pong video game

Five lessons playing video games taught me about writing

The following is a guest post by DUSTIN HANSEN, author of Game On! Video Game History from Pong and Pac-Man to Mario, Minecraft, and More.

Ready for the two most obvious comments ever stated on Fiercereads.com?

  1. I’m a gamer 
  2. I’m a writer 

I mean, duh. Right? But what you might not realize is how closely related these two pastimes are. And my guess is that I’m not the only on in this gamer/writer camp. In fact, I’ll bet there is a pretty darned high coloration between writers and gamers, but that’s a topic for another blog.

Gamer/writers, can I get a WHUT-WUT?! 

But now that my book, Game On! Video Game History from Pong and Pac-Man to Mario, Minecraft, and More is almost ready to launch, I can’t help reflect over the last 14 years of my writing “career” (yeah, I’m a little slower than the average bear). It’s been a fun trip down old memory road, and while I was digging through my long battle with words, I realized that I’ve learned quite a few lessons on writing while not writing. In fact, some of the lessons that have helped me persevere this bazillion word path to publication came from, you guessed it, playing video games. So, I pulled together a small list of learnings, as well as the games that sparked the idea. 

Ready. 

Insert Coin. 

PRESS START TO PLAY

#5 - You can’t go it alone, or you’ll be zombie chow. There is no possible way that a writer can become their best self without the help of others. One of my all-time favorite games, is the cooperative zombie shooter, Left4Dead 2. This game pits 4 human players up against an army of slobbering brain junkies, and only asks one thing of the human team. STAY TOGETHER! If you can do that, the game isn’t all that hard, but the minute some yahoo with a chainsaw tries to be a hero the whole thing falls apart. 

Having a balanced and highly communicative team leads to success, in games – AND in writing. Critique partners, BETA readers, family members, Twitter groups, agents, editors, marketing and publicity partners, book designers….the list is listy and long, but yeah – I couldn’t do all that by myself, even with a chainsaw.

#4 - Hours of frustration can lead to glorious moments of joy. In 2009 a game snuck on to the scene that quickly became one of my favorites. Henry Hatsworth In The Puzzling Adventure, was almost like Tetris and Mario had a perfect game baby. I mean, who doesn’t want to play that? I was pretty proud of myself after beating the game in a day or two. Then I met one of the developers, a good friend of mine, Loel Phelps, who told me he beat the game without ever visiting the games in-game store. For those of you who didn’t play HH, let me just say this sounded like crazy talk. The store is where you buy the necessary armor, tools and gadgets you need to beat the game. It took me over 100 attempts to beat the game a second time. Don’t even ask how many hours that is. You don’t want to know. 

When I finally did beat the game with Loel’s new rules, I can’t tell you how much literal joy I felt. Well, I can tell you because it is the same joy I felt when I landed a fantastic agent (waves at Gemma Cooper), or when I finally singed my name on a publishing contract and met my fabulous editor (digital high-5 to my editor, Holly West). Sometimes it felt impossible, heck, sometimes writing STILL feels impossible, but nothing beats feeling like you’ve leveled up enough to enjoy a little bit of a win. 

#3 Things get harder as you progress. There are hundreds of games that prove this concept, but there is one game that really brought this home to me in a big way. Monster Hunter’s Ultimate. MHU is a FANTSTIC Nintendo 3DS game that pits knights and warriors in ridiculous armor and massive weapons against everything from ostrich sized beasties to giant dragons that would snack on a blue whale between meals. This game is a progression game; at first you just don’t have the experience or gear you need to battle something huge and fire-burping, but after you are battle tested, you learn the necessary skills to pound your way to the big monsters. 

But, the takeaway for me here was the Great Jaggi, a dinosaur like creature that is FAST, frilled, and ferocious. When I first encountered the Great Jaggi I almost walked away from the game. It just seemed beyond my skill set. I avoided going after this nasty critter for a while, working my way through the game by dueling other monsters, until one day I couldn’t put it off any longer. I had to beat the Great Jaggi to progress. I picked a fight, and do you know what? I clobbered it! It wasn’t even close. In those hours of practice, okay – weeks, I’d learned what I needed to do to make this impossible task seem simple. The writing parallels here are easy to find, but let me just say, being November and all, that NaNoWriMo was my Great Jaggi for years. The thought of a consistent 1500 words per day seemed beyond me. Now, I’m pretty sure I average a NaNo a month. It isn’t that the task is any harder, it’s just that when it comes to fast drafting, I’ve leveled up. Ya know?

