Daily Archives: December 27, 2011

Video Game Fantasy and the Evolution of Experience

I’m a gamer. When I’m not writing, reading, or hanging out with my husband, I can often be found in the world of Kirkwall (Dragon Age 2) or the various cities of Albion (Fable), or sometimes in Renaissance Italy (Assassins Creed). Right now, the flavor of the decade might just be Skyrim.

As I’ve been playing with my new Kinect and sweating appropriately, it’s made me think quite a lot about some of the other possible venues for fantasy writing. Namely, video games. If you’ve ever played a large scale, open world RPG, you’ll know just how much writing and world building goes into those things. I get tingly thinking of writing for Bioware (home of Dragon Age and Mass Effect), and the more I play Skyrim, the more I’m convinced that the writers have a ball down there in Bethesda. I’ve even met a few of them — I think I have their autographs floating around somewhere.

I got a taste of where fantasy RPGs might be headed when I played the in-store demo of Puss in Boots at Best Buy. You slash your arm like a sword, claw things, jump, etc. In Kinect Adventures, you dodge obstacles, jump over things, duck under other things, and reach to collect pins and gems. If this sounds easy, it’s not. I broke a sweat, and my arms are very sore after a couple days of this.

As someone who has always loved the sword and sorcery type of games, the idea of slicing, shooting, or slamming enemies with magic is intriguing, to say the least. In Puss in Boots, you can jump to pounce an opponent, then scratch your hands over and over to claw him. HA! And don’t even get me started on Fruit Ninja.

As I played Skyrim with a controller last night, I thought about how it might end up, with our bodies going through these adventures. Granted, without the long miles of walking and the sleep/food deprivation, but I think it’s safe to say that thanks to Kinect (which destroys the Wii, by the way), gone is the gamer couch potato. Oh, I’m sure he’ll turn up here and there with some crumbs stuck on his butt and a ghostly pallor, but no longer is “gamer” synonymous with “lazy bum.”

As someone who has been a gamer for a long time, I neither take offense or mean any insult to my peers on that count. We all know what the stereotype is, and we accept it.

How cool is it to move your hands and see something respond on screen? Well…very. To slash at something and have it fall into chunks in front of you (Fruit, silly…not people. Yet.), to punch and kick and move your body to play a video game? Extremely. It’s not the equivalent of a kung fu class, but it sure as hell beats having your blood congeal in your arse for twelve hours while you play. It’s tiring — I played Kinect Adventures for a half an hour and had to take a break. I’m sure games will still be released with controller options, but I’m really curious to see where the world of the fantasy RPG goes from here. For me, all I see in the future is an evolving, evocative experience of game play — and I can get behind that.

And if I can’t make a living as a novelist, maybe Bioware could find a place for a fantasy-loving gamer-writer.

Hey, I can dream.

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