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Why Gaming Will (Eventually) Surpass Literature

I want to start off by saying that in no way is this writing piece a critique of Literature itself. Video games and literature are two distinct mediums. Both however can be used to express one’s messages and ideas, much like music and films. I know most of you would outright disagree with the title, but allow me to clarify why.

Literature had been around for a very long time. From the Epic of Gilgamesh to the latest works of fiction, literature has proved to be an inseparable part of our lives. One can even say that literature has become an aspect of humanity itself; educating, entertaining, and enlightening people all over the world. Video games however are comparatively new. The first “video game” was arguably envisioned in the 1940’s, in the form of the Cathode Ray Tube Amusement Device, reported to be a missile simulator inspired by World War II radar displays. However, due to equipment costs, the device never saw the light of the day. It wasn’t until the 70’s that the first ever commercial video game console, the Magnavox Odyssey, was released. With it came an electronic Ping-Pong game, which inspired the creation of the first commercially successful video game Pong; acting as the catalyst that started the entire video game industry.

Fast forward to the 80’s, when the industry reached its golden age, which brought forth a variety of brand new genres such as RPGs, Fighting, Stealth, Adventure, and Platform games. Popular series like Final Fantasy, The Legend of Zelda, Metal Gear, and the ever popular Super Mario Bros. made their debut. Though at the moment, most of these games relied on difficulty and challenge rather than plot and characters to entice folks to try them out. It’s a known fact that older games were brutally hard and unforgiving, requiring serious dedication and skills in order to complete them. This made it all the more satisfying when you succeeded.

As technology got more advanced and sophisticated, so did the overall quality of the games. Games began ditching the tired “Saving the Princess” plot and characters became more than just tools and actually felt like someone you would know in real life. Games like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI are proof that gamers do appreciate a good story. Improved graphics and memorable soundtracks helped in immersing the player and making the experience unforgettable; another edge gaming has over literature. By using the right words, a writer can elicit the desired emotion from the readers. That effect can also be utilized in video games. Whereas in books, the reader is only an observer, in video games the player is a participant, making the emotional impact much stronger and effective.

One particular example I would like to present is Heavy Rain. Each action in the game requires you to move the analog stick to imitate how you would do the action in real life. So if you want to open a door, you’d have to move the stick in a circular fashion and then subsequently pull the stick forward. It may seem tedious at first but once you get used to it, it makes the entire experience much more immersive.

Another example is the critically acclaimed masterpiece that is The Last of Us. The intro alone is enough to dismiss all arguments that video games can’t have the same emotional impact as literature. By putting you in the shoes of Joel’s daughter, it made you empathize with her character, making her death much more emotionally effective even though it was already obvious that she won’t make it through that part of the game.

My main point is that video games haven’t existed as long as other mediums. It has a lot of room left to mature and grow. Compare Pong to The Last of Us and the difference is astounding. Who knows where gaming will be after 100 years? So to those saying that video games will never surpass literature, I’ll tell you one thing: Just wait and see.

PopRocks3593716d ago

Indeed. Compare and contrast: Twlight vs. The Last of Us. Games can and have had better stories than certain books in literature. I'd argue there are games that have surpassed films as well.

iamnsuperman3716d ago (Edited 3716d ago )

You are basically comparing tesco value chocolate with cadbury's chocolate though. A better comparison is the Last of Us to something like A Thousand Splendid Suns/Kite Runner. Something that has heart as well. And with Twilight with something like BF3's story (both crap).

Some games have better stories than books but the same can be said about some books having better stories than games. This is also the same with films

PopRocks3593716d ago (Edited 3716d ago )

My point was that games have had some very well told stories while there are books out there that tell very bad stories, increasing the validity of the blog post. I wasn't necessarily trying to compare the plots themselves so much as their overall quality.

HammadTheBeast3716d ago

I'd say gaming has reached the point where it can express the same level of stories as other literature/media forms.

dedicatedtogamers3713d ago (Edited 3713d ago )

As an avid reader, I think there's a scientific side to this discussion that is often left out (and I'm not saying this to discredit the blog).

