Continuing with the video game theme of this month with the launch of the PlayStation 5, I’ve been thinking a lot about how video games have actually influenced the kind of books I read, and how reading influences the types of games that I play. Whilst opinions have changed somewhat in recent years, some people still believe it is the case that you either enjoy reading or enjoy playing video games. That these two activities are very different and one is allegedly superior to the other. However, I believe the two not only go hand-in-hand but can influence how you consume each media.
I’ve been an avid reader and gamer since I was a child and would spend a lot of time doing both. As you can tell, both things have stayed with me my whole life and are still huge passions of mine. Like a lot of gamers my age, I started with Nintendo and Mario (more specifically a SNES and Super Mario All-Stars). I continued with platformers for quite some time, although Spyro: Year of the Dragon became my favourite title when I eventually moved to 3D gaming on the PS1. It wasn’t until university, and treating myself to a PS4 that I began to notice how the two could influence each other and how far my tastes had come since I first started reading and gaming.
At university I learned about Roland Barthes’ theory The Death of the Author in which he discusses the idea that consuming a text is far more of an active process than passive. This places much more importance on those who consume the texts rather than those who write them. This idea has really stuck with me since and this, coupled with the exposure I had to different genres and themes in novels that I hadn’t come across before, I began to move away from platformers (but not entirely) and started to play more RPG and story-based games. Games where the plots are complex and well developed and have a cast of characters to match. I found that I became more drawn to open-world, story/character driven titles as these allowed me to explore the story at my own pace instead of being forced into a chronological narrative.
To have slightly more freedom over the direction you want to see the story take (even if it doesn’t have a huge impact on the ending) makes me feel much more connected to the story and the characters. Novels are able to make me connect the same way, although they are a fixed narrative with no ability to deviate from it, they provide such detail and complex plot that you are able to become attached to the story and the characters. This is something that you don’t get in classic platformers or battle royale games etc. I still play these and find them fun, but they don’t leave as much of a lasting impression on me as a good single-player campaign game.
Whilst it may seem that my love of novels and the idea of readers having more power over a text than originally thought, the genres of games that I play also influences the types of genres that I read. As I began to play more and more open-world RPG type games, I found that I was drawn to the fantasy elements in the games more than anything else (Dragon Age: Inquisition rather than Grand Theft Auto V). After graduating from university I was in a reading slump, but even when I did read I would tend to read general fiction or literary fiction. However, the more I began to play fantasy based games, the more I wanted to explore the genre in other ways.
Up until this point I hadn’t read much fantasy since I was a child. Despite still loving the genre I couldn’t find anything that I could get into or wanted to pick up. As I began to play more fantasy games of different types (high fantasy vs urban fantasy) I started to realise how diverse the genre is, not just in video games but in novels too. This then helped me understand the aspects I enjoyed in fantasy and which elements I didn’t, which made it much easier to navigate the genre and find fantasy novels that I was genuinely interested in reading. I’m much more interested in high fantasy and magic than I am in fantasy that are war based (although, there are always exceptions to the rule).
I’m sure that as I continue to play more games and read more books I will find other ways that the two have influenced each other, and get to discover many more amazing games and books because of it!
Are you a gamer as well as a reader? Have you noticed any similarities or influences between the two? Let me know in the comments!