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Its just a video game April 26, 2010

Posted by mattfarmer in writing.
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I am a gamer. I enjoy playing games. I have a PS2, a Wii, a Nintendo DS and my PC. All are gaming platforms for me. While I do write on here, I also play games on here. I do have my Eee PC which is my writing computer. No games will be installed on it. Ever.

It is a well known idea that playing games is a distraction. Rocking out to Guitar Hero does not really help in the writing, in any way that I know. Neither does owning the court with NBA 2k9. But damn they’re fun.

But I also know that for the meatier games, role playing games and such, there is writing behind them. A story is there to propel you forward, to keep you playing. There are also ‘Easter eggs’ and secret things that make you keep playing just to get 100%. This is a notion I also like to employ in my writing. Keep reading and you will find something new and exciting! But, not chocolate. Sorry.

I really enjoy role playing games. I have played Dungeons and Dragons and Rifts, a bit of classical sword and sorcery, some post apocalypse with space ships thrown in for good measure. I enjoyed being a character creating a story as we went, sharing that story with friends live, as it happens. And still we relive the battle of the tower where we ‘almost’ died, our monk slid down the wall and brought up the rear, our fire-obsessed magic user held off the guards with his wall of fire while our ranger shot arrows which, once they went through the wall of fire, had added fire damage. And me, using the last of my barbarian strength before dying, caused a critical hit on their general, and slaying him. Awesome. It reads like a great Conan story, doesn’t it?

I also enjoy playing computer role playing games. Again, a story that needs to draw you along. Someone had to have written that. Okay, I get the idea with computer games, many people get involved to write it, but still, it is a story that was written, voice acted, played out by you. If the story is any good, you actually have emotional ties to the characters, to the choices they have to make. Good games can make you make choices your real self would never do. And then, there is that opportunity to commit acts and behave in ways that your real self never would, could never do in real life.

I am playing Fallout 3 at the moment, with all the Down-loadable content and a bunch of User created MODS to make things fun. Running around the wastelands of Washington DC dressed in Terminator Armour? Fantastic.

I digress.

I finished one of the down loaded adventures today- The Pitt. This is a classic case of you helping the slaves over turn their slave masters in the industrial hell hole that used to be Pittsburgh. Already, just that one sentence is a hook for a great story. This side quest has you stripped of all your weapons and armour, forcing you to survive and battle your way up from insignificance and help the slaves rebel against their masters. You must find the Cure to a radiation plague afflicting the slaves, turning them into ‘troggs’, mindless flesh eating ghouls who were once the slaves themselves.

I will not spoil it for anyone playing the game, but when you find out what the ‘cure’ is you are left with an amazing moral choice. And even though I know it was a game, I had to stop playing for a while and think about the choice I was going to make. A computer game made me pause and think about consequences. I love when that happens.

In this day and age that is a rare thing. Have gun will shot the bad guy.

Anyway, I made a choice, sided with the slaves, although I didn’t like them as much as I did before, completed the quest, got my experience points, got my loots, and headed off into the proverbial sunset.

Looking back at my post about inspiration from reading, I now have another source for inspiration. Something I will file away for later use. The black and white battle of slaves versus slavers was painted a shade of grey during my play. And this is something I am creating in my characters. No one is truly GOOD or truly BAD. Each of us has varying amounts of both in us.

However, I read stories where the hero is GOOD and the villain is BAD. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good villain who is just bad ass. No hope for redemption, just all out evil. They can be a lot of fun. But for characterisation, I prefer mine to have shades of both. One of my bad guys in my current novel has a holo-recording of his mother which plays through his apartment. He relives conversations and past times with his mother. A soft spot for a bad man, that he misses his mother so much, he cannot let her go, cannot move on. He must relive her through computer art.

And my hero wasn’t above stealing from the bad guys when he had the opportunity. Small bad, but bad none the less. He has also shot the odd person or two. It happens, surely.

So, from today’s game play, I have taken away the delicious idea of the victims being selfish. That if given the chance of freedom, they may just be as bad as their oppressors, or resort to any underhanded tactic to get what they want. You may look at me and say- well that’s just human nature! And yeah it is, but when you are writing stories, you want to reader to go- oh you poor dear. Free them! Liberate the oppressed!

Now I want them to go- oh, hang on a moment, do we really want to free these people? They’re not nice. But they are nicer than the people oppressing them. But is that because the oppressors have more power? Oh, this is complicated. I must read on. Perhaps there will be an Easter Egg, a surprise, in a few chapters time

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