Wednesday, June 19, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

Pixelated prose: The literary essence of video games

Pushing the boundaries of what is considered a compelling story

Update : 18 May 2024, 01:34 PM

When someone says they love stories, we imagine their head buried in a book or them cuddled up in a blanket watching a blockbuster. Seldom do we think of the stories that hide beneath the pixels of video games. In fact, video games are often associated with violence and mindless shooting, when in reality they can be immersive experiences of powerful storytelling.

The video gaming industry has emerged as the biggest entertainment industry, surpassing both the film and music industry. Of course a big reason for that is the engaging gameplay, but it’s also because of the intricate and captivating narratives that are intertwined in these digital worlds.

Driving the story forward

Video games stand out from more traditional formats due to the interactivity. You don't simply watch the story unfold, you are part of it. You are the driving force. You make the choices that will direct the narrative, influence the relationship of the characters, step into plot twists, and ultimately decide the outcome of the story.

This element of interactivity instills a sense of dynamism and unpredictability within the storytelling, ensuring that the gameplay offers a personalized experience. When you assume the role of the protagonist in the game, you develop a sense of connection with the story and everyone in it.

It’s easy to think of video games as mere entertainment that does not match the same complexity and depth as traditional forms of literature, but that is much farther from the truth than we might think. 

Narrative masterpieces and character arcs

Let’s look at “The Last of Us” as an example, which explores human conditions in the face of adversity. Set in a post-apocalyptic universe, Joel and Ellie confront love, loss, and sacrifice as they try to overcome the challenges of a world overrun by a fungal infection, forcing players to confront their own values and beliefs in the process. The emotionally resonant storytelling and rich character development made “The Last of Us” not just a hit in the gaming world, but also as a drama series on HBO. Stories like this linger in your head long after you set your controller down. 

Classic literature often showcases narratives with emotional depth and moral dilemmas. Stories found in video games can also mirror the same level of complexity. One who exemplifies this parallel is Kratos from “God of War.” Across nearly two decades of the franchise, Kratos sheds his initial skin as a rage-fueled Spartan consumed by vengeance and evolves into a more complex character balancing fatherhood, the possibility of redemption, and the lasting scars of his past actions.

Across nearly two decades of the franchise, Kratos sheds his initial skin as a rage-fueled Spartan consumed by vengeance and evolves into a more complex character

In both “The Witcher 3” and “Red Dead Redemption 2,” the lines between right and wrong are blurred. Geralt and Arthur, monster hunter and outlaw respectively, navigate morally ambiguous worlds, forced to confront the lasting weight of their choices. Each decision carries a heavy price, leading them down a path of introspection and questioning the true meaning of good and evil.

An immersive escape

Video games offer an unparalleled escape. They whisk you away to fantastical worlds brimming with danger and wonder. With games like “Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim" and “Genshin Impact,” there are vast landscapes to travel, teeming with lore and history.

Just as you lose yourself in the fantasy realms of books, you can also immerse yourself in these intricately crafted universes. Whether you're traversing the rugged terrain of Skyrim, encountering the ancient ruins of a forgotten civilization, or battling gods and monsters in the realms of Norse mythology, the sense of immersion is unmatched. 

Recognizing the ability of video games to stir emotions, challenge perspectives, and deliver artistic depth akin to any established storytelling medium shatters the outdated notion that kept us from seeing these games as genuine forms of creative expression. It’s time to open the door to a new chapter in human creativity, one where the boundaries between written word and pixelated prose dissolve, and the vast potential of storytelling in all its forms is celebrated and embraced. 


Sk Mustarin Muskan Mortuza works at Dhaka Tribune.

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