The art of storytelling isn’t limited to book form. In fact, in Ancient Greece, stories were often told orally by a bard in front of a fire and a crowd. Epic poems such as Homer’s Illiad and Odyssey were brought to life when the evenings were closing in and the day’s work was done. And obviously plays in theatres are another form of storytelling. In fact some shows have been running for years in London’s West End – although nowadays, both these types of storytelling (Oral tradition and Theatre productions) have seen those stories written down into book form, with copies of The Odyssey selling around 20,000 copies each year.
And of course the art of storytelling evolved into a medium that was able to relate to the hobbies of today’s society. Video Games. Computer Games. Whatever you may call them. Stay with me though, the thought of teenage boys locking themselves away in their smelly, often messy bedrooms may be the first thing that comes to mind, but these art forms do have stories.
I used to play a ton of computer games during my teens. Some games had storylines, others didn’t. As I’ve now reached my late twenties, I’ve found myself playing far fewer games and any game I do play often has a short lifespan. And yet, I still hold copies of some enjoyable games that time forgot; games that have such brilliant storylines that they deserve a mention.
I want to introduce to you a selection of games that took storytelling to a new level. They had stories and plots that stuck with me, and if time ever permitted, I would gladly switch the console on and get lost once more in their worlds.
Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars
Released in 1996, this point and click adventure game is one of favourite games I’ve ever played. George Stobbart is a tourist in Paris, relaxing at a cafe, when right from the off, a terrorist in a clown disguise, blows up the cafe and steals the briefcase of one of the cafe’s customers. George decides to follow the clown and pick up the clues as he goes along. Joining up with Nico Collard, a french journalist, they embark on a secret investigation that takes them from France, to Ireland to Syria. A hidden manuscript that has links with the Knights Templar falls into their possession and after intense investigation, George and Nico stumble upon a secret society of priests in the subterranean sewers of France and find themselves up against one of the most powerful organisations, their lives in imminent danger.
Now of course, nowadays this story may sounds all too familiar, with a resurgence of the Templar story in recent novels from Dan Brown and Raymond Khoury. But it is important to note that this game was released in 1996, years earlier than the novels. With memorable characters and such brilliant voice over work, Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars will always stay with me.
This RPG was released in 1999 and has since been lost in the vaults of time. Unpopular, badly rated and now rare, Koudelka has some brilliant storytelling and original plot arcs. Set in 1898, Koudelka visits on old monastery in Wales after hearing voices in her head of lost souls. Upon arriving, she meets two other protagonist who each have their own reason for being summoned at this dark monastery and team up to investigate its dark history.
The monastery’s history soon becomes apparent as an old prison for political heretics and religious enemies, where they were tortured and forced to live a life of such torment that they still haunt their prison. With links to the Vatican, Roger Bacon and political suppression, Koudelka is a gem of a story. Unique, extremely dark and harrowing and full of atmosphere, Koudelka is a game that will always get my support, despite its gameplay errors.
Another RPG from my teenage days, Grandia is considered a cult hit and was released in 1997. The game is set in a fantasy world of emerging technology and exploration; perhaps fitting in the steampunk genre at times. Justin is a wannabe adventurer and longs to discover new and uncharted land beyond the ‘end of the world’. He is given his chance when he inherits a gemstone that’s history is perhaps linked to a long-lost civilization.
The ancient Angelou has obvious links to Atlantis in our own legend, but the game’s antagonist – the Garlyle forces on on the same mission as Justin. It’s your young protagonist vs a powerful organisation base but with some hugely addictive gameplay and heart-warming tales. I remember playing this game well into the early hours wanting to know more. Just like nowadays us readers have to read one more chapter before bed … and another one and another one.
I may have not done the wonderful games above me justice, but I hope I’ve managed to show that computer games indeed are a storytelling medium that is often overlooked, especially by adults. In a way, computer games are interactive books without the description, the imagery and colourful literary language, as you are able to show these writing techniques in visual form on the screen. Computer games are not just about princesses being stolen level after level, they aren’t just about collecting rings to stop an evil antagonist, they are in fact detailed, multi-layered with in depth story arcs that can add tension and atmosphere and excitement just as well as a good book.
Do me a favour, when you are confronted with a computer game, before you dismiss it as teenage profanity, just think back to maybe games of your younger years. Games aren’t all explosions, killing and car stealing. There are some hidden gems out there that bring enjoyment to many.
Come and like my Author Facebook Page, Twitter or join me over at Goodreads or Pinterest