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“Daryl Finding The Courage To Write”

I’m Daryl Baxter, I write for Tech Radar, specialising in software and apps. I also wrote The Making of Tomb Raider book. This is the story of how video games helped me get here.

I’ve always enjoyed playing games. They have been an enjoyable escape and entertainment. But also, they planted the seed for me to find the spark and desire to write for a living. I may well have got there without games, but some specific games I've enjoyed definitely accelerated this journey. They offer me space to find my voice, especially when I was younger and struggling with with school bullying that might otherwise have robbed me of the confidence to go for this career.

From the simple cut-scene story-telling of Sonic the Hedgehog 3 to the open-world narrative of Tomb Raider 2, games got me wondering "What’s going to happen next?” These worlds were like books, only here I was in control of what was happening, so when something new presented itself it was happening to me.

As I played more games this interest in the wonder of stories grew. Metal Gear Solid limited the world and what I could do, but in doing that it took the story in all sorts of new ways. Tangents and side quests drew me in and I was fascinated by the breaking of the fourth wall.

Then came Shadow of the Colossus and the threads started making sense. The games that impacted me the most where ones where I could be the hero no one expected. I could confound my childhood bullies and be the champion. But more than that, I could do the same in real life and write about the wonder of these interactive stories of a living.

Writing felt like an underdog activity. I had to compete with other (more experienced) writers or stretch my writing ability and expertise to clearly explain something new. I had to face my imposter syndrome, and the voices of those old school bullies, and find a way to get my hands back on the keyboard. Reminding myself of those unlikely video game heroes still helps even today.
 

Outcome
Confidence and contentment in a career as a commercial author with published books, and work in a wide range of international outlets.


This outcome arises from the following 4 milestones over the span of 11 years, from 5 - 16 years-old:

DetailsPathway Details

Name: Daryl Baxter
Stage of Life: 5 - 16 years-old
Genres: Action, Adventure, Fighting, Narrative, Open World, Platform, Role-Play, Shooting and Simulation
Platforms: PlayStation 1, PlayStation 2 and Sega Genesis / Megadrive
 

 

Storytelling Sparks with Sonic

Age: 5-years-old / 25/12/1994 / 27 years ago

Play Styles: Child Plays Independently (Independent Play)

Platform: Sega Genesis / Megadrive

Daryl talks about it like it was yesterday. Getting the Megadrive and Sonic the Hedgehog game for Christmas. But it wasn't just the fast action running, rolling and jumping that caught his young imaginations.

The third game in the series develop the story and included short cartoon-like cut-scenes. From a young age these narratives caught Daryl's attention and set in motion an interest in story that grew as he continued to play other games.

Daryl realised that he was someone who connected strongly with stories and narrative. He enjoyed the cut-scenes as much as the action.

From Bond to Croft

Age: 8-years-old / 01/07/1997 / 25 years ago

Platform: PlayStation 1

A few years later and Daryl had grown fond of the James Bond and Indiana Jones films. He tried a demo of Tomb Raider and instantly loves how these adventures were mirror in a world he could explore, complete with voice acting and narratives.

"It was the wonder of what might come next and where the story would go. It felt like anything was possible. Underwater, lava and what characters might you fight or control."

Daryl was a sponge for these sorts of adventure stories. Not just films and games but reading as well. Having completed all his reading stickers for school he could choose a book from the library and chose The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. He was instantly engrossed by this magical world the children could enter like he did with Tomb Raider.

"They had a cupboard and I had a Playstation. I remember reading the book in an English lesson and imagining what Laura might do in these worlds. What would happen next”.

Daryl connected strongly to the worlds that Tomb Raider could take him to, where he could be an unexpected hero.

Activities: Daryl found that the following related activities worked alongside playing Tomb Raider:


James Bond
FILMS AND SERIES

Daryl enjoyed watching old James Bond films, that played into the lone adventure spirit of Tomb Raider.
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Daryl loved The Narnia books, starting with The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe. They mirror the experience of visiting other worlds in his games.