When someone is reading, it engages certain portions of the brain that are otherwise not "paying attention" for lack of a better description when the same person is, for example, watching a TV show (even if it's a really good TV show).

In the same way, games will engage particular parts of your brain depending on the sort of game. Certainly, a puzzle game will have a different result than Gears of War. I have no idea what parts of the brain are stimulated by certain types of gameplay (although I could venture a guess that reading descriptive text in a game probably stimulates the same areas from reading a book) and I think it would be interesting to see what sort of crossover there is between literature, videogames, TV, music, etc, especially since videogames incorporate so many of these aspects all into one.

I think something very valuable to note is that good books are good when they are doing what books do best: engage your imagination. Now, I think it's another debate as to what videogames "do best" but cinematic cutscenes and QTEs are definitely not the right path.

Ducky3716d ago (Edited 3716d ago )

Games can be seen as a composite of literature, film, and interactivity, but before it can become better than the sum of its parts, it has to fix a few kinks... while also finding a way to get creative freedom away from the clutches of men wearing suits of money.

Meanwhile literature does have some inherent advantages though. It's easier to spread for one and can be read from virtually anywhere.
You can also still read literature from past centuries, but will have trouble playing video games from the past decades.
Older literature also don't suffer from aged graphics :D

As for immersion, I'd agree that games do it better, but it comes at the cost of restricting the viewer's imagination. In TLOU for example, I was more intrigued by Ish's notes than the intro, because Ish's story was all in my head. I had an incomplete picture of his story, and wanted to find more notes to complete the picture.

Lastly, there is one issue with most games today that they have to find some consistent balance between gameplay and story. Far too often in games, the two exist in separate spheres. Those of us who've played games for a long time are used to it, but as a whole, these are problems that have to be sorted out.
Things like characters taking bullets to the face in gameplay, but writhing in pain when they get shot in a cutscene... and these can't be easily avoided either because a game needs gameplay rooted in action.
Otherwise, you trade gameplay for story and end up with things like HeavyRain and TheWalkingDead, which are pretty much a cross between visual novels and point-and-click adventure games of yesteryear.

s45gr323716d ago

Yeah the walking dead sacrifice exploration and challenge as in difficulty in order to deliver a phenomenal story. The thing is despite games being rooted in action it has the potential to grow. Meaning as opposed to having a health bar or worst yet hide and heal like an idiot. Let's demand for something more realistic like crippling for example a shot in the head instant kill, or a graze shot just slightly injured ; whereas, a shot to the leg unable to run, dodge, and walk like a turtle. Is not that game developers have not tried it look up Far Cry 2 it doesn't succeed financially and that is a shame because it prevents games from maturing. Only in MGS 3 you had to deal with stamina, health, and using different medicines in order to heal. The Walking Dead proved that games can be mature plus it didn't cover the eyes from gamers in regards to story development, character interaction, etc.....

Godmars2903716d ago


Movies don't surpass literature, so games certainly wont.

Sure as hell wont given the current state of the industry. The example of Bioware hiding behind "artistic direction" then selling off the direct interaction of a potentially compelling character as DLC. The entire way the ME series was mishandled in favor of its production schedule.

HammadTheBeast3716d ago

Exactly. Games can somewhat reach a level, but nowhere near what literature can. Example like A Song of Ice and Fire, Kite Runner,

ravinash3715d ago

I think it all comes down to who's holding the pen when they write for either books or games.

Although I imagine it would be a lot harder to write for a game because you have the whole interactive thing to deal with. You could be writing stuff that the player may never actually see.

AceofStaves3716d ago

I see your point, but I doubt games will ever surpass literature. That's not to say that there haven't been games that have excellent stories. It's just that literature is much more than simply narrative. Sometimes, literature exerts an incredible influence on the society in which it was created. Shakespeare added roughly 3,000 words to the English language, many of which are still in use today. Aristophanes, a Classical Greek writer of comedic plays, lambasted Socrates in his play "The Clouds," and this mockery is often held as one factor that led to the public's negative sentiment about the philosopher at the time of his trial, an Ancient Greek version of the Tina Fey impersonation of Sarah Palin.

