I’m a storyteller, not a gamer, but my feelings toward video games have changed considerably since I read a study by a leading market research company on entertainment trends in America. In 2009, for the first time ever, more Americans were playing video games than watching movies. The study concluded that the audience for gaming was expanding so rapidly because games are now accessible through so many different outlets. For someone who has always viewed movies as the pinnacle of modern storytelling, this revelation was a startling one.
But if you think about it, the reasons behind the shift are obvious. Constant improvements in game content, sound, and graphics are making gameplay more immersive all the time, and on top of that, video games offer something almost no other medium can: choice. Games give players the power to choose their direction, their actions, and their fate. In this regard, movies are primitive by comparison. Games, I’ve concluded, are a game-changer (pardon the pun), for the future of storytelling.
For over a year, I’ve been working with an international team of roughly twenty-five like-minded writers, artists, and programmers to develop a mobile gaming app that’s exploiting the digital accessibility of games to break storytelling barriers wide open.
Story Games was released in beta version this week, and five of the game’s six stories are currently available to play, with more scheduled for release on a weekly basis. I’m writing two stories for the collection: Mission: Control, and Ghosts of Blanoby.
Ghosts of Blanoby explores the curse of the Winchester arms fortune. Legend holds that every soul ever lost to an item bearing the Winchester mark still haunts the Winchester Mystery House. The player is a paranormal investigator tasked with discovering the truth behind the legend.
Mission: Control is a fictional adaptation of my book, Authoritarian Sociopathy. The player assumes the role of a Predator drone pilot recruited by a top-secret intelligence agency for a renegade psychological experiment. Now, instead of simply reading about test subjects in distant psychology labs, players get to participate in the experiment themselves. In fact, all of the stories in Story Games let the player shape the narrative, but more importantly, they all share the themes of questioning obedience and resisting power.
In Paper Squares and Purple Stars, one of the stories currently available in beta, the player controls rave outlaw John Vibes as he explores Baltimore’s underground music scene. Even though Vibes, the author, writes about his real-life experiences, the player still has the power to make their own choices and shape how the story unfolds.
Describing Paper Squares and Purple Stars, John writes:
“The year was 2007, and I was a troubled youth in search of direction and belonging. I was always something of an outcast, unable to conform to the cultural expectations of the society I was born into. Then, one summer, everything changed: I went to a rave and discovered an underground culture that finally accepted me – that was full of people just like me. I felt like I’d stumbled down a rabbit hole into a magical land of peace, love, and freedom.”
This story and others are highly relatable for someone like me.
The flagship story of the collection is Immortalized, in which an ensemble cast of dissidents takes on a cabal of global elites. The characters explore hacking, crypto-currency, surveillance, censorship, gun control, and many other subjects on their roller-coaster adventure. But the best part is that whatever the crazy situation, the player calls the shots.
The Story Games app has a variety of other impressive features, including awesome audio and visual effects, a “Time Travel” feature that lets you go back and make different choices, and a screenshot function that lets you seamlessly share your favorite story moments on social media. Perhaps the most impressive feature is the game’s affiliate program, which rewards players for sharing the game with others.
Story Games is produced by Immortal Games Limited, a UK-based game studio. Founder Ole Petter Hoeie is a lifelong gamer and self-educated entrepreneur from Norway. Ole started his first company at age twenty-two, and was selling in ten different countries by the age of twenty-six. His adventures in game design began in 2004 with Machine Dance (based on the popular game Dance Dance Revolution), which Hoeie successfully registered as an official sport in Norway. This led to six European Machine Dance Championships, in which players from nineteen countries competed at the game. Later, Hoeie released his own dance game called “iDance”, which allows up to 32 players to participate at the same time. iDANCE was adopted by organizations and government programs in several countries as a tool to fight childhood obesity and was used in multiple university studies on cognitive ability, motivation, and learning. Hoeie was even invited to speak at the first European Youth Event of the European Parliament in 2014.
Humanity has been using storytelling to express ideas since Plato wrote the dialogues of Socrates, and probably long before. At its core, this is the mission of Immortal Games: to encourage players to solve problems and think for themselves through fun, thought-provoking mobile gaming.