Video games. They’re not for every geek. I understand a little too well the sensation of flailing at the controller, madly pressing buttons as your more experienced friends sit by and shake their heads.
But video games aren’t just endless dungeons with the occasional embarrassing boss fight. Some offer something a little more suited to the type of fan who is more interested in character development and backstory than collecting power-ups.
A genre of video games does exist for such a need: the visual novel. These games combine the goal of immersing the player in a compelling and thoughtful story with the extended capabilities of a game console. There is minimal gameplay, but lots of story for what is called “interactive fiction.” The nature of playing on a console allows for elements like multiple storylines and alternate endings that are determined by the choices the player makes as they delve into the story. As the player talks and interacts with other characters, explores their surroundings, and makes choices of their own, the player can determine the course of the story-and become an integral part of it as well.
One such game, introduced to me by a friend of mine, is 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors. In this game, the player wakes up in a replica of the Titanic where they must explore their environment to solve a puzzle and escape the flooding lower decks. Upon doing so, they find that eight other people shared a similar experience. As these nine characters question each other, they are interrupted by the mysterious “Zero” who informs them that they are participants in the Nonary Game, where they must make their way out of the ship by completing a series of puzzles to open nine doors. After some colorful discussion, it is decided that they will attempt to escape the ship together. As the player makes their way through the story, they learn more about the motives and history of the other characters, and try to piece together how the Nonary game came to be – and what exactly these nine chosen people have in common.
Even being the picky reader that I am, I was very impressed with how every plot line came together (and I mean EVERY plot line). There were so many brilliant twists at the end, “aha!” moments where everything came together, with enough dramatic scenes and such a suspenseful climax that I stayed up playing into the morning. All in a manner a little too reminiscent of my late night reads.
So, if you want a little different reading experience, want to explore new methods of storytelling, or just think the idea sounds cool, I can wholeheartedly recommend 999 (available for purchase on Amazon) for your geeky needs. But be careful! The feels are coming, and you might become more obsessed than you bargained for…
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The Hunger Games