Gaming And Me: What Games Taught Me About Writing And Resilience.
Lara Croft is the first gaming heroine I remember — in fact, the first heroine I remember, full stop.
In later years, she may have taken a backseat to Hermione Granger’s fierce intelligence or Daenerys Targaryen’s unwavering faith in herself, but Lara is the yardstick by which I measure all heroes I meet in fiction.
I was six years old when I first encountered video games, thanks to my dad’s boundless enthusiasm. I watched as he played through each game, enthralled and slightly afraid by what I was seeing.
This was the first mode of storytelling I understood, really. I wasn’t very good at reading or writing, but I could sit down and pick up a controller.
I soaked up the story and tried to understand how the game was put together, frequently asking dad to stop and look at the character models so I could examine them.
Despite this early start in gaming, I didn’t pick up a Tomb Raider game to play for myself until much later, beginning with 2006’s Legend, and then going right back to my favorite, TR2. She got to fight a dragon!
Still, even then I would hand the controller back to dad when it got to the scary parts. I knew these games. Nothing prepared me for the journey the reboot took me on.
Lara was my age, fresh out of university, and thrown into an inhospitable world she must survive. In some ways, my post-uni experience felt like something to survive, rather than an exciting new chapter in life.
I stopped eating, stayed in bed, and didn’t want to engage with the outside world. Instead, I played games. And Lara’s story, in particular, taught me about resilience. Regardless of what happened to her, she kept moving.
I realized I couldn’t just sit there, unhealthily thin and terrified of the next step. I kept moving.
In gaming, our protagonists are thrown into crazy situations and constant mortal peril.
Lara faces myths and gods on a regular basis, while Uncharted’s Nathan Drake goes shotgun-to-snapping-jaw with all manner of creepy mutant dudes long forgotten.
Unlike the heroes of books and movies, game protagonists don’t really have any let-up from the onslaught of enemies, and this creates a completely different dynamic in which to tell a story — and stories of battling stacked odds are particularly effective.
The overarching theme of games like this is resilience.
Tomb Raider’s 2013 reboot saw Lara travel to Yamatai, a hostile island that left her traumatized and in therapy.
I was recently diagnosed with depression, and am waiting on a therapist, so it struck me that If Lara could do it, so can I. It might sound childish, cheesy even. But the stories in gaming are just as valid as other mediums.
Fast-paced, action-focused story makes passivity impossible. Books and movies, on the other hand, have the luxury of slowing down, sometimes to the detriment of the wider narrative.
As a writer, I will say it’s easy for self-indulgence to slip in — the writer or the director have the final say, as it’s their vision. Gaming doesn’t allow this, because of the diverse teams required to make the end product.
As games go through lots of changes during their development, writing changes often.
The thick skin — the resilience — needed to take the changes is something I admire completely, and something the writers share with the characters they bring to life.
The move from side-scrolling fun entertainment to fully fledged stories and worlds has never been more apparent than in the last few years, with games like The Elder Scrolls 5, Tomb Raider (2013) and the Uncharted series.
They all give us complex worlds, characters and storylines, and demand more of us than they ever have previously.
People say video gaming is a waste of time. I wholeheartedly disagree.
They are a way to get into story, an interactive journey of well-rounded, fleshed-out protagonists, who face the worst game developers can throw at them, and overcome to fight in the next game, and the next.
In the case of my first heroine, Lara Croft, these stories have endured for decades, as much a valued part of the art world as any other tale.
Josephine Hicks is a poet living her best life and listening to the call of the Universe for her purpose. She longs for a questing existence. Challenge is something she embraces (after digging her heels in a little…) and she is a fighter at heart. She loves love. Unable to settle for long, she is an adventurer. She wants to honor those who are the best at what they do. Fearlessness is her aspiration, and nature is her teacher. You could contact her via her website.