Gamers generally expect stories in games, but I find it more interesting when gamers use games to tell their own stories.
Video games’ major distinguishing feature from other forms of entertainment and storytelling is that they are interactive, which practically invites gamers to manipulate how the game works to create their own stories.
Perhaps one of my favourite examples is the, for want of a better term, webcomic Alice and Kev, created in The Sims 3.
For those few who don’t know, The Sims is a simulation series where gamers escape their ordinary lives by taking control of the ordinary lives of “sims”.
The series is meant to be a parody of consumerism.
But in 2009 games design student Robin Burkinshaw created the Alice and Kev series, where he told the heart-wrenching story of a homeless father and daughter.
Instead of building a house for the pair, Burkinshaw created a park where they were constantly exposed to the elements and had only benches to sleep on.
Instead of writing a script and driving the story himself, Burkinshaw set up Alice as being a socially good-natured but clumsy child lacking in confidence and Kev as basically the worst father ever to blight the world and let the game’s AI decide what happened.
What followed was a story of a young girl struggling to build a normal life for herself while under the care of an anti-social father hell-bent on making enemies out of everyone he meets.
What started as an experiment in trying to make a story emerge out of gameplay, turned into an at times heart-breaking look into the homelessness, family breakdown, grief hope and redemption.
By the end of the project, Burkinshaw had accidentally turned a quirky Sims 3 run into a rallying call to support charities fighting homelessness.
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