by C.T. Hutt
I’m C.T. Hutt, a Washington professional, aspiring writer, and, like my colleagues, lifelong aficionado of video games. Let me preface my introduction by saying that this manner of commentary is long overdue. While many out there in the literary world shake with trepidation over the implications of Amazon’s new gadget the Kindle 2 I’d like to point out that this doohickey is just one of many steps toward a new and exciting literary world. However, this path was not started in the golden age of the internet, no, it all began a long time ago.
Let me take you all the way back. In the beginning, there was Pong. Two little white pixel bars and a bouncing square that changed the world. Players would maneuver their bar so as to knock the square off the screen on their opponent’s side. Doing so gained a player points, satisfying both the early gamers’ need to gloat at an opponent’s failing and the bizarre evolutionary adaptation that makes people fascinated by rising numbers. For a long time, the reward of points was enough to keep arcade jockeys dropping quarters into slots across the globe. Driven to gaming by a lack of social graces and athletic ability, having more points than the next set of initials was all the first gamers could aspire to. The industry responded to their needs, providing them with new and creative ways to feed their addiction to big shiny numbers. Space Invaders, Asteroids, Frogger, Pac Man (who was not a man but merely a shape) and so many other variations, all were designed on the basic premise that getting points was a good thing. Then along came the plumber who dared to upset the balance. In 1981, just two years before yours truly hit the scene, Shigeru Miyamoto’s famous protagonist said to the world “Itsa me Mario!”
Here was something all together new, a video game character that looked like a person, a tiny blockular person, but a person. Gamers now found themselves in control of another human being (sort of). As the first actual character in the video gaming world, Mario needed some kind of motivation to get off his lazy plumber ass and do something. From his attire, it was clear that Mario was of good lower class working stock, not the kind of deviant who would be satisfied spending time running after points. Then we met the princess, helpless captive of an antisocial simian, Donkey Kong. A title wave of new dimensions hit the gaming scene. Now we had animosity, revenge, fear, triumph, betrayal, love, and the entire pallet of the human experience to motivate our digital avatars, video games had become stories.
As momentous as this epiphany was, writing in video games has been one of the slowest aspects of the experience to evolve. Indeed, even on the sleek animal that is our current standard of game, story remains a freakishly underdeveloped limb; still necessary for survival, but often a glaring flaw in otherwise excellent games.
I will be reviewing the stories of video games, taking particular note of excellent specimens and stinking failures in all categories.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
by C.T. Hutt