How the Virtual Worlds of Video Games Transcend the Real

Posted by | January 27, 2011

Fallout Mod For a while now, storytellers have been bewitching minds by spinning yarns so engaging that the audience cannot but bate their breaths in stillness with rapt attention. Out of all the modes of storytelling that we have available to us today, video games are amid the strongest and brightest lights when it comes to immersion and the ability to hold our attention. Certainly I’ve said as much about the direction that Blizzard has been taking World of Warcraft, but Avatar Nelson of the Midnight Sea Society also has a bit to say on the subject,

Video games have a great advantage over movies and books because they can place you directly into the story, leaving you standing on a patch of ground in their fictional worlds. You control a character in the story, taking action and making choices. The world, the story surrounds you, but you aren’t just watching it unfold. In a game, what you do and how you do it becomes part of the story. Your actions become part of the world. This is a revelation for exploring the worlds of our imaginations.

The most powerful video games create full virtual worlds. Your character doesn’t just pass through them on his way to level 6, he lives there. You can come back, again and again, taking on your character to explore these virtual worlds, not as a visitor racking up a high score, but as a native living his life. In a sense, you are trading the real world and your own self for the virtual world and the new self of your character.

Video games have been with us ever since the generation of video itself. Games, well, we’ve had those since before the invention of language—and yet, in fact, there’s no doubt in my mind that games have always had a storytelling element. Although at their most simple most games model chance, proceed from a type of gamble—from something as complex as tossed dice to seeing who can skip a rock across a pond the most times. The combination of skill and randomness has always proceeded from the best games; although certainly with games like chess, chances does get set aside entirely for skill.

Video games allow us to impose an entirely new model onto the world and allow players to enter into that model. And part of that model our storytellers can write their own metaphysics, their own worlds, their own immersion.

If through the stories we tell and digest we know ourselves, imagine what kind of knowledge we can find in games that allow us to spin our own worlds, stories, and interweaving narratives. As Massively Multiplayer Online games continue to branch out and evolve we will see further and further developments that hand more controls to the user to write and live in their own stories.

What was that PlayStation tagline for a while?

Live in your world, play in mine.

Link, via Midnight Sea Society.

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