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Monday, October 4, 2010

Storytelling in Games and at Work

I'm a fiction writer, a born storyteller. I live with characters, scenes, and stories floating in my head. I see people in the grocery store or in traffic and invent a wild story to explain what I see in that brief glance. When I find a game that captures that same spirit, I'm hooked.

Years ago, I found a game titled "Jack of All Trades." I loved the game, despite a shallow storyline.  (It's still available, pretty much the same game but with some new features added.) You start with a dinky, pitifully weak cargo ship. By delivering cargo, playing the stock market, hunting pirates, etc. you earn money which you can use to upgrade your ship or buy a new one. You determine who you want to work for, where you go, and the rest. There is a bigger storyline built in, so it isn't all just amassing money and getting the biggest ship you can. You are working with an underground spy group, but you can take your time working your way around the galaxy.

I just found a similar game for my iPod Touch. Warpgate from FreeVerse Software The story is a bit more complex, so far, and the controls easier to work, probably because I'm tapping with my finger, not trying to remember which keys work which bit. I'm a total klutz when it comes to games that require coordination, so these two games and their limited need for eye-hand gaming techniques are perfect for me.

What really pulls me in with these games is the story. I confess; I had a major crush on Han Solo, still do. But not just because he's hot, but because he owns his own spaceship and can fly pretty much anywhere. I first saw Star Wars as an impressionable 10yo. Han Solo stole the show. Forget Luke, Leia, and the rest, I wanted to be Han Solo or even Chewie. I wanted my own Millenial Falcon. These two games let me pretend, if only for a while, that I can travel the galaxy.

Is it any wonder that my books follow similar themes? Dace and her ship, flying across the Empire - total freedom. Wait, you haven't gotten to those books in the series yet. She's struggling just to survive. She wants her freedom, represented by her own trading ship. I want that, too. But technology is centuries behind. I'll never have my own starship, except in my imagination.

My day job also lets me pretend, when I'm not doing the mundane tasks I end up with so often. Phone calls, paperwork, copies, all of it is essential to keeping a business running. But I love the days I'm a flight director. I'm a GM for a Star Trek LARP with a very high-tech simulator, video clips, music, sound effects, costumes, actors, and great storylines to back me up. I love orchestrating all of it. My paycheck may be tiny, but the satisfaction of hearing a crew screaming in terror, negotiating with my villain, planning a surprise attack, or cheering in victory is very satisfying to my inner storyteller. It's immediate, too, something that novel writing isn't.

So for those worried that the publishing industry is dying, I say, "Storytelling will never die. It fulfills so many needs deep in the human psyche. The outward form may change, but the need for good stories and storytellers will never change."

Let your imagination run rampant. In my mind's eye, I'm forever young, captain of my own starship, flying free through the galaxy. I'd love to have you share my journey.