Archive for the ‘Things That Make Life Worth Living’ Category

Book and Video Game Writing Differences

So I am sitting there last night with my newborn in one arm and a ps3 controller in my other hand playing ‘Last of Us’. It got me to thinking about videogame writing vs. book writing. Well, I thought about it when I wasn’t trying to hold in my jumps (so that I wouldn’t scare my kid) and hating those darn Clickers (for those of you who are not initiated, a Clicker is a plant-zombie that is a serious pain in the neck).
What are the differences between each? What makes for a good game story vs. a good read? Thinking about all of the really great story driven games that I’ve played: Uncharted Series, Final Fantasy (I, IV, VI, VII, X), Bioshock, Mass Effect, etc…, I thought about what made them great and came up with the following:

1. Graphics
2. Well Developed Characters
3. Meaningful Character Dialogue
4. Lush Beautiful Environments
5. Gameplay
6. Exciting Plot and Strong Plot Twists

Of course there are other things, and obviously some of the things in the above list do not refer to writing, but a lot of the list does. As I listened to Joel and Ellie banter last night I thought about how well Naughty Dog does at fleshing out their characters. Their offhand comments did more for their characters than a lot of games can manage with an entire script. It was the same with Uncharted when Drake and Elena would talk back and forth as they journeyed. I wonder how much stronger a good Final Fantasy game could be if they would incorporate that (of course I know it would be harder due to the bigger parties, but still…SE should be able to pull it off).
So now I look at the books I’ve enjoyed the most: Fablehaven, Harry Potter, The Belgariad, The Ender Series, Narnia, Sword of Truth (at least the early ones), etc…, and I asked myself the same question. What made them memorable to me? Why do I still like going back and reading them over and over?

1. Fascinating Characters
2. Interesting Locations
3. Exciting Plots
4. Awesome Action Sequences

As with games, there is more to books for me than those four things, but they seemed to jump to the top of my list as I thought about it. To me, strong book writing allows me to picture what is happening in my head, while at the same not flooding me with imagery. I know that some readers enjoy having every aspect spelled out to them, but I like to be able to fill in the gaps. Too much imagery slows things down too much (and if you’ve read my previous posts, you have an idea how patient I am… much to my publisher’s dismay). The authors of the aforementioned books hit the right combination of imagery and action (for the most part) to keep me on the edge of my seat through the entire read.

I am interested in hearing about your thoughts. What makes for a good read and a good game? What expectations do you have? What aspects are you prepared to overlook? What will stop you from completing a game or a book altogether? What traits have kept you riveted right to the end and hungry for more?


Open Water Musings

I’m a typical guy…well maybe not too typical, so I’ll rephrase…I am a guy. Which means,of course, that there aren’t many things that I’ve really looked at and thought to myself, “Wow! That is really beautiful.” Don’t get me wrong, there have been plenty of those moments that have crossed my path, but most of the time, that particular thought catches me by surprise. For some reason, I am just not wired to be on the lookout for those kinds of experiences. I will admit however, that there is a certain charm to being blindsided by a moment like that. It throws an unexpected wrench into the gears and, at times, can literally take my breath away.
One of those moments was the day I married my wife. The way she looked in her wedding dress when she finally made it out of the SLC temple. It was worth the wait. Her hair was real fancy and done up and she looked like an angel walking towards me. Even dressed in my suit as I was, I felt like a country bumpkin.
Four other moments were when my kids were born. Not the actual process, mind you. I’ve heard of people saying how the whole childbirth process was a thing of beauty etc… I can respect that opinion, but I went through most of it in a helpless panic, I felt awful for my wife and bad for the kid (or kids in the case of our twins). But the moment when they were here, screaming and placed into my wife’s arms for the first time. That was the magical moment for me.
But those moments are more personal and not what I really wanted to focus on with this post. I’ve never been one to sit back and just enjoy nature. Fishing is boring to me, no matter how beautiful the surroundings. My wife and in-laws have the gift of being able to just sit back and appreciate nature. Whether fishing, camping or simply driving, they can soak it in and just enjoy the scenery for what it is. Me, well…I have to be doing something. If I am driving I am listening to audiobooks. For camping, I need to have an electronic device (or preferably multiple electronic devices), a book, or at the least a card game. I need to be doing something This will tie in presently.
You should know that I am not a morning person. I could sleep until midday, regardless of what time I go to bed. My wife accurately pointed out that the only time I wake up early is if there is something exciting happening in the morning; the first day of a vacation or something. Well, add open water swims to the list of things worth waking up for.
Pulling up on a lake, bay, reservoir, or on occasion even a scummy pond is exciting. There is something about the morning that seems to brighten as soon as the desired body of water comes into sight. Colors seem to intensify and the early morning haze immediately begins to evaporate. Excitement bubbles when I arrive and I can’t get the wetsuit on fast enough. Being a bigger fellow (hereafter referred to as Clydesdale because it sounds nicer) that part of the process isn’t particularly flattering. I have a friend that once referred to it as a walrus putting on a seal suit. Accurate, but still…
Anyways, once I reach the edge of the water, there is always a moment of hesitation. Even in a wetsuit, 52 degree water is COLD at six or seven in the morning (water-skiers should know exactly what I am talking about, as that is when the water is at its glassiest). Incidentally, I used to work myself out into the water step by step, but I have recently found that a quick dash-n-dunk is a lot easier (and doesn’t leave you open to practical jokes by other swimmers in the group). Once the initial bite is over and I am completely awake, it is a necessity to play in the water for a bit, whether it be making fun of those too chicken to come in right away, doing handstands, splashing, dunking, etc…
Once everyone is ready and watches are set. Then the actual fun begins. This is where I am usually hit by how beautiful the world really can be. As I swim towards my destination (and it must be pointed out, that I am not a straight swimmer, I have a habit of weaving back and forth in the water like a drunken sailor), every time my head comes out of the water, I see the sunrise on one side and beautiful mountains on the other.
Sometimes, it is necessary to stop in the middle just to sit and watch as the night shadows on the mountainside grudgingly give way to the light. The air seems to warm and an already great morning seems to brighten a hundredfold. The light dances on the glassy water as if there were millions of diamonds just sitting there waiting to be picked up.
Some people love to watch sunrises from their porches, or from the top of a tall mountain, or in the wilderness sitting next to a tent or trailer. For the longest time, I couldn’t understand the appeal of this, and to be honest, I never really expected to. As it turns out, I simply needed to witness it from the right location. Out in the middle of the open water, with nothing surrounding or distracting me, I can always count on being able to find one of those beautiful moments.