Breaking The Wall

Age: 10-years-old / 01/02/1999 / 23 years ago

Platform: PlayStation 1

Daryl was drawn from Tomb Raider's straight forward adventures to the more restrictive and unexpected experience of Metal Gear Solid. The early games in this series were viewed from overhead and restricted you to one area. You couldn't charge in guns blazing like Lara, but had to use stealth and planning with help from your superiors.

This was a new kind of storytelling Daryl found fascinating. Not only how the restrictive experience worked to create sense of unease in the story, but how the game would be trick and double-bluff the player. There were moments when it read your memory card for saves of other games, or pretended it was going to wipe your progress.

This wasn't only an unexpected hero, but an unexpected way to tell a story. Daryl found himself unexpectedly engaged topics like war, prisoners, nuclear disarmament. Even at a young age he appreciated how this shone a light on the reality of these things are real world issues.

It was an experience that only a game like this could offer. "It showed me what a simple plot could deliver in nuanced and deep issues. But it was the power of tangents and side-tracks that stayed with me in a way that the books I was reading weren't able to."

Daryl learnt about new ways to tell stories. The game restricted so much of what you could do, but then broke the rules about how it interacted with the player. The result was a powerful narrative unlike other media.

David and Goliath

Age: 16-years-old / 25/08/2005 / 17 years ago

Platform: PlayStation 2

It was a number of years later that Daryl found another game that connected with a similar power. Shadow of the Colossus was "a boy and his horse battling these dark powers," as he put it. A game where you take on out-sized monsters that filled the screen and you had no rights facing off with.

But this was more than a lesson in narrative potential of video games for Daryl. This game was something more personal. Being granted space in a story to stand up against an over powered foe, helped Daryl revisit times in secondary school when he was badly bullied. "The memories of loneliness stayed with me. It was powerful for me to revisit this with the game."

It reminded him of stories like a David and Goliath or Rocky. "A boy, his sword and a horse taking on these monsters. Taking on an insurmountable challenge. You are the underdog suddenly confronted by unexpected monsters. The movement from exploration to combat was seamless."

These things combined to offer an important moment for Daryl. Not only a chance for reflection, but a way to move through those memories as he progressed through the game. Some find the killing of the Colossi in the game a moment of sadness, but for Daryl it was a chance to find help from unexpected places.

Daryl relished the chance to slay these monsters in the game, and in this found a metaphorical catharsis for the real monstrous bullying he'd suffered in real life.

Activities: Daryl found that the following related activities worked alongside playing Shadow Of The Colossus:


Back to the Future
FILMS AND SERIES

Daryl felt spurred on by the game, and the Back to the Future movie. "If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything," said Marty in the film.
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Rocky
FILMS AND SERIES

Daryl enjoyed watching the Rocky films, where an underdog trained hard to take on a giant.
More information

Pathway Outcome

The culmination of the milestones in the pathway lead to Daryl confidence and contentment in a career as a commercial author with published books, and work in a wide range of international outlets. We have described it as a linear journey, but of course, there is always a fair amount of back and forth between the games they played.

Along with the main outcome Daryl also changed in the following ways:

  • Disposition: Daryl connected strongly to the worlds that Tomb Raider could take him to, where he could be an unexpected hero.
  • Experience: Daryl realised that he was someone who connected strongly with stories and narrative. He enjoyed the cut-scenes as much as the action.
  • Identity: Daryl relished the chance to slay these monsters in the game, and in this found a metaphorical catharsis for the real monstrous bullying he'd suffered in real life.
  • Knowledge: Daryl learnt about new ways to tell stories. The game restricted so much of what you could do, but then broke the rules about how it interacted with the player. The result was a powerful narrative unlike other media.

We focus on how games contribute to this outcome, but also include related activities that play a part of this journey:

Taming Gaming Book Written by parents for parents, the database complements the in-depth discussion about video game addiction, violence, spending and online safety in the Taming Gaming book. We are an editorially independent, free resource without adverts that is supported by partnerships.

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