Video Games as Stories and the Legend of Zelda.


Hi all,

Today I thought I’d have a more discussion-ish post about a new type of story I’ve gotten into: a video game.

Recently, my brother bought the new Legend of Zelda game: Breath of the Wild. I’ve never been much of a gamer in my life (due to the fact that I suck at most games) but I was actually excited for the release of this one. Call me a mindless consumer, but I was hooked by the trailers. I’ve had this rather vicarious experience with the Legend of Zelda games; my whole life I had looked over at screens while my dad or brother played, completely enthralled in the story, but never really played the game myself. I used to make them wait for me to read the subtitles so that I could figure out what was going on. I loved the characters, I was so intrigued by the storyline, but I never really played a game myself – or at least I tried a few times, but I always ended up dying. A lot.

So when trailers of Breath of the Wild dropped, I was a bit hesitant. Would it be worth it to buy this game for the story alone, even if I suck at the game its self? If my track record was anything to go off of, I might not get to experience the full story without help from my far more adept gamer of a brother.

And I came to this rather interesting revelation. The phenomena of video games as stories. And not just stories to string together boss fights and levels, but actual storylines that you can love and feel connected to, much in the way that we get into stories in books or in films. Maybe you all are sitting there like, “Duh. Legend of Zelda has a storyline, always has.” But for me, someone who was never really into video games before, this was new.

Cut to now, about a month after buying the game, and I’m hooked – not just on the story, but the incredible world and details of the gameplay. I think my favorite part of this game is the incredible world-building. I mean, I wish I could write a novel with a world as expansive and detailed as Breath of the Wild. Every time I log in, I stumble upon a new area that I’ve never seen before. And I’m not even close to filling out and exploring the whole map.

So my question is: what makes a great video game in a way that makes it different from a book or any other kind of story? Yes, there’s the intractability, but I’m wondering if there’s something more. What kinds of stories work best in the video game format, because I have the belief that some stories work better in certain formats. What makes a creator say, ‘yes, this will be a good story for a video game’ rather than ‘yes this will be a good story for a movie’?”

I’ve come across a few video games in recent years with a similar situation for me: I loved the story, but either want to or didn’t feel adept enough to play through it myself. I think that’s the great thing about gaming YouTubers – I get to experience stories that I wouldn’t have otherwise picked up. I remember two in particular: Undertale (which I’m sure a lot of you probably know, but if you don’t, it’s about a human child who falls down into an underground world full of monsters) and One Shot (which is a charming and surprisingly deep game about a small kitten child who wakes up in a world that’s dying, and he has to save it by returning their sun. It also tears the fourth wall to smithereens).

There’s something magical and unique about video game stories, something that you can’t get from any other platform for story-telling. I don’t know, it’s just so interesting to me.

That’s it, I suppose. Just a bit of food for thought. I’d love to discuss your thoughts in the comments, so feel free to leave some! Have any of you been playing Breath of the Wild? Are some of you guys hard-core Zelda fans? Are there any video games that house some of your favorite stories?

As always, have a lovely day and I’ll see you again soon. 🙂