I was inspired to write this article because I became engrossed in a video game, Silent Hill: Homecoming to be exact, and ultimately I just couldn't shake the idea that video games must be something more than mindless entertainment. I found the story absorbing, and every time I play this title I continually want to know more. In the case of Silent Hill: Homecoming, it is true that this particular title, being a horror title, is not the most morally inspiring; nor is it the most graphically intense game available out there, being somewhat void of all the top bells and whistles currently available to game designers. But the graphics are striking, even engrossing, and upon closer inspection, perhaps there are some morals and values to be gleaned from the game because it strikes a chord with Western and Eastern sensibilities. Silent Hill: Homecoming presents a visually appealing world with an absorbing story that appeals to the audience.
This is a characteristic that is also true of older Silent Hill titles: there is something appealing in the way the images are rendered, regardless of how technically advanced the rendering engines employed. There's a satisfaction to be had in playing a title that resonates on more than one level, and it is this that appeals to millions of players. I'm talking about the idea of “story” and how games based on a good story play out much better, and give the player much more satisfaction, than games that are focused solely on the latest graphic technology. This article is thus intended to be an exploration of what “story” means as played out in video games. In essence, I will be talking about art.
To begin this discussion, it is important to note that at one time books were considered the high point of technology. It seems strange thinking of a bound collection of pages as technology, but this was the case even as recently as a hundred years ago. Now I don't want to give the impression that technological advancement is not important. The technology in and of itself, however, is not the end result; that would have left us thoughtless books filled with blank pages. Books were tools of communication, and the proliferation of literature that soon followed was just one result of such a tool. It was also via books that national stories, indeed national identities were created, established and carried onward. This is one example of the idea of story, the sort of story that people have always craved for inspiration, a sense of identity, and that sense of belonging a good yarn can always seem to achieve.
Can the video game medium meet these audience requirements? Has it done so already?