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How Books Learned to Love Video Games- A Guest post by Joshua Pantalleresco

Joshua Pantalleresco

He writes stuff…and podcasts too.

The end.

Okay, fine.

He lives in Calgary where he goes to achieve his goals of being a successful writer and podcaster. His podcast, Just Joshing airs on Itunes and can be located at Just Joshing

As for his writing, he’s written epic poems about children wandering in a post apocalyptic world. His main character in his next book is being chased by zombie mobsters and unicorns that fart rainbows. Stories, he believes, exist everywhere.

As well as he can write, he doesn’t draw so well. His stick figures revolt (but that’s another story…)

The End.

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time, books were a great source of entertainment. Perhaps the greatest of them. For books had the power to transport your imagination to fall away realms that existed inside the mind of the writer creating them. Radio and television try as they might couldn’t capture the feeling and experience that books did. Television was visual yet unimaginative, and while radio certainly was creative, it didn’t create images with the same sensations.

Little did all the art forms know that a new form of expression came to threaten them all. People laughed at the sprites on the screen when Atari was released. And don’t even get me started on pong and Commodore 64s.  But as the bits and bytes and sprites became more sophisticated and programmers figured out new ways of creating worlds, terror slowly spread to the other mediums.

Books you see, were troubled the most. Television required far less effort than video games. Books required an investment of time.  After all, you have to spend time with a book to appreciate it. So in time, books came to fear video games. It’s a borderline unhealthy fear. Actually, upon further reflection, it’s more like books are jealous of video games. Never mind that video games are like a cooler, younger generation that’s more in touch with the times. They look sleek, have awesome advertising prescience.  Their companies spend more dollars on them than publishers traditionally do. They take care of them.

But it’s not a matter of money envy. It’s because video games can do something books simply cannot do. Books know this, and dread this truth.

This writer loves video games. They’ve been a part of his life since he got that Nintendo system back in 1990. Double Dragon, Rush N/’ Attack, Mike Tyson’s Punchout and Mario Brothers were as much the cornerstone of developing his imagination as anything else. The Super Nintendo followed in 1991 and Josh became hooked forever. Three of his favorite fantasy games of all time, Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Final Fantasy VI (Then called 3) and Chrono Trigger all rocked Josh’s world.  Fun, story driven games, that changed how I approached storytelling.  Later in life he would fall in love with Persona, Final Fantasy 13, and any of the Tales games.

He didn’t fully understand the gap between games and literature until very recently. On his podcast Just Joshing, in which Josh interviewed Vox Pop Games about their new platform (which is awesome for indy games by the way), an epiphany struck Josh and shook him to his core. The answer was interaction. Video games don’t just read well, they tell their stories with how the game is played.

It can be anything. It can be something crazy like Borderlands or Grand Theft Auto. Street fighter and Mortal Kombat have incredible mythologies to them. Also, new concepts such as Dark Souls, Demon Souls and Bloodborne changed the idea of how games can convey stories, and overcome obstacles. Try as books might, books can’t quite do that. Books tried to capture with choose your own adventure books, yet alas, that proved to be too shallow a pool. When you can have games like Into a Dream or Nino Ku ni out in the world, you can capture deep narratives that synergize with a player’s empathy, much like the Wheel of Time can snare you with Robert Jordan’s elegant prose, or whisk you into worlds close to home like Charles De Lint.

Only video games have interaction on top of storytelling. They have a sense of accomplishment that books can’t do. So books became jealous of this fledgling art form. They would hide their feelings of inadequacy by talking down to video games. Video games would feel bad, and a little ashamed. The truth is, video games are a wonderful form of entertainment that can build confidence in people. If you can beat a level, or solve a problem on a platform, you learn vital skills that will make you a better human being and more confident one.

Books can’t do that

But books can learn from that.

Josh wanted to learn from video games.  So when he wrote the Cloud Diver, Josh’s goal was to capture the flavor of a video game inside his novel. He couldn’t make the book interact, but I could give that same kinetic vibe that some of my favorite games have. He could world build and create a surreal place that readers would want to experience through Johnny’s eyes. He would use first person voice, to lead the reader into feeling just a little bit more like a player. Finally, Josh would create wondrous and terrible obstacles for my heroes to overcome.

There was a party that was on quest to do good. The villain was the evil VoidLife corporation, which had ties to another game Josh enjoyed as a kid called Shadowrun. The action would move quickly, the characters would be quirky, all of them based on some familiar video game stuff Josh grew up reading as a kid.

Finally, books and Josh had a final revelation in finishing his story. It turns out books could interact with readers in a way video games couldn’t with players. Imagination. Readers had to imagine the worlds described on the page. Readers didn’t have maps or sprites or graphics to display the worlds that companies and developers created. This was all the child of a writer’s brains and experiences. Video games found that there was one thing that it could learn from books.

And in time, books and video games got along. Video games learned to respect itself just a little more. It would produce some incredible games, and some bad ones too. But much like books, the power of a good video game is in the story it tells either through the story or the way the game is played. It had dimensions books couldn’t match.

But with books you could imagine. And in that, they were different enough that both could find spaces for each other.

And they lived happily ever after.

Do you enjoy Josh’s unique style of story telling?

You can grab his newest release for preorder right now.

Want to learn more about Josh, his podcast, and his other works? Sign up for his newsletter Let’s Get Dangerous.

Until Next Time,

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