Is Playing Video Games Just As Good As Reading?

posted in: Writing Tips | 0

“If you’re not writing, you should be reading.”

We hear this nugget a lot, but I have to ask: What about other forms of media and arts? Of course, movies even music have been known to influence writers for a long time. But what about computer games? Can they, too, influence our writing?

We hear this nugget a lot, but I have to ask: What about other forms of media and arts? Movies and music have been known to influence writers for a long time. But what about computer games? Can they, too, influence our writing?

Video games aren’t often well regarded for their literary merit. While some might be capable of eliciting an emotional response or make us fall in love with a character, for the most part, they are there to provide fun and interesting worlds for us to explore.

But yet, that trend has been changing over the past decade or so.

Video games are growing and maturing. Storylines have grown beyond eating pills in a dark room while being chased by ghosts or saving a princess from a giant, turtle, fire-breathing dragon thingy. Games, nowadays, aren’t afraid to tell stories which can rival even some of the greats of the written word.

Heck, just look at this list to see how many novels have been based on computer games. 

Also worthy of mentioning are the number of games inspired by books 

From Ready Player One to User Unfriendly, there are a lot of books which have been inspired by the video game culture.

Computer games are evolving. The budget to create a game is growing. Voice actors, motion capture, heck, I remember playing Mario on the Nes and thinking it was the greatest thing ever. Now I’m over 200 hours into Fallout 4 and I can’t pull myself away from the level of immersion and wonderful storytelling. I’m planning on returning to Metro 2033 and The Witcher III — both games also based on famous novels from authors who owe a lot of their success to the games inspired by their books. Update: they are now also working on a Netflix The Witcher series!

Computer games have evolved in ways that rival even some of the best storytellers of our generation.

The rise of interactive point-and-click games, RPGs, walking simulators. These genres rely heavily on telling the player a good story. Just look to games such as The Last of Us which has been praised time and time again for its story and character development. Or look to TellTale games for their Walking Dead interactive point-and-click adventure games — it gets pretty bleak just to warn you!

It’s often said that books open a portal to other worlds. and that’s nowhere more true than in sci-fi novels, which describe worlds quite unlike our own. But the ability of video games, films, and TV shows, to model and project those worlds onto our screens in all their splendour, means the written word has more competition than ever.

Games such as Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and Assassins Creed have all made it to the big screen. Hell, there was even that horrendous Mario movie some years back. *Shudders*

Nerd culture is a big market. Just look to how high digital sales and physical sales of games have been growing over the past few years. Like it or not, video games are here to stay and are strong competitors against Hollywood and our beloved books.

But science fiction novels can hold their own against computer-generated spectacle. And how, might ou ask? By being better written. It’s at the most basic level of words and sentences that the sci-fi novel must do battle for its continued existence. It becomes a battle of words vs images. Many of the greats of science fiction, like Issac Asimov and Arthur C Clarke, faced so little competition for the imagination of their audience that they could get away with the clunky writing style that SF became famous for. But the writers of science fiction today need to adapt. Attention span is worse than ever in our current times. And thus, fighting fo a reader’s attention isn’t simply a matter of taste or style, but of survival in an ever more intense market.

But, as we’ve seen before with TV and film, the written word has always persevered. Instead of more competition, look to video games as another source of inspiration rather than just entertainment.

The next time you can’t think of a good movie to watch or book to read, why not try a computer game with a good story instead? It just might inspire your next novel.

So, what do you think? Is playing video games just as good as ready? Let me know in the comments below.

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Paul W. Ryan is the Irish Author of The Watchers series, Monster Hunter Extraordinaire series, Rage, and The Rot and Death. Be sure to prod him with a stick and throw him a bucket of fish heads once a week. It's the only way he'll get more novels done.