Should we start with some background? I considered jumping in with a full-fledged entry, no explanation or anything, but that just seems odd to me.
I graduated from Dartmouth College last year, and in my senior year, I undertook the over-hyped task of writing an honors thesis in order to complete my major in English. Thinking about what actually interested me enough to write a hundred pages on the subject, it occurred to me that almost all of my time not spent on academics, athletics, or the socializing typical of college was spent in front of my computer or television playing video games. Well that’s it, I thought, I’ll write a thesis on video games… for an English major. How was that going to work?
It was actually easy to figure out how video games would fit into an English topic, since I already knew that the games that had interested me most over the years were those that told a well-developed story. I never really got into Doom, for example, a game that, for many players, defined a genre. Doom‘s story basically consisted of “You’re a space marine, they’re demons. Go to it.” I preferred my first-person shooters to feed me something with a little more depth to it.
So storytelling in video games it was. I wrote up a couple pages with a proposal and handed it in for consideration. Admittedly, I only had the vaguest idea of what I was actually talking about at the time, but the English department was absolutely thrilled that someone wanted to write a thesis on “new media.” It had never been done at Dartmouth, so I picked a faculty advisor, (a new professor who had been hired just that year specifically to teach new media topics,) and I was enrolled in the thesis advisory class.
One issue with my topic might be immediately apparent in hindsight: the innately addictive nature of my subject matter. There was a good chance that I’d end up spending too much time doing “research” and not enough actually writing. I believe this happened to some degree, and I think the end result reflected that, but it barely matters now. Still, I’ve retained a deep fascination with how the video game medium is evolving into a revolutionary platform for storytelling, while changing the idea of what it means to tell a story.
This blog is going to reflect that. I’m sure I’ll make the occasional post that strays from the topic, but for the most part, I’ll be looking at games new and old, and how they work with the player to create narratives. Eventually, I’m going to be revisiting that old thesis and updating it for potential publication, but in the meantime, I’ll be refreshing my memory and sharing my thoughts along the way.