses the setting with its own character, as Alan must traverse the town and its surrounding woods in unnatural obscurity. Using whatever he can find to dispel the darkness (flashlights, flares, flash bang grenades), Alan tries to circumvent the events of a story that has already been written, often finding manuscript pages detailing horrific occurrences moments before they happen. The pages also provide back story and insight into other characters and events that are transpiring elsewhere in the town.

The game’s hauntingly beautiful landscapes and chilling settings only serve to enhance an already captivating story.  Alan’s troubled introspective narration coupled with the mystifying manuscript pages keeps the player questioning Alan’s sanity and unsure how the story will progress. Throughout the entire game the player is restless and uneasy, mirroring Alan’s confused feelings of doubt. In keeping with the horror genre, the game features some unsettling plot twists and suspenseful scenes that chill the blood without necessarily resorting to gruesome deaths and gore. This leads to a particularity story-driven game that still maintains great game play. Combat is dynamic and impulsive, and sets up interesting ways to defeat enemies.

Aside from some minor faults, Alan Wake is a great example of how video game mechanics can be used to enhance the story experience. This game comes highly recommended to anyone who loves a good fright, and to writers who like experiencing different modes of storytelling. As a writer, it’s important to keep in mind the tools you have at your disposal to tell a story. A good story is worthless if you don’t master the means to tell it.

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