Tuesday, March 08, 2022

The Greatest Story Ever Played

Hansen, Dustin. The Greatest Story Ever Played: Video Games and the Evolution of Storytelling
March 8th 2022 by Feiwel Friends
E ARC provided by Netgalley
I am quite possibly the least qualified person to review this book, even though I enjoyed this author's Game On! tremendously. While I was able to appreciate a history of games, with brief descriptions of the games and the impact on popular culture, I struggled a bit with this since I have very littel experience with video games. In short, I have only had all of my dinosaurs die in Dino Park Tycoon, had my city burn down repeatedly in SimCity even when the first thing I built was a fire station, and been stuck with a pig swimming around a rock lined pond in Minecraft. This has made me equate video games with frustration and boredom. I wasn't even aware that games had stories. 

Do they ever. Not Minecraft, per se, because that's a game that is just action. Hansen's description of games that are only action and those that have more cerebral components was helpful. What I struggled with was the deep dives into the construction and meaning of plots of video games of which I had never heard. Which would be just about all of them. It was sort of like trying to follow a critical analysis of, say, soap opera plots. I can appreciate the background that Hansen brings to the book, the breakdowns of quality of storylines based on well established criteria and the emotional impact they have on him personally, and his links between the stories in video games and the process of creating stories in general, but I couldn't fully understand what was going on. 

Language arts teachers who try to get their students to come up with story ideas could use this book to good effect. There are sections that would go right along with the curricular standards. Major camps of narrative styles! Personification! Juxtaposition! The plusses and minuses of storytelling mediums. It's all here, and set against the background of video games like Grim Fandango. The part that I really could appreciate was the fact that the games that were highlighted were briefly explained, with the year of introduction noted, and suggestions for where the games might be played today. Most of the games premiered before 2017, and Hansen notes that there is no way to keep up with the constant barrage of new games. 

For avid game players who themselves would be interested in writing, this would be the perfect book. I have just the student in mind, which means that I am completely justified in purchasing this title for my library! I just pitched it to a language arts teacher who walked into the library as well. This a great choice for game connoisseurs who want a critical overview of the intricacies of storytelling in video game construction. Hansen is a master at turning his knowledge and enthusiasm into informational books that I can enjoy even when I don't understand them.

Ms. Yingling

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