My name is Nick and I’m a gamer. I enjoy playing games, and I enjoy making them. I’ve spent the last 15 years working as a video game developer and now myself, and two of my long-time collaborators, have started a new venture taking our lessons from games development and applying them to digital books. If you’re not a gamer and have no interest in gaming culture, then you might be interested to know that digital games have come a long way since they crawled out of the arcades and started ruining the fabric of society. If you can look beyond the killing fields of current generation violent blockbusters, there are plenty of games out there which speak to a thinking and reflective audience. I believe that games have a lot to offer when it comes to methods of narrative delivery. When game developers seamlessly pair elegant storytelling with compelling game-play, then the medium transcends itself and becomes greater than the sum of its parts. We think that some of the ideas from modern video games can be used to create a new kind of digital book.
I’d like to share with you three games which have helped to shape the ways we are thinking about a new form of digital book.
Challenging our preconceptions of what defines a game, Journey is an experience which speaks directly to our vision for new forms of story telling. Journey asks very little of the player, your only requirement is to keep moving forward towards the story’s inescapable destination, much the same as turning a page. The sublime nature of the experience is its own reward. Returning to Journey is compelling, the experience is purpose built to be larger than a single play session, and yet the duration is brief enough that the player does not dread the re-investment of time. It is the mystery of place and the thrill of new discovery that invites you to return to commence the journey anew.
Heavy Rain (2010). Dark and deeply moving, Heavy Rain is a stunning, non-linear drama which draws the player into a multi-layered criminal investigation. The game derives its gravitas from the quality of the writing and the choices that one is forced to make within the story. Branch points within the narrative are often made as snap decisions, which, much like real life, leave one to reflect upon the consequences of seemingly innocuous decisions. Multiple protagonists create opportunities to observe the impact of decisions that one must make. While the game is at times intentionally confronting, it is courageous in that it consistently treats the player as an adult. It forsakes action for ambience and emotional drama, and the end result is a narrative that feels that it has more similarity with a novel than a movie.
Animal Crossing (2002)
Colourful and fun, Animal Crossing is a game which simulates a happy village populated by cute animal characters. What makes it unique is the way in which the world of the village is synchronised with real world time. Turning the game on a different times of day meant that you saw different people going about different activities. Adults playing it at night would often find it frustrating, as everyone was in bed and sleeping when you wanted to go an visit them. The notion that a game world could build a bridge to the players world is as revolutionary today as it was when it was released a decade ago.
Each of these games has a strong and compelling narratives. Each of them uses game techniques to deliver those stories. For an audience that may be unfamiliar with games, sometimes the game can get in the way of enjoying the story. We also acknowledge that games may not be for everyone. However, we do believe that everyone is interested in storytelling. This is where we believe that a new form of digital book can succeed.
We believe that books can evolve beyond their current form and use digital technology and game design ideas to tell stories in new ways. This is not to say that books will become games but that digital books will evolve into a new media form that we are yet to experience.
What do you think?