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On The Table Read, “the best creativity magazine in the UK“, discover how creative writers can find inspiration by using video games as story prompts.
In a past piece, we looked at how to start a story, considering factors like inciting incidents, protagonist motivations, background and history, and more. All of these are important building blocks for the successful launch of a story. With that said however, many creative writers have less trouble with the building blocks, and more trouble with less tangible concepts –– like getting into the flow of writing, or coming up with a concept to begin with.
Inspired By Finding Forrester
To address these challenges, we recommend turning to an interesting trick that actually