‘We are the dead.’
‘We are the dead.’
‘You are the dead.’
It’s a bit shaming that I hadn’t read 1984 by George Orwell until now, but that’s okay. There are plenty of things I haven’t done yet that should shame me to the core, yet I still resist. I refuse to acknowledge William’s facial hair, for one. I also refuse to agree with Phillip on anything besides Formula 1 or the weather in Spain.
With that said, because of my inability to read one of the most crucial literary excursions in the history of English literature, I hadn’t recognized just what a driving force the story had proved to be for narratives during the past half a century. Reading the book felt like reading the Screenplay behind Half-Life 2. It was both eye-opening and a bit pedantic, since I felt like I had already seen the story through the playing of Valve’s greatest single player incarnation. Technically, having lived in America or the United Kingdom would strike one to realize just how much 1984 was being interpreted as an instruction manual as opposed to a work of fiction by the leaders of our respective governments.
However, there was more to it. Even beyond the homage to the book, in a Thought Police officer’s decree of “Pick up those pieces”, there was even more to be seen. I feel as if George Orwell did with 1984 what Valve did with Half-Life 2, which is, to secrete a hidden purpose behind the face value of their work.
1984 is merely a novel. A story told in such a manner as to interest people enough to purchase the book and read it thoroughly – however, its real purpose was to serve a warning to generations present and yet to come. The pages, bound together into one cohesive story, were really just a vessel for Orwell to convey an important idea – that governments left unchallenged are things of woe. Orwell’s ultimate idea of the book, and his warning to the future was of unchecked governing. As he wrote – “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.”
Video games can be the same way. At the surface, the Half-Life series delivers an interesting take on the first person shooting genre. But for those of us who have dug deeper, there is much more to be had.
At the face value of mods, there is nothing but the exercise of mod making itself. Developers hunched over Cheetos crumb laden keyboards hacking away into the night fatuously, simply creating for the sake of creating. My favorite experiences in mods were when some sense of meaning was being relayed through a minor telling of a story, or by simply invoking a sense of curiosity within the player. Minerva: Metastasis was a perfect example of this. Cheaply, easily, and efficiently told was a minor narrative for players to follow while they ground through the familiar Half-Life 2 scenery shown to them previously in the original game. But for whatever reason, it worked. I felt a sense of advancement.
One doesn’t need an immense team of voice actors and writers to convey a story – mods like Minerva prove that. All one needs is a previously developed formula, applied properly. One does not need to be a good writer to convey an interesting story. Half-Life 2, a game holding one of my favorite narratives in all of gamedom, took its entirety from the pages of history, from an already proven equation – almost word for word in some cases.
So if you don’t have the writing staff, if you don’t have the actors, or animators, stick with the proven formula of decades past – text. And if you’re still beyond your bounds, do what every creative person since the creation of time has done, and copy someone else’s work with some minor changes.
Valve got away with it. Why shouldn’t you?