Leopold Broom Investigates: Novels & Video Games

by Lee Cross

They say – “…a picture paints a thousand words…” “the book is always better…” “…give a thousand Monkeys a thousand typewriters, and I’ll give you a masterpiece…” …They, those mysterious others, say a lot of things; but what will be said tomorrow about the relationship between the worlds of writing and gaming?

How did genuine writers get involved scripting stories for computers games, and when did they start to get paid astronomical fees for doing so?

(I’m talking relatively here, of course, none of these folks are going to be moving in next-door to the Gate’s anytime soon… but…?)

Thinking back to when I was a kid, computer games had the outlines of a plot even then; Sonic the Hedge, Super Mario, etc… but the story wasn’t what you would describe as overdeveloped or the unique selling point of a game; more it was an added bonus to the far more essential gameplay elements.

Real writers, story structure, plot points – when did they become an essential part of creating a successful video game?

I remember when Grand Theft Auto (maybe 3 or maybe Vice City) was released and caused a big sensation because it offered open world experiences (basically that you could go off point if you so wished – at least, I think), and used named actors to augment the story and create a coherent plot that drew gamers in.

Clearly, this new approach to creating video games was wildly effective because I was aware (however vaguely) of the evolution taking place!

Then the face of Gaming changed further still, with titles like Eve Online being developed successfully. Seemingly games are now deliberately being designed to blur the lines between real and fictional, goal and choice… effectively letting you (the gamer) chose how you experience your game.

Eve and the subculture around it genuinely fascinates me. I’ve read articles in the broadsheet papers (printed editions, not just in online presence) detailing famous generals, major battle engagements, and wars currently taking place in cyberspace (does that word still have a meaning???), all apparently worthy of note.

One of these generals was actually compared to Napoleon Bonaparte, due to the similarities in their respective battle strategies! Seriously can you believe such a thing? but who’s to say this isn’t a valid comparison, both managed to conquer the full scope of their respective worlds.

The latest development, which grabbed my attention as a committed and obsessive reader, is that successful novels are being written on the back of successful video game franchises?

Now, to me, that seems like putting the cart before the horse – shouldn’t the book be the source material, with the games (however questionable in quality) be to follow?

This new wave of novels is being published with plot developments inspired by the actions and events of MMO games.

Are these novelisations’ of computer games successful? Well, I can only assume that they must be… there has to a be market for the product for it to exist, and if there is one thing that’s certain, it’s that gamers have never numbered so numerous amongst mainstream society – nor been more willing to free up disposable income to pursue their passion.

 

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