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Why I write about video games

January 3, 2012

I’m never more nervous than when I tell fellow fiction writers I write about video games. I try to couch the subject in sugared coatings. I compare it to travel writing, to memoir, before I admit that, yeah, no one thinks about writing about video games as something noble and dignified.

But I love doing it. It’s made me the happiest I can be, and it’s helped me understand myself better as a writer, as a human being.

When we as individuals have passions, obscure, potentially harmful passions, we tend to hide them. No one wants to know that you build model trains for a living; no one wants to know that you play twenty hours of sundry video games a week. People will judge you for it; they’ll think less of you.

But here’s the thing: so much of fiction writing is honesty. So much of it is finding the truth in small situations. And so much of being good at it is analysis, is finding stories hidden in everyday life. I love video games, but I’m sometimes afraid to admit it: there’s a heart to a story right there. There’s an understanding I can have, something I can write about and discuss.

I love telling stories about games. It’s never about the games, not really: it’s about me. It’s about the world the game and I have collaborated to achieve. When I write about seminal indie darling Bastion, I’m not writing about it: I’m writing about myself, my own hopes and fears, and I’m exploring them through critical analysis of another person’s work. In truth, the heart of games writing is the same as the heart of journalism, of fiction: it’s telling your own story, despite what other people may say.

The most important element of writing fiction is finding the truth to things. If a work doesn’t have truth, then it doesn’t have anything. And every truth, in the end, comes from yourself, from your observations of the world and of other people’s stories. It comes from things you’ve learned, and I feel like video games have helped me find that, like music, film, or model trains have helped others.

Because sure, video games are usually dumb, but they’re a medium like any other of artistic expression. It’s telling stories, and it’s doing so in a way very different yet also similarly to how stories are told in fiction. There’s more there, there’s less potential for subtlety, but everything’s there, waiting to be explored. And by exploring it, we as readers, writers, and players can gain a better understanding of both other people’s art and our own.

So the next time someone asks me what I do, I want to tell them I write fiction and I write about video games. And that no, these aren’t mutually exclusive, and yes, I find both equally valid forms of self-expression.

One Comment
  1. Videogames are definitely an overlooked medium to look for stories. There’s just so much garbage out there because it is still a relatively immature medium. But there are a few diamonds in the rough. I’m also interested in exploring some of their narratives in my blog 🙂

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