Games Tell The Stories Of People No Longer With Us
06/04/2022 Jack Kelly14 months ago Author:
I'm Jack and I'm passionate about conservation. You can see how video games led me to this career in my Game Pathway, but I wanted to tell the longer story that starts when I was just 9-years-old.
I’ve always loved an interesting setting. But it took me much longer; really only very recently, to recognise that what I truly love are the stories of the people who call a setting home.
Looking back, I think I can see the roots of this fascination in, of all things, Minecraft. When I first started playing it in third grade, like all kids, I had my share of fun building bases, mining, and exploring the endless cubical world.
Something that sparked my curiosity much more than any of this, however, were the rare (at least, uncommon in that 2012-era build of the game, before later updates added new variations that spawned more frequently) abandoned structures scattered around the map- some of the only signs of habitation in an overwhelmingly undeveloped world.
What are they? Who built them, and where did they go? What stories wait to be told in the forgotten histories of the infinite worlds?
Minecraft simply wasn’t, and still isn’t, a story-focused game, only providing the barest hints of a deeper lore. Minecraft wasn’t the end of my relationship with games, nor was it precisely the beginning, either, but it serves as a wonderful encapsulation of trends I would unknowingly follow all the way to the present.
This continued in the post-apocalyptic Mojave Desert, for example, in Fallout: New Vegas. It's a wonderful setting with thoughtfully-designed locations regardless of how the player actually interacts with those locations. In the world of Fallout you are directly involved with the pre-apocalypse world through the main events of the game.
You start to see the worn-down, but dazzling Vegas Strip not as it stands in the game’s present, but instead through the eyes of the past and the future: The Old World lives on through text logs and faded roadside billboards, while Mr. House paints you a grand vision for what this rebuilt Vegas could become, given the opportunity.
The tumbleweed-strewn streets of empty towns and desolate military facilities don’t feel devoid of life- no, they feel lived-in, and you can often discover the stories of the long-dead people that inhabited them.
My journey continued with Firewatch. At first this might seem tenuous at first. Firewatch may not be post-apocalyptic, but it does take place in a beautiful world, with an engaging, slow-burning, self-contained story in the Wyoming wilderness.
As you hike peaceful mountain trails, Chris Remo’s deliberately-restrained soundtrack playing softly underneath the sound of bird calls and rustling pine trees, you slowly learn the difficult personal histories of the player character and the environment he calls home.
For this forest is not without its secrets, and your personal journey forces you to confront the unexpected, heartbreaking truths of those that came before you, emotions made all the more pronounced by the subdued nature of much of the storytelling.
With this in mind, Firewatch smoothly slides into place within the larger evolution of my experience with games, in my everlasting search not just for a breathtaking environment, but for depth and meaning in the stories of those that call it home.