One of my favorite parts about reading through submissions is when I stop to think, “I wonder what inspired this person to write this.” There’s always a moment often at the end, occasionally at the beginning, where I’m struck by that inspiration, and even though I don’t know the source, I too feel inspired.
Sometimes the inspiration for what we create is a driving force that can be seen clearly in the finished product. Sometimes it’s subtle, and no matter how hard you analyze, you can never trace the piece back to that spark that was its original source. It seems like writers and artists are often asked what it is that inspires them. Of course, that’s not a simple answer. The answer could be an entire life’s story that would require a memoir to explain. The answer could be many things, depending on the whim of the day or the particular piece you’re working on. And sometimes the answer can feel too silly to say out loud.
So here you have it. My confession. I, like everyone else, draw from many wells of inspiration—nature, music, other books, dreams. But one of the biggest sources of inspiration for what I’ve written and what particularly fueled me as a beginning writer was…
What can I say? I have two older brothers, so I grew up playing video games. I think the one closer to me in age really enjoyed kicking my butt in first person shooters and…well, basically everything. Don’t worry, I can take him now. You know…sometimes.
And while I enjoy most kinds of games, as a writer I’m drawn to RPGs (role-playing games for the video game illiterate) and adventure games. Anything with a good story and a world I can explore. Anything that can feed my God complex. Don’t deny it; all writers have one. You know what they say about the first step to recovery and all that.
It’s actually pretty impressive how well done some video game storylines are. They can be downright gripping, compelling, startling, and oh so satisfying. What makes them especially powerful is the fact that you can immerse yourself in this created world and in the character you play. In some games, you can make decisions that alter the course of the story (hence the God complex). You can choose to be the hero of the story or take a dip into what it’s like being the villain.
To this day, if I am feeling dried up creatively, jumping into the story and world of a video game can help bring me back to the place where I am eager and ready to create. (Please note, side effects may include severe procrastination, the sudden passing of time up to several hours, lack of sleep, bizarre dreams, headaches, and hand cramping.)
What follows is a list (spoiler free) of the first five of my top ten video games with swanky storylines and worlds that are great for reminding you what you are capable of. I know, I’m probably going to leave out your favorite, and I’m not claiming these are the best of all time, but they’re the ones that I have a particular love for and have giving me creative boosts when I needed them.
10. Final Fantasy VIII
I’ll try to talk over the diehard fans screaming at me about how FFVII was so much better. Anyone out there screaming in support of FFX can go ahead and leave now. I think for gamers, the one you played first is the one you’re most attached to. The world of Final Fantasy is so dang compelling. Never mind the tedious farming, the half hour boss battles that you have to redo four times, and the unbelievably cliché characters, there’s something about the story and the world that draws you in.
9. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
This is an old game now, and considering it happens in the Star Wars world, it’s surprising it made my list at all. But that’s just how good the game is. What I like about the older games is there’s not a lot of hand-holding—I did my fair share of running around trying to figure out what the hell I was doing with my life. Here are the “writer-draws” of the game: character creation, which includes the choice for male or female characters, different storylines based on your decisions (do you give in to the dark side or do the whole beacon of light thing?), dialogue trees (I am obsessed with these. Do I play the part of the snarky sarcastic person, the overly kind person, or the flaming jerkwad?), fun side characters, and an intriguing plot with a successful twist.
8. Kingdom Hearts
This one may be a matter of sentimentality for me, but it was so fun to run around the different Disney movie storylines interacting with Disney characters and the Final Fantasy crossover characters. The team-up with Donald, Goofy, and Mickey Mouse is adorable. Playing it as an adult, you sigh at the cheesiness, but inside it’s like you’re a kid again. It’s a reminder of how different stories have different goals and accomplish different things. In Kingdom Hearts, the cheesy works and makes you root for the characters.
7. The Wolf Among Us
Telltale games in general is incredible. Play most any of their games, and you won’t regret it, but this was my favorite. Its story takes place in the world of the Fables comic books. It’s a different, more adult spin on your beloved fairy tale characters. This is another game that seriously feeds the writer God complex because this game takes the cake on player decisions altering the storyline. That’s what Telltale games are really good at. The replayability on these games is enormous because you can go back and try different approaches. It’s also more cinematic—most of these games are quick time events, meaning you just have to push certain buttons at certain times (perfect for people who aren’t hardcore gamers). This story follows a mystery plot, which is always fun and engaging.
6. Rise of the Tomb Raider
The Tomb Raider franchise has been kicking for a long time, and while I played some of the original games when I was younger, they didn’t have nearly the impact of the remake. What I particularly love about the new version is they made Lara Croft an actual human being. Video games have a long history of doing women characters a disservice, and the original Tomb Raider games were no exception. She was a walking palm tree complete with coconuts. But, you know, she was a “Strong Female Character.” (You want to know our beef with that expression, check out our podcast on the topic: Strong Female Character Misnomer). This game made Lara Croft a human and relatable character. It’s her origin story, and it throws you into such an intense plot and harrowing world, that you can’t help but be swept up by it. Not only that, but it makes you feel like a badass. I give bonus points for badassery.
I promise, next time I will complete the list and give you my top five for video games that have compelling storylines and worlds. If you’re like me and you enjoy video games and have never given these a try, I recommend it! And if you’re not a video game person, thanks for reading anyway. I still suggest giving it a try. Inspiration comes in many forms, and you’ll never know what’s going to hit you upside the head with an idea so great, you’ll be jumping at the chance to sit down and start writing.
By: Rachelle Clifford