>Well, as you can probably tell from the frequency (or infrequency) of my posts, I still haven’t gotten into a proper groove with this whole blogging thing. Not surprising really, since I’m basically a self-confessed introvert, but I’d like to get into the habit of blogging more. It might help if I didn’t play my damned Xbox 360 so much.
Anyone who knows me knows that games are, and always have been, one of my greatest weaknesses. It was through my love of games that I ended up working as a video game designer for a couple of years before making the move to Japan and switching over to writing fiction.
There’s something really compelling about the mix of music, art and story that a great game provides. Combine it all with well balanced and addictive play mechanics and you’ve got a really powerful combination. Video games might just be the most potent form of story-telling on the planet today, though the recent proliferation of game-based novels clearly shows there is more than enough room for both. In fact, I’d go so far as to say they compliment each other (when the latter are done right).
Of course, the video game as storytelling medium only really shines when it all comes together well. Hits like Half Life 2, Call of Duty 4 and others show what can be done, but it’s a sad fact that the storytelling aspect often gets left in the hands of game designers rather than professional writers. That’s not to say this is always bad. Some of these guys have turned out work I’d happily admit to being jealous of. But how much better could they be with a pro writer onboard who truly understands the freedoms and limitations of writing for games? It’s starting to happen more and more often nowadays, particularly since the games industry is overtaking Hollywood in terms of revenue.
In my tray at the moment is the fantastic Lost Odyssey by Japanese studio Mistwalker. I’m only sixteen hours into the story (‘only’ he says!) but, so far, I’m enjoying the hell out of it. The music and art are exceptional and the character design (particularly that of Kaim, the central hero) is top rate.
If the game has a problem, it’s the consistency of the writing, which stops the game short of being truly mind-blowing in quite the same way that CoD4 or Portal were. On occasion, the writing is genuinely mature and even quite moving. At other times, it lets the overall atmosphere of the game down. Part of this is no doubt due to the translation process. Perhaps understanding a little Japanese is actually a hindrance in cases like this – I frequently notice moments in the story where the subtitles deviate unnecessarily from what’s actually being said by the characters onscreen. The original Japanese script seems to be of a far better standard than the English version. The difference is regrettable.
It’s still an intense and beautifully crafted role-playing game, though. If you’re an Xbox360 player with an interest in fantasy and SF, and can handle turn-based combat in your games, I urge you to check it out.
By the way, if anyone asks, you didn’t get that recommendation from me. If my editor hears I’ve been playing games, it’ll be fifty lashes… and he won’t hold his strokes!