#2 If nothing is trying to beat you down, you’re going the wrong way. I guess the first time I really noticed this was in the classic hit, Half Life 2. Let me sidebar a little here and say that every storyteller should give this game a go. It’s an AMAZING piece of fiction, and will change the way you think of narrative, but…that’s for another blog! Okay – obstacles. Right. Half Life 2 is an open world game, which means you can go just about anywhere you fancy. You can get lost for hours going down empty hallways, explore trashed corridors, take a digital nap in an abandoned office space if you’re up for it. But if you do that, you’ll never progress. The way the game inform you that you’re going in the right direction is by bread-crumping (yeah, it’s a verb) baddies in your path. If you look up and see a nice friendly fluorescent light above your head, you’re going nowhere. If you look up and there is a slimy alien with a mouth full of sharpies and a suction cup tongue that wants to remove your spinal column, you’re doing it right. 

And sheesh, if this isn’t writing in a toothy nutshell, I don’t know what is. Harsh, yet important critiques. Throwing away a decades’ worth of manuscripts. Thousands of dollars spent on conferences only to realize you are not even as clever as your MOM thinks you are. That 16-year-old genius that just got a 6-book deal that would clear the national debt. Yeah, those are obstacles, but facing them head on and learning how to manage them is the part of writing my creative writing teachers forgot to mention. 

And lastly – the big one. Numero Uno! 

#1 You have more than one life. There isn’t a game out there that doesn’t help with this lesson in one way or another, but Dark Souls kind of sticks in your face repeatedly. Upon entering a new area in the digital world of Dark Souls, you are reminded of the thousands of other REAL players that have gone before and lost. Ghostly reminders of their demise are left behind as a reminder of what went wrong. If you die, you leave a trail behind as well. But, you carry on. You start again, armed with the most important tool of all, experience. You can choose to try the exact same approach again, or change tactics and look at the conflict with a new perspective. 

The first failed novel I wrote was in 2002. It was the worst creative endeavor ever assembled. A crack in the hot floor of hell was created when I wrote ‘the end’ and started asking editors to read it without knowing anything about revisions, agents, crit partners, and the like. It took me another 8 attempts before I found an agent. And yet, I still thought I knew how to get published. Then out of the blue, I shifted my perspective and chased after a NON-FICTION BOOK! At first this seemed crazy pants to me, but I soon fell in love with writing Non-Fiction, and now lookee-here, coach. I’ve got a book with real pages and a cover and everything! In every way, Game On! is my second life. Not just the change to try non-fiction, there’s a whole deep dive into self-discovery, creative allowance, and personal awareness in there as well, but as I’ve said before, that’s a topic for another blog.

Learn more about Game On! Video Game History from Pong and Pac-Man to Mario, Minecraft, and More and Dustin Hansen on FierceReads.com!

Life lessons from classic video games

Tetris: It’d be easy if everyone was straight, but that’s not the case

Mario: It’s the working class that saves the kingdom, not the monarchy or the elite

Pacman: No matter how much you collect and how many times you fend off death, the ghosts will eventually get you

Pong: The only reason you’re in conflict with other people is because you two are too narrow and don’t move towards each other

Space Invaders: Life moves back and forth, but it’s also coming at you, the more you resist it, the faster it’ll come. Don’t forget you have a shield.

