Vector Heroes

November 5th, 2008

Vector Heroes:

How Improved Graphics and Budgets has Led to “Game-Storytelling”

By Nancy Elizabeth Townsend

1. Atari’s PONG (1971)

Atari's PONG (1971)
Atari’s Pong (1971)

In the beginning, a player’s immersion into a video gaming environment required them to do nothing more than control a moving block on a black and white screen. Needless to say, we have much improved since. Some of the most recent console blockbusters allow the rendering of not only realistic and customizable characters, but each can have over 200 animations played based on user input.

2. Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda (1986-2007)

From a white rectangle that could only move up and down, to a dashing hero with your personalized features that can jump, twist, swing walk run, rescue the girl (or guy), chainsaw alien invaders in half and, in

Nintendo's Legend of Zelda (1986-2007)

Nintendo Legend of Zelda (1986-2007)

the end, save the world. The fundamental logistics are the same – user input effects on-screen elements to fulfill a pre-designed objective – but it is the stories that have led to such a shift that video game sales are now rivals to Hollywood box office receipts. By mapping the history of game development (Pong à Space Invaders à Dungeons&Dragons à World of Warcraft) of the most important enhancements that improved technology and larger budgets has allowed us to explore, is story application.

Shooting rocks out of the sky has no meaning, no passionate-igniting purpose, without the background fact that the harmless rocks will destroy you and your home nation (Asteroid vs. Super Stardust HD). Along with relatable goals, characters began to appear (Mario, Pac man) that gamers recognized – leading to game series, expanded casts and more complex storylines. The arrival of the RPG (Role-Playing Game) game format in Square’s 1986 release of “Dragon Quest” was an instant sensation with its large cast of characters and moving fantastical storyline.

3. Infinite Interactive – Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlord

Infinite Interactive - Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords

Infinite Interactive - Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords

Soon enough, every game company was in on it; first person shooters set in World War II, real time strategy in a fantastical world of imaginary races. Even the most banal in-browser flash games (Bejeweled à Puzzle Quest) have added heroes, villains and quests to their game plan in order to enhance the user experience.

Story has become as essential as playability and art style for the success of a game. Many criticism of the amount of time youths spend playing video games instead of reading can be rebuffed nowadays. Unlike films, gaming is at least interactive and, unlike books, it has been proven to tone reflexes and with consoles going online, it is no longer an anti social activity. Perhaps one the most prominent defenses of game-playing vs. book-reading is the fact that many game stories use the exact same literary design elements. Heroes, antagonists, allusions, flashbacks, symbols, suspense, climax – they have indeed become so alike that books have been turned into video games and vice versa; and not only action/tales of war, but classics as well. Each medium is merely a different way of accounting a narrative.

Some examples of classic novels turned into video games:

Conan (2007) Nihilistic Software. Book “Conan the Conqueror” by Robert E. Howard (1950)

Agatha Christie “And When Where Were None” (2005) “Murder on the Orient Express” (2006) The Adventure Company. Books by same title (.

Nancy Drew – various PC games. Novels by Carolyn Keene

Lord of the Rings – various PC and console. Novels by J.R.R. Tolkien (1954-55)

America McGee’s Alice (2000) Rogue Entertainment. Lewis Caroll “Through the Looking Glass” (1868) and “Alice in Wonderland” (1865)

American McGee’s Alice (2000)

American McGee's Alice (2000)

America McGee's Alice (2000)

Whether sticking to the original plotlines (All Agatha Christie or Nancy Drew games) or twisting them to create a new world out of existing elements (“Alice”) , the fundamentals of storytelling remain firm in both mediums, with the additional interactivity mixed in.

A story is a story; it’s how you tell it that makes it an adventure.

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