What do I think of Dustin Hansen’s book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
People love stories. Whatever the medium is, you will find a story behind it. I suspect a lot of cave drawings are rudimentary tellings of stories. Whether we are reading Genesis or Gilgamesh from the ancient world, whatever you think of these accounts, they are at least stories. Now in the case of Genesis, I naturally think it’s true, but we can all agree that it is still telling a story.
Then the Greeks come along with their plays and lo and behold, stories. While my philosophy is Aristotlean-Thomistic, I have to say the way Plato taught his philosophy, wrong though it be, is more entertaining. They were dialogues, aka, stories.
We move to more modern times and what do we see but films and television and lo and behold, we tell stories. Comic books give a new form of writing that tells stories. This time, you had pictures and words both and the page would turn at opportune times so that you couldn’t just easily look and see what would happen next.
Now we have video games and we have radically changed stories. We’re not just passive in stories. We are active in them. Pick up the Lord of the Rings and if you read it all the way to the end, Sauron is going to be defeated and the ring will be destroyed in Mt. Doom every time. If you play a game based on that, it might not happen. You might die along the way.
Having you make the choices also gets you caught up in the lives of your characters. Hansen writes about how he played Red Dead Redemption for instance, and ended up talking like a cowboy. Many people today can tell you where they were when they heard about the JFK assassination, Challenger exploding, or 9-11. While certainly not on the same level, many a gamer can tell you about their first memory of Sephiroth killing Aerith.
Hansen goes through a number of games, with spoiler warning of course, and tells about the stories and how the stories work. Some of them are really in-depth looks at the games. Some of them are short snippets known as book reports. Issues are discussed related to morality and how you make decisions in games. You’ll find classics covered here like Final Fantasy VII, Chronotrigger, Bioshock, and Psychonauts. Sometimes, I was tempted to look up games on the Switch Eshop library and see about getting them. I gave in and some are now on my wish list, and I will get notifications if the prices drop.
Gaming is the most interactive medium I suspect for telling stories. In it, players have the option to make real choices and can step aside from the story, if they do so desire, and go on side quests in a number of games. They can return to the story and do things they never had before and find new aspects. As I write this, we are awaiting the remake of Super Mario RPG which came out around 25 years ago and yet even still people are finding new things about the game. Now they’ll get to start all anew with that.
If you’re someone who enjoys stories, you should read this book to see how stories work in a new medium. If you’re someone who enjoys video games, you should read this book to learn to better experience games as stories. If you’re someone who enjoys both, you will be very happy indeed.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)