Programmed

Bored of
Board games
Plastic pieces
Dotted cubes
Glossy cards
Paper money
We plugged in
Mesmerized
By the
Televised
Unsophisticated
Blocks and dots
That we moved
With our minds
We memorized
The glowing
Patterns
A-mazed
At what we
Had become
Lab mice
By design
In the coded
Line by line

litglob © 2015

Something you can never get about the car community if you aren’t an enthusiast. It has nothing to do with the cars. The car community works because of passion. It revolves around it. It’s so rare now and days to find a group of good people that share more that just an “interest” in something. To you it looks like a form of transportation to us it looks different. It looks like long hours with good friends, it looks like misery and happiness smashed into a bucket of bolts dragging down the street. It’s such an amazing feeling to have something you love be appreciated by many or even a few! Driving our cars invokes such a feeling that cannot be described as anything less then an absolute euphoria. Take it as you may but don’t over look someone’s hard work because you prefer beer pong or video games. Appreciate and respect everything.

2015 World Video Game Hall of Fame Inductees Announced

The National Museum of Play has announced its inductees to the inaugural class of the Strong’s World Video Game Hall of Fame. The winners (seen above) span multiple decades, nations of origin and gaming platforms. Here’s what the museum had to say about each inductee:

Pong: By most measures of popular impact, Pong (1972) launched the video game industry. A simple game involving two paddles and a ball, Pong introduced millions to the joys of playing video games. Although it was not the first electronic game, and the Magnavox Odyssey home console already featured a similar tennis game,Pong was the first game to grab wide-scale public attention. Its success propelled Atari into a preeminent role in the video game industry. Decades after its launch, Pong’s iconic sound, intuitive controls, and satisfying game play still resonate, inviting people to try their hand at keeping the ball bouncing as long as possible.

Pac-Man: Pac-Man, which debuted in 1980, pushed video games forward as a mass cultural phenomenon. The simple maze game captured the imagination of millions of people and became the best-selling arcade video game ever. At the same time, Pac-Man himself  became the first iconic ambassador of the video game era—at once symbolizing video gaming and transcending it as he crossed over into mass culture. The game launched the first massive video game licensing craze, spurring the sale of home consoles, handheld devices, toys, clothing, and even housewares. Since its release, Pac-Man and its many variations and sequels have munched their way into countless arcades, homes, and new digital spaces.

Tetris: Tetris sprang from the Soviet Union in 1984 and spread to other Eastern European countries. In 1987, Tetris launched on PCs in North America and Europe. A rollicking Russian folk tune gave it an unforgettable soundtrack. And when the Japanese video game developer Nintendo packaged it with the debut of the Game Boy handheld system in 1989, it traveled to every corner of the globe, selling hundreds of millions of copies across a variety of platforms. It’s become such a cultural icon that the game has even been projected on the sides of buildings gracing the skylines of cities around the world.

Super Mario Bros. Created by legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto, Super Mario Bros. jumped onto the scene in 1985, quickly becoming one of the most recognizable games ever. Mario first appeared as Jumpman in the arcade game Donkey Kongbut gained icon status through Super Mario Bros. Mario’s infectious, upbeat personality helped reinvigorate the struggling video game market. Since his introduction, the character of Mario has appeared in more than 200 games and on every Nintendo console ever created. Mario himself not only became the face of Nintendo, but also the face of the video game industry as a whole.

DOOM: DOOM exploded onto the video game landscape in 1993 and helped shape the course of gaming history by introducing the idea of a game “engine” (separating the game’s basic functions from other aspects, such as artwork), encouraging multiplayer interaction, and popularizing the first-person shooter genre. DOOM was a commercial success, but its most important legacy is the impact that it has had on the form, function, feel, and perception of so many games that followed, such as Half-Lifeand Halo.  DOOM also became a highly visible symbol of the widespread debate over the role of games and violence in society that emerged in the 1990s.

World of Warcraft: By bringing tens of millions of people together in a compelling virtual universe, World of Warcraftcontinues to reshape the way people think about their online lives and communities. In this “massively multiplayer online role-playing game” (MMORPG), players create unique virtual avatars to represent themselves as they explore an open, constantly evolving world.  After its release by Blizzard Entertainment in 2004, World of Warcraft became the largest and best-selling MMORPG ever created. As of February 2015, the game boasted more than 10 million subscribers—only slightly reduced from its peak of 12 million in October 2010—with 100 million accounts created since the game’s release.

Other finalists to be inducted included Angry Birds, FIFA, The Legend of Zelda, Minecraft, The Oregon Trail, Pokémon, The Sims, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Space Invaders.