Gaming is also limited in the type of stories it can tell. It requires interaction from the player, and, therefore, must tell the type of story that can engage the player to the point where he or she wants to take part in the game's experience.

Are you familiar with the short story, "Metamorphosis," by Franz Kafka? It tells the story of a man who wakes up one morning to find that he's become a giant cockroach. The reader follows the trials and tribulations of Gregor and the strain his strange condition puts on the family. We watch his growing sense of depression and detachment build to a tragic conclusion, and we see the aftermath of that event.

We never know why, or how, Gregor is changed into the giant roach. Instead, we watch what this transformation does to him and his family. Hardly action-packed, but memorable nonetheless. Literature can explore themes that aren't available to the gaming experience, which is fundamentally goal-centered.

Perhaps a better argument could be made that gaming may eventually replace mass-market fiction, the stories told by authors like Brad Thor or Dan Brown. It could provide a new avenue for murder mysteries, for example. But I can't see gaming have the same society-wide impact that literature has exerted over the course of the past few millennia.

Thehyph3716d ago

Good points. Definitely agree.

I especially like the Dan Brown mention. It reminds me of a time when I heard that classic line, "the book is better," whilst talking about the film adaptation of "The Da Vinci Code."
Really? How do I even approach that? Call the person a book douche? A fanboy of (insignificant) literature?
Mind boggling!

s45gr323716d ago

Wow impressive can't argue with what you said due to its spot on

s45gr323716d ago

I don't see games surpassing literature any time soon. Meaning video games are entertainment first and foremost second literature has had an impact on society along with being used in school. Now games need to drop several things before it can even surpass films like hiding from the enemy or stepping aside to heal. Crippling, graze shots should be implemented instead, like graze shots only do hardly any damage, a shot to the arm cripples it by preventing the player to shoot is weapon, a shot in the leg prevents the player from running, dodging, etc. This should be applied to realistic games. A fantasy game should explain and show creative ways of healing. Second the whole wave after wave of enemies, less enemies doesn't mean boring it only means difference. Instead of waves of enemies have enemies that use several tactics, strategies, to take the player down. The most crucial and the most difficult of doing is the fusion of story with gameplay. For years we have games with an amazing story but gameplay mechanics that don't fit in the story at all or games with hardly any gameplay but an amazing story like to. the moon almost no gameplay but the story is fantastic.

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Vengeance113810h ago

Of course they are, Microsoft doesn't have an original bone in their body. Look to Sony for innovation!

Einhander19728h ago

The sad thing is even if the product is lower quality and cost more "for some reason" the same press that tried to destroy the Portal will say it's the best thing ever.

TheRealHeisenberg0m ago

Your very own Playstation fanboys were destroying the Portal. You can't blame the media for that.

Vits5h ago

Unlikely, Sony's attempt at a streaming handheld is a very specific one. It's not a handheld, it's a controller with a display that needs a PS5 main unit to function. That is completely the opposite of what Microsft is doing with Gamepass which is making it available as a solo service in as many products as possible. So if they were to really release a handheld it would be much more similar to other more traditional devices like the Logitech G-Cloud and the Abxylute.

As for the idea of a handheld that runs things natively. I doubt they are going to release one as there was nothing about it on those leaked new versions. But they could potentially make something based on the Zen 1/ Zen 1 Extreme. I just don't think they will.

blackblades22m ago

Native handheld is just pointless at this point for both. With Nintendo world, then pc handhelds and now mobile taking a leap with having console games being native.

ocelot071h ago

Didn't Microsoft partner with Linx a few years ago for a similar device. A tablet that had a Xbox controller attached to it for gamepass.

Fishy Fingers1h ago(Edited 1h ago)

One is a (optional extra) Wii U.

One is (probably) a phone with buttons, without the phone.

Neither of wihich are similar, neither are remotely original.