When I was a kid, video games meant watching as much as they meant playing. It’s not that I didn’t love to play—and didn’t play plenty—but that, as a youngest brother whose closest friends wereyoungerbrothers,I wanted to see what happened when older, better players beat the levels. We’d all sit around with a game like “Zelda” or “Mega Man” or “Metroid”—or maybe, for the CPU gamers who are as old as my oldest brother, “Alone in the Dark”—and, no matter who was playing, we’d find ourselves engrossed. The action, the discovery, the cut scenes—they all blended into an immersive pseudo-cinematic experience, and one that felt like part of our lives.
Teddy talks about video games in the context of music, but the more relevant medium, to me, is film. Look at the examples Teddy uses: ascending a hill, plunging into a bunker, and exploring the void of space are events; they require not only sound and music, but plot, character, and visuals. This is clearest in the most sophisticated games, the ones whose fans obsess over the stories and concepts as much as the gameplay. “Halo” proved a natural adaptation for novels, comics, and anime; “Gears of War” announced itself with a stunning trailer that has nothing to do with the game and everything to do with the world in which it’s set.
But while these tendencies have become more pronounced as gaming technology has advanced, the basic phenomenon isn’t new: at least since 1981, when Shigeru Miyamoto mixed “Popeye” and “King Kong” to create an archetypal damsel-in-distress skeleton for “Donkey Kong,” most games have been fleshed out around some type ofnarrative,andthis