World of Research: How to turn gaming time into quality research

Writing researchAs a person who has been playing computer games since before they had graphics. I can’t help but feel fantasy role-playing games have deeply affected my writing. Is this a bad thing? I don’t think so.

People now days love gaming, but personally I’ve gotten sick of it. I would have said I’d grown out of them; until I met a fifty five year old fellow who chewed my ear off at a party, talking about CoD [call of duty]… Call of duty; is a game I played for about half an hour and, for those who don’t knowis a thrilling shoot-em-up about an invalid soldier who stares at the ground a lot and gets his head blown off every time he enters a new room. Luckily, in the CoD world mortality is minor hindrance… 2 out of 5 stars.

Getting the names

When you undertake a new topic of research, you are born again. I child, thrust into a confusing world you don’t understand. It’s all well and good that you want to re-search medieval attire but unless you know the name of that hat the pirates used to wear with feathers and stuff, chances are you’re going to draw dead pretty quick. This is where games are brilliant. Playing through an RPG like Baldurs Gate, or World of Warcraft gives you a wealth of nouns that you can take away and further research. The same applies to most genres, I’m sure even Pony Club games have a relatively large amount of technical names for horse-stuff. So why not grab your little sister’s nintendo DS and give it a burl. 

Plot Analysis

Game plots are renowned for being about as mentally stimulating a sucking on dry clay, but there is still a lot to gain by analysing them.

Next time you’re playing a game with a ridiculous, or unengaging plot, think why? Then, if you can answer why, have a think about how you would do it differently. How would you improve it? Most importantly, why would your improvements be better?

Alternatively, here is a list of games I’ve played that I thought had a great plot:

  1. Baldurs Gate 1
  2. Baludrs Gate 2
  3. Mass Effect 1
  4. Half-Life 1
  5. Legend of Zelda, and the Ocarina of Time (nintendo 64, though there are ROMs available)
  6. Oblivion

Here are some I have heard have great stories:

  1. Half-Life series
  2. Mass Effect Series
  3. Silent Hill
  4. Resident Evil
  5. Red-Dead Redemption
  6. Planescape Torment

World Building

World builders, start your engines! Excuse the pun. Looking at the dynamics in popular video games is an absolutely brilliant way to add marketable depth to your own fantasy/sci-fi worlds. When playing, ask yourself why is this so popular? World of Warcraft is a brilliant example. Blizzard is renowned for making incredible worlds, and have a following that can only be described as immense.

If you are a WoW player (I was once like you), while you’re mindlessly grinding minerals, think about why the world is so engaging. Consider the inner-politics within the horde, and the alliance, the racial traits that make their (lets face it) run-of-the-mill races and locations so engaging.

Some games that have great world building aspects are:

  1. Baldurs Gate: Taking place in the Forgotten Realms, a D&D world, this game features one of the most in-depth worlds I’ve ever played through.
  2. Mass Effect: By the same developer as Baldurs Gate (Bioware), mass effect has phenomenal, believable depth.
  3. Diablo 3: The one good thing about my gaming life’s biggest let down was the world. Aside from being gorgeous, it has a terrific gothic feel and wonderful character concepts.

Has anyone played a game with particularly good writing? Do you think that being a gamer has affected your writing? Alternatively, if you’re not a writer, has it improved your general knowledge in the world?

Shortly, I will be posting a follow up on some good, specific techniques to use gaming-time as inspiration for world building and writing projects.

Hopefully next time you hit the X-Box, you’ll keep your eyes open and consider the good you can take out of a seemingly pointless pass-time.


7 thoughts on “World of Research: How to turn gaming time into quality research”

  1. I’ve often thought the same thing. When stories are your work, immersing yourself in stories becomes research, whether that means books, movies, television or video games– even if that means learning what NOT to do. (Not to mention it justifies spending hours on the xbox). Cool post!

    1. Very, very true. It’s definitely a great excuse to indulge in your hobbies. The only problem is making sure you can still switch it off! I know a few people who I’ll never watch a movie with, they’ve crossed over, studied the industry so much they can’t simply enjoy it as entertainment.

      Thanks a lot for stopping by!

  2. I seconding Ocarina of Time. Even today, few games have matched it in terms of overall quality. I’d also argue that the Portal games are worth analyzing: in addition to being excellent to play and utterly hilarious, they both provide great examples of minimalist storytelling.

    1. Ocarina of Time is just brilliant, from cutting grass to the water temple. Phenomenal game. One of my greatest shames is that I haven’t played the portal games. I was between computers when it came out, and once I got a new unit the buzz has died.

      As it stands, I’m poor and am viciously pursuing my own businesses (the main one being writing). So I have a lot of games to play once I’m more comfortable, portal is high on the list and I just added metroid for gamecube.

      Thanks parasiteguy.

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