Writing | Gaming | Creativity
How Gaming Can Change the Way We Write
Recently, I was surprised to discover how computers and gaming can enhance your creative writing skills.
I enrolled in writing course at our local college and our first assignment was to write a short story using a scene to create emotion.
As the students read their stories in class, I realized I approached writing from a different angle than the other students. In one way, that made sense. I have a lot more years to draw from, so I pulled from those experiences. But that wasn’t quite what was going on.
They had instant fantasy worlds at their fingertips.
Many students had set their stories in game worlds, or fantasy realms. Much of what they wrote would begin in these realms. Then they would take the stories a step further, just like the “make your own adventure” books that my children had in school.
When I asked one of the students, they told me the formula:
- “First you take an avatar (the protagonist), and insert them into a game world.
- Then you let things happen to them.”
Placing the protagonist in a gaming world gave the students the ability to visualize an experience in familiar surroundings. They had many scenes to draw on as games are set in worlds that are interesting and complex enough to be characters on their own.
- One story was set on a planet alive with pollen-like creatures that grew out of the planet’s essence to hunt and devour humans.
- Another world had a topside settlement and a settlement below ground. A conflict between the two groups usually exists. There were familiar markers such as farms and horses but they were intermingled with fantasy creatures that behaved in unfamiliar ways.
- Armed characters moved about in squads similar to soldiers fighting in a war on earth. Military terms like commander, infantry, deserters, officer, conscripts and lieutenants are all useful terms that eased the understanding of roles without additional explanation.
- In post apocalyptic situations where some things are lost and other things become more valuable, the characters lived in a situation where everyone fights or dies.
When asked, one student said he was reminded of a game scenario while writing and changed the setting. Others said they dreamed about a game and the dream inspired their story.
It felt a bit contrived to me, but I envied them the ready to use worlds they had at their fingertips. It allowed them to focus on their characters.
I had a different approach.
I wrote about the messy task of living in this world, and what I know about human interaction and emotions. To be believable, I always felt that my story had to align with what we know about how things should act here.
When I tried to shift into a fantasy world I was faced with inventing one from scratch. I would get lost in creating the world and lose the thread of the story.
My brain hadn’t experienced the same level of possibility. In the gaming world, anything goes and surprises are an expected part of the play.
There are fewer constraints in the world of gamer writing. Mixing science fiction and advanced technology with fantasy elements created some unexpected situations in very unusual places.
There were a few disadvantages.
I found some of the story lines difficult to follow.
I had to reread parts of them so I could sort out what was going on because I wasn’t familiar with the symbols and telltales they were using.
When I realized I wasn’t their target market, their approach made more sense.
Overall, it was an interesting technique.
I learned how to use a familiar setting to allow myself to focus on character development.
I admired the creative skills that blossomed from the student’s experiences.
I found their approach to writing inspiring and appreciate the new tools I now have to play with.
I also have a better understanding of the appeal of gaming and the skills that come from spending time in a virtual world.
A shoutout to QuadConjures for his insights.