The Video Game Generation

29 Mar

First, take a look at this compilation that BoingBoing made of deaths from classic video games, set to a midi version of “Mad World.”

Now ask yourself, how does this make me feel? Nostalgic? Sentimental? Sad? Bored?

I’ve been noticing something lately. Video games have changed us. I have, in the past, even used video games as an example of how to tell simple stories (Mario tries to save Princess, tries again, tries again, beat bad guy, The End) versus telling stories with different focuses (in games like “Fallout 3” or “Bioshock” plots and sub-plots abound and unfold through playing, but not in classic linear fashion).

While I’ve long been a believer in the power video games have to tell stories in unique ways, it’s clear that video game storytelling is starting to effect changes in other story-telling genres. (Minor spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen these movies…)

Primarily, of course, are movies. Most obviously, and in my opinion to the best effect, has been in both book and film versions of  “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World”

And while the trailer makes it clear enough, the movie involves even more video game story-telling tropes and images, most interesting for me was that the death/defeat of any of Ramona’s evil-exes results in coins. Because what else would happen?

One of the more interesting aspects of “Suckerpunch,” for me was that when Baby Doll goes to beat her first big villains, that look like three dudes who easily could have fit into a “Soul Caliber” game, the way she beat them was classic video game. She hit them in the joints, in the head, and they lit up in ways that had me wanting to mash buttons violently.

My question is, does everybody get this? How much of our society, like me, can pick out video game influenced choices like these big boss fights? And, how much of our society is still just seeing movie theater fight scene?

I mean no judgment by it, I honestly don’t. But let’s answer this question together, is this a question of a video-game “knowing” vs. not “knowing” viewer? Or is the language of video games embedded into our culture that you need not ever have played a video game to get these cues. While that may be true with “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World,” as it was over the top and obvious… maybe this was a subtlety that I didn’t give “Suckerpunch”?

Also, any other examples? Let me hear about it!

On the other side of this story, if you’re interested, the following video is a great history/summary of storytelling in video games and the problems they run up against…


5 Responses to “The Video Game Generation”

  1. Owen March 29, 2011 at 2:52 pm #

    Well, after seeing “Sucker Punch”, my mom asked me if it was based off a video game, because “it looked like a video game.” My mom has never played a video game, outside of Wii Fit, so I’d say that Snyder’s films do pull on some universal sense of what video games are, and that even non-gamers are able to recognize the references.

    • redshana March 29, 2011 at 9:37 pm #

      Thanks for the in-put. Did you happen to ask her what about the looks looked like a video game to her? That’s kinda complicated, and not necessarily answerable, but I’m curious.

      • Owen March 29, 2011 at 9:41 pm #

        I didn’t ask, but I imagine it has to do with the scenes being hyper-stylized and hyper-violent, as well as the “levels” feeling to each encounter, and the excessive slow-motion.

  2. Laura Poff March 30, 2011 at 7:50 pm #

    Video-gaming background: Super Mario Bros. NES And that’s about it.

    I have tried to play video games time and time again, but can never get hooked. I get either bored OR confused and frustrated by any game I try to play. That being said, I have on occasion thoroughly enjoyed watching other people play video games. I actually loved the video about story telling in video games because I would have loved to watch someone play that Psych-something (forgot what it’s called) game. I think the video was very interesting. I think that there are probably people who will always only want to play the more simple (low story) games and that is probably where I would fall if I actually liked to game. Then there are people who would always want to play a very well written, well plotted game. Then there are those who like both. I enjoy (watching) games because they are so beautiful and possibilities seem endless while watching the stories unfold. I don’t enjoy playing them for the endless possibilities reason, too. I was one of those kids who had to read every possible Choose Your Own Adventure scenario. I also have to get every coin and hit every block in Mario, so maybe I’m just too OCD to game (?)


    Back to your original question: When I watched Scott Pilgrim I thoroughly enjoyed it, and knew it either had a video game influence or a comic book influence (or both). But I have been around people who love both of those genres all of my life, so I’m submerged in those worlds. I haven’t seen Suckerpunch yet, but am now interested to see how much more subtle it is.

    • redshana March 31, 2011 at 12:55 am #

      Poff, you know I used to be the same as you about gaming. I never played anything more complicated than Mario because I found it frustrating. And, as I’m sure you remember, I spent tons of time watching other people play games.

      However, when I finally got my own gaming system (not until I moved to Michigan), I also got “Fallout 3” and my world was changed.

      Part of what I had found previously frustrating was my ability to control my character, this has gotten better over time. And it’s also one of the games the vido described that drops you into a situation/world and lets you rummage around in it a bit. This is much more my style! If you like collecting coins, you might also like collecting things from buildings (from ammo and clothing to tools and tips). Just an idea.

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