It’s time for the third and final installment of the Video Game Literary Classics 101 Collaboration! Definitely check out Part One and Part Two if you haven’t already.
Thank you so much to everyone who wrote an article for this series! There were quite a few unexpected picks and I truly appreciate everyone’s participation in my first gaming blogger community event. If you like this sort of video game literary perspective analysis and want some more, I’d highly recommend stopping by the Games as Literature YouTube Channel where the Game Professor has many excellent, long form videos to enjoy about a plethora of titles.
That said, here are the final submissions!
Chosen by Kim – Later Levels
Themes: Family, relationships, oblique storytelling, LGBTQ issues
In Gone Home you play as Katie, a college student visiting home from abroad over a holiday break. Despite being expected, you arrive to a spooky, empty house and a note on the door from your sister saying not to look for her. While the character knows her family, the player does not and it is up to the player to learn all about the family’s history and relationships between one another in a search to uncover what happened to the sister, Sam. Gone Home’s naturalistic, relate-able story is told in part by Sam’s narrated diary entries and in a larger part by environmental narrative as you inspect and interact with objects in the home. This kind of oblique storytelling is masterfully handled in Gone Home, where you learn each of the family member’s secrets as you try to piece together recent events. There’s even a supernatural mystery to keep you on your toes!
Kim gives us a number of her suggestions for games worth academic study, including Mortal Kombat, Journey, Horizon Zero Dawn, and Fortnite, and Gone Home is her favorite of these. Kim points out how well Gone Home helps the player to see the world through another’s eyes, plus how accurately it captures 1990’s culture and the experience of growing up in it.
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons [Ending Spoilers]
Chosen by Dei Sophia – Virtual Visions
Themes: Wordless storytelling, family, relationships, teamwork, tragedy
Brothers offers a meaningful exploration of the importance of relationships in its emotive plot featuring two brothers trying to save their father. In the first few minutes of the game the player learns that the boys’ mother has passed and their father is very ill, so the stakes are high and clear. Strong themes of family ties, relationship bonds, trust, loss, and grief are emphasized in this incredibility heartfelt tale. The player pilots both characters at the same time, a unique control scheme that starts as uncomfortable, but becomes natural in short order, and both boys are required to complete the many puzzles and challenges the player encounters. Brothers is a game meant to make you feel something.
Dei Sophia breaks down the visual and emotional connection between the brothers and how their relationship is represented by the control scheme, as well as how Brothers’ figurative storytelling provides information about the characters, medieval European setting, and related mythology without any actual dialogue.
Halo: Combat Evolved
Chosen by Lorraine
Themes: Trans-humanism, futurism, savior story, war sacrifice, united humanity
Everyone knows the name Halo. Iconic in the world of video games, Halo: Combat Evolved, was many gamers’ first or most played FPS genre game they spent time with growing up. 500 years in the future, the alien conglomerate called the Covenant views humanity as an affront to their religion and tries to raze them from the galaxy. Playing as Master Chief, a deadly super soldier with his AI companion, Cortana, you’ll do your very best to halt the invading alien species of the Covenant.
Many will fondly remember the countless hours spent on the couch with friends sniping each other in Halo’s multiplayer mode, but Lorraine reminds us about the significance of Halo’s release in the context of global conflict and political unrest at the turn of the century. She outlines how Halo was able to reach audiences both new and old thanks to its compelling narrative, futuristic framing, and desirable image of a united humanity that resonated perfectly with audiences of the time.
BioShock [Ending Spoilers]
Chosen by Angie – Backlog Crusader
Themes: Philosophical messages, ethics of scientific progress, moral and religious conflict, player agency, self-determination
Delve into the depths of an undersea, capitalist utopia-gone-wrong inspired by Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy. This mysterious, devastatingly beautiful, deep sea city is chocked full of references to Atlas Shrugged. Released over a decade ago, BioShock stands the test of time as a classic thanks to its intense story, dark themes, moral conflict, and philosophical questions. You arrive at the deep sea metropolis of Rapture during the tail end of Rapture’s internal civil war and are quickly swept up in a highly intriguing escape plot laden with mystery, mad geniuses, wondrous art deco environments, and a twist toward the end that you’ll never forget.
BioShock is my own entry to the collab and I’m not alone when I say exploring the waterlogged ruins of Rapture for the first time is a terrifying treat that makes me I wish I could wipe my memory just to experience again. BioShock is a game many have played by this point, but if you haven’t, beware the many spoilers (including the major twist and the ending) in my written piece about it. It is a game that should really be enjoyed going in blind.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Chosen by no one, somehow?!
Themes: Family, relationships, underdog tale, gray morals, player agency
There is no article to go with this one, but I wanted to give Witcher 3 a shout out anyway. I assumed someone would choose to write about it, so I went with BioShock instead in order to leave it available. I’ll likely write a piece on it myself at some point.
Witcher 3 will go down in history as one of the best RPGs of all time due to its incredibly high quality animation, its minute attention to detail, and its Game of Thrones sized cast of complex, dynamic, memorable characters. Based on a beloved Polish dark fantasy series authored by Andrzej Sapkowski, the Witcher series spins a web of tales dripping in rich background lore about characters living in shades of grey as the end of the world slowly descends on them behind the scenes.
Your character, Geralt, is a hero of legends and an alchemy-enhanced monster slayer, yet an outsider despised among the common people and royals alike, looked down upon by society as they would a dirty exterminator of vermin. There is no real right and wrong in most of the gritty, harsh, unforgiving world of the Witcher, and the darkness is refreshingly broken by beautiful scenery and heartfelt character moments. Every side quest hides fascinating smaller stories that could be easily overlooked if one ignored a help wanted request on a noticeboard.
Your impact on the ending is based on your close relationship with Geralt’s missing, adoptive daughter, Ciri, whom you spend the first half of the game trying to find alongside Yennefer, Geralt’s long term, spitfire love interest. Witcher 3 has a full plate of masterfully crafted story element offerings: action, drama, humor, mystery, politics, prejudice, war, love, hate, laughter and tragedy all nestled within the sprawling landscape of Polish romanticism and menaced by spirits, creatures, and beasts from Slavic folklore.
Thank you for reading!
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