Video Games, Transmedia Fiction, and Hypertext

My parents bought the Little Jedi an Xbox 360 for Christmas. He’s not-quite-5, which is young for such a thing, yes. But video games can improve hand-eye coordination. They can also improve cognition, including problem solving skills and memory. And the Little Jedi has been playing video games with his dad as well, so the XBox is a continuity between his two homes. We of course have time limits and monitor gaming content.

One of the cool things about having a new XBox is that Sam and I get to play games again. Sam hasn’t really played video games since he was in college. And it’s been years-since about the time Little Jedi was born-since I’ve played video games. Even then I didn’t play often. I just couldn’t find games that suited me all that well, though I liked playing Fable II when it came out. What I enjoyed about Fable was the storyline’s ability to change and the characters’ reactions and changes. It felt like I was playing through a choose-your-own-adventure series in a far cooler way. (For a really interesting view of Fable, see the creator diaries here. I’ll probably do something with these later, because they’re just too cool.)

So this weekend, with the Little Jedi off for a visit with his grandparents, Sam and I played video games. We started with Streetfighter II. I played this ages ago, when I was a kid, but like many games from that original era of gaming, my tactic is mostly to press random buttons until I either win or lose. This works especially well with Chun-Li. Then we moved to Fable III. I bought Fable III as a sort of Christmas present to myself, for about $7 at a gaming store. It was totally worth it.

But then we downloaded a few things. We started with the games Limbo and Contrast. Limbo is the story of a young boy who must travel to and through limbo to find his little sister. It’s black and white and terribly creepy. Contrast is set in the 1920’s, and the shadow-shifter Dawn must help young DiDi. It’s filled with jazz music, stunning graphics, and plenty of puzzles. I’m fascinated by the way video games have moved into playing-through-art in so many instances, and I’m a little bit convinced that the genre of hypertext fiction has all but died because developers moved to something more integrated-video games and transmedia fiction like Inanimate Alice.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be reviewing some games as art and story, starting with Limbo and Contrast.

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