Video Game Literary Classics 101 – Part One


Apologies for the delay on the final post of the Video Games Literary Classics Community Collab!

I’ve decided to post the final “syllabus” in three parts due to 1.) My own unanticipated slowness at arranging it, 2.) So readers have time to check out the individual article submissions, and 3.) So a few bloggers have time to get their contributions turned in by the time I get to Part Three.

I’ll have Part Two up in the first half of next week, then Part Three the week after, and a final full post of everything together shortly after that with any requested edits. Plus there’s a special addition to this project that may be in the works – details to come!

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the first 5 games chosen by the gaming blogger community as literary classics…

Life is Strange

Chosen by Adrian – Inside the Mind of a Gamer
Themes: Mental health, coming of age, regret, relationships, bullying

Life is Strange makes a great comparison to the novel Speak, a title found on many American high school reading lists, in terms of the way it tackles mental health and heavy issues such as cyber bullying, sexual assault, and suicide. Follow the story of Max and her friends Kate and Chloe through the trial and tribulations of American high school life with a twist – Max can travel back in time to change the future.

However, the focus of the story is less on the timewinding and more on the relationships. Adrian’s article highlights how delicately and aptly Life is Strange handles approaching mental health issues with the people in one’s life, such as depression and even suicide warning signs. Those who think little of themselves are often the ones who can make the biggest difference.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Chosen by Squigglez – UnCapt Reviews
Themes: Mental health, myths and legends, personal sacrifice, regret, family, overcoming hardship

In Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, Senua would certainly wish she could have Max’s time warping powers. With a story set firmly in the land of ancient Norse and Celtic mythology, Senua forges her way down into the underworld in a bid to reclaim her dead lover’s soul from Hell.

Nominated by both Adrian and UnCapt Reviews, Hellblade has a heavy focus on Senua’s specific mental disorder, which appears to be a type of schizophrenia or more general psychosis, and the game is extremely well known for its disturbingly realistic portrayal of auditory and visual hallucinations, among other symptoms of psychosis. Squigglez proposes that the largest lingering question left to the player is what the true purpose of Senua’s journey was in the end.

Shadow of the Colossus

Chosen by Duane – Bar Harukiya
Themes: Wordless storytelling, epic quest, player interpretation, moral ambiguity

Nominated by Duane, Shadow of the Colossus makes an excellent transition from Hellblade, as the main character is also searching for a way to revive his true love. Instead of delving into the underworld to do so, Wander is tasked with slaying twelve massive Colossi scattered in various locations in the game world.

The Forbidden Lands in Shadow of the Colossus are endless, stark, and introspective. With little to distract the player between objectives aside from the running animation of Agro, your horse, one is left to ponder the true nature of the given quest and what the real meaning behind the Colossi’s existence might be. Duane compares the tale of Shadow of the Colossus to that of a long form haiku of sorts, in that much of the story is left up to creative interpretation of the reader, or in this case player.


Chosen by Hannah – A Cat’s Library
Themes: Myths and legends, good versus evil, eastern culture, folktales, games as art, nature preservation

On the other end of the spectrum, Okami is a classic good versus evil story with all of its artistic details fully outlined for the player to analyze, no guessing needed. Nominated by Hannah, Okami follows the story of reincarnated wolf-goddess Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess of Japan’s Shinto religion, on her journey to rid Nippon of darkness and demons.

Playing as Amaterasu, you will tear across the countryside, revitalizing barren land with your Celestial Brush, solving mortal’s problems, and banishing evil beings back from whence they came in a massive, triple story arc epic. Hannah’s article digs into the background behind the Japanese watercolor art style Okami is animated in as well as a taste of the dozens of Japanese and Chinese myths and legends that are referenced in this dazzling game.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Chosen by MeghanPlaysGames and Around the Bonfire
Themes: Coming of age, the human experience, epic quest, good versus evil

We can’t have a literary classics list without the classic of classics, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Nominated by both MeghanPlaysGames and Around the Bonfire, each have an interesting perspective of why Ocarina of Time is a title no one should miss.

Around the Bonfire takes Ocarina of Time and compares it point by point to the academic elements of tried and true classic literature. His article provides wonderful detail one might have thought of in the back of their mind, but had been unable to articulate about the complex, profound story found in Ocarina of Time. A game with excellent staying power across time and space, Around the Bonfire outlines the zeitgeist of gaming culture at the time of Ocarina’s release, and the game’s cultural importance to an entire generation of gamers.

Meghan explains in her article that Ocarina of Time is the only Zelda game where Link’s tale follows his story as both a child and adult. She poses that, per director Miyamoto’s own words, games are a way for adults to think and remember as a child, or to connect with their childhood. Link exists between worlds, child and adult, belonging yet an outsider, losing parents and leaving home, taking on the unforgiving world ahead – and following Link’s tale in this way reflects the truest human experience of growing up. Ocarina of Time is a coming of age tale not only of Link, but of us.

In next week’s Part Two, look forward to some chosen classics that get a little darker. Please be sure to check out the linked articles and drop the bloggers a comment if you liked their contribution.

Thanks for reading!

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13 comments on “Video Game Literary Classics 101 – Part One”

  1. Hmmm, I had planned to do some writing today. Seems like I’ll be reading instead 🙂

    I really like the way you present the games and articles here, with a little summary to spark the interest and very clear links to the full posts.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I think it’s fine. It has a clear structure, is very informative and not too much, so that people would get discouraged from reading all articles.

        Like I said before, I really like the summary, which again, is short and on point and let readers decide if they are interested in the full article or not.

        Liked by 1 person

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