Brainpan Expansion: Learning Lessons from Video Games
Before I get started, let me begin by stating I have a background in classic literature. I read scads of it as a child and received my degree in English Literature. I came to it, however, from a love of pulp fiction. I’ll be the first to admit, we were a reading family, and we had huge bookshelves literally overflowing with a wealth of books of all sorts. As my brothers collected pulps, I read those too (at first to “be cool” and then later because the material was cool). There was a wide spectrum of stuff to sink my teeth into. I also grew up with video games, starting with the very first Pong and on through nearly every iteration in existence. And I did early computer gaming and there was constant roleplaying in my life. The industry evolved as did I and I never lost my love for gaming.
I write game material for a living, so it’s interesting to explore the video game platforms. I don’t get to play nearly as much as I used to (as the demands of writing and layout can leave me a bit drained at the end of a long day), but I do enjoy them as often as I can. The recent advent of an iPad2 has also allowed me to explore the interesting direction games are taking in that realm. With a purpose driven life, I try to make the moments count, so when I do get to sit down to play a video game, it is as much with a critical eye as for the enjoyment of the games.
There are a lot of good games out there and, for me, they provide a source of inspiration and excitement and enable me to knock of the cobwebs as I determine what works and what doesn’t. Admittedly, I don’t sit there with pen and pad, but there are lessons to be learned. Stripping away the trappings and looking at the underlying architecture can be particularly pleasing and there are times when the stuff I’m playing informs my work. For example, there could be an interesting approach to something in a game like L.A. Noire which I could then map over to Realms of Cthulhu or something in Uncharted 3 which gives me ideas of how to handle certain elements in an adventure. I especially like games driven by story and I particularly like to dissect the why of how certain quests feel heavy handed or others leave me feeling a bit flat. For example, in Dragon Age 2, I particularly like the coziness and closeness of the city which gave me some ideas for development of, oddly enough, Echo of Dead Leaves, as well as some RunePunk adventures I had been mulling over.
You don’t always need to be glued to your chair to get work done. You can learn some new tricks by grabbing a controller, flipping on your console, and exploring new vistas from the comfort of your couch. Inspiration is where you find it. With that being said, despite other work I need to do, I intend to grab a copy of Skyrim today, and spend the afternoon seeing what the buzz is all about. Who knows? I might even enjoy myself in the process.
Until next time, I bid you, dear reader, adieu!