21st Century Stories

I read through this Let’s Play of Scratches today.

We get to follow the adventures of Michael Arthate, author of Vanishing Town, which has decided to move into a manor in the hinterlands of rural England. The original game, which is a point-and-click adventure game, the first commercial adventure game of Argentina actually, is not actually a 3D game, but pre-rendered into 2D images. The LP being screen-shot based (rather than video-based or hybrid), thus fits well.

Why I’m writing about this Let’s Play is because of how this Let’s Play spins two media – literature and video games – into something awesome. To elaborate, it has some of the advantages of both.

Like literature, one can pause and reflect on the story, inhale the atmosphere. The author of the LP manages to build on the existing story, and avoids being meta. It’s not like the fast-paced movie. As a Let’s Play, it also takes advantage of a video game’s potential for alternative ways of playing and ending – sometimes as simple as to where and when a screenshot is taken.

Unlike literature, this LP is accompanied by many more images than you’d find in any novel, or children’s book for that matter. I really like the screenshots too, the game has some really good graphics. More importants than images, however, is the music. The author of the LP has taken care to post links to handy webpages where relevant music of the game is – and has taken pains to have backup links too. The game music is really good (though I may be a bit biased, being a fan of video game music and all), and it really gives it atmosphere. You must read the LP with that music on. I’d like to see a book made of paper use such multi-media to its advantage.

It also seems that reading the LP might be better than playing the actual game. I get a bit of mixed messages. Gamespot gives the game a score of 2 out of 5 while IGN gives it 7.7 out of 10. IGN’s review seems to be the most elaborate review of the two. I’ve not played the game, and I must admit I don’t have much of a desire to play it either, but the LP, by taking out the interactivity, while still leaving some left (as in, you can read it through at your own pace, unlike a movie), actually makes the game into something different, by taking out the element of loading screens, having to figure out the vague clues to puzzles, pixel hunting, loading screens and so on. That, to me, is good.

The e-book can have much to learn by this. The current e-book is a digitalized version of the paper book, taking no advantages of the inherent capabilities of the computer, internet and so on, essentially being an inferior paper book. I’d say the authors of tomorrow should take a look at this Let’s Play, and look at the potentials of the e-book. It is ironic that something so innocuous as the Let’s Play genre (which has only existed since flippin’ 2007 – though its elder brother, the After Action Report, is substantially older) ends up being far more pragmatic than the current best-sellers.

P.S. What annoys me about the LP is that sometimes there are words spelled wrong or left out entirely – which I admittedly do sometimes. It kills the atmosphere a bit. Also, in the last chapter, the author decided it would be better to have a video than screenshots and text. Which is understandable, as I presume there’s some fast-paced action involved. The problem is that the video was erased back in 2009. I’m left wondering how it all actually ended. Still, I recommend reading the LP!

P.P.S. Blackwood Manor reminds me a bit of my house when I first moved into it fourteen years ago. Well, except mine was slightly smaller, more dilapidated and not filled to the brim with paintings and art.


One Response to “21st Century Stories”

  1. Blerd Says:

    Honestly, I like reading other people’s stories and just enjoying them. That’s why I like ebooks. I think LP could be fun, but it wouldn’t always be what I wanted to do. I do think it would be a fantastic feature to add to eReaders.

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