A guest post by Sam Sykes
You know, for the longest time I was uber sensitive about being accused of writing D&D fiction. I mean, yes, I write about adventurers going into dark places, stabbing monsters and swiping loot, but god damn it I was serious about it god damn it (yes, I was so incensed, I used the same curse twice).
As I get on in years, I’m much more all right with the idea of that. It’s not true (seriously, I was so unpopular I couldn’t even get anyone to play D&D with me), but that’s fine if people reminisce through me. And it’s definitely no secret I take a lot of inspiration from video games. JRPGs were one of my very most fundamental understandings of a story. I grew out of it, as you can tell by the distinct lack of doe-eyed, spiky-haired men with colossal swords fighting sweaty women with oni masks for breasts for the affections of a magical maid who can turn into a cat, but I think it’s fair to say that a lot of the younger writers out there probably got one of their earlier understandings of how stories work from video games.
I think the first time I realized games could have stories was when I played FF7 for the first time. I literally had no idea what it was about except that there was a dude with a huge sword and let’s not dwell on what that might mean. But I scrimped and saved everything I had so I could buy a Playstation to play it on. Then I scrimped and saved a little more to buy it. Then I played it.
And holy shit.
Within the first few minutes, my mind was blown. What was this guy doing here? Fuck, we’re rebels? Awesome! Yeah, let’s fight some robots! Now guys with swords! Bringin’ down the man! We’re freedom fighters, busting a corrupt corporation that’s killing a planet. I’m wearing a purple turtleneck sweater, but that’s okay! I’ve got backstory! And angst! And swords ‘n shit! Fuck yeah! FUCK YES!
And so on.
I suppose you could cry that the world has failed us when our youth learn storytelling from video games, rather than books. And in truth, video games can only take you so far. But they can teach you how to think visually, how to paint things in prose, how to establish something vividly in the reader’s mind. And they can teach you how to think mechanically, how to display on the page how movement works, how to keep an idea of where everyone is and make it clear to the reader. And, most importantly, they can teach you to understand when someone’s bored and how to prevent it.
The trickier stuff (character depth, plot, motivation, etc.) comes from mostly reading books, but you absorb it anywhere. Creatives of all ages, but especially kids, are gluttons for creative input. And like any diet, diversity is healthy.
I guess it’s kind of gauche to suggest that one of your influences might have been Squaresoft (it wasn’t Square-Enix in my day!) instead of, say, Tolkien or another dead guy, but I’d be earnestly surprised if there weren’t more authors who had some of their earliest storytelling wonders come from video games.
A surefire way to tell? Ask them if they were interested in the love triangle between Cloud, Tifa and Aerith (Aeris, if you’re nasty). If they say no, they are definitely an FF7 fan because they are fucking lying.