Ancient literature? Who cares?
Well, as it turns out, videogame developers, and whether they know it or not, the masses who buy their games, care deeply. That’s one reason I’ve chosen “The Influence of Literature and Myth in Videogames” by Douglass Perry for the next ProfoundNet. Here’s a snippet:
But how exactly have myth and literature shaped the videogames we play today? Why do they matter? For developers, to improve the games of the future, they must understand the right and wrong of the present, and seek lessons from the past. The videogame medium isn’t an island unto itself. In fact, in a way, it’s a symbiotic creature that thrives on other entertainment successes; it’s also a shiny junkyard of rehashed, reshaped, and re-invented ideas re-forged for a powerful new medium still going through growing pains.
Perry points to the influence of Greek and Norse mythology on both literature and gaming. He mentions Tolkien, Lovecraft, Heinlein, and other writers of science fiction and fantasy, who were in turn influenced by mythology and the stories of the ancients.
“I would go as far to say that all literature and all entertainment are influenced by myth,” said Denis Dyack, head of Silicon Knights, the development team behind the original Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, Eternal Darkness, and the upcoming Xbox 360 game, Too Human. “Whether people think so or not, basically, we are immersed in the mythologies in our culture. In some sense, mythology defines culture. It’s unavoidable. Any typical storyline almost always falls back to some mythology.”
Perry concludes that the eye-catching graphics and special effects are not enough anymore. Instead, he says games with the most “story and content” will go the farthest.
If he is correct, it is encouraging to see this medium reaching back and recognizing the depth of story and content literature can offer. It’s equally encouraging to see this unexpected demonstration that the value of great stories never grows old.
Thanks, Douglass, for a thought-provoking article.