Dispatches from the Digital Revolution
Just when I thought my identity was safe and my past efficiently buried beneath a mountain of Dostoevsky, Ishiguro, and Austen novels, I received a message from an Appazoogle reader asking my opinion on…video games.
What did I think about the possible convergence of enhanced ebooks and video games?
Inside my mind, old doors–closed since childhood–began to creak open. I considered kicking them shut again, but I hesitated. I deliberated whether I should respond to the query like a staunch member of the literati: Video games and literature live in different worlds. I don’t see any future in it. Intersection is unlikely.
But then I would be lying.
Claire’s article, “Confessions of a genre fiction addict,” inspired me to be honest. I want to come out and admit my true literary roots. And the truth is that before I liked books, I liked video games. As a girl, I was obsessed with Role Playing Games (RPGs). Closer to the root of this secret is that I began to like books because I liked RPGs and I liked RPGs because of the elaborate stories they presented. In a video game, the player experiences the story through animation sequences, sound, text, and interactive gameplay. It is all about fully engaging with an imaginary world. It is about dreaming while awake. Much of the artistry in design and production lies in the effective balance of media elements, an aesthetic combination designed to keep the player within the dream.
On the Super Nintendo, all of these aspects were rudimentary, but nonetheless engaging. Only later on, right when Super Nintendo was becoming obsolete, did I think to move on from gaming and convert to literature. Nevertheless, I remain astounded at how incredibly beautiful video games have become. Technological developments have given visual art and music a new space to interact and flourish. I am not ashamed to admit that I have a number of video game soundtracks in my iTunes playlist. I enjoy listening to pieces composed by Nobuo Uematsu, who did most of the scoring for the Final Fantasy series.
“Video game music is definitely an art form,” says Sara Ontaneda, an Ecuadorian singer, composer, and songwriter, in an interview with Appazoogle. She currently studies contemporary writing and production at the Berklee College of Music. “It’s an art to know how the music will support the visual, capture a certain moment, or create a certain mood. Without it, the game isn’t complete. Video games even use instrumental ensembles and full orchestras to provide the right musical effect.”
One solid example of this form of collaboration is Shadow of the Colossus, originally released in 2005 for the PS2 by Sony Computer Entertainment, and then re-released six years later with HD graphics.
The original Japanese game trailer can be found here.
The textual aspect of a video game is often overshadowed by music and visuals, but the emergence of enhanced ebooks may provide a new platform for these three media elements to interact in a novel way. I mean this literally, of course. I am curious to see a new literary genre emerge, one that is framed and influenced by its digital medium.
But as a writer, I want the story to have center stage. I want to see music and visuals supporting the text. I want this text, separated from music and visuals, to have both market and cultural value. This is not impossible. It is only a matter of finding the right design. It is about creating a new type of dream. After all, dreams are a form of fiction. Fiction is a form of dream. And the best thing about dreaming is that there are always new ways to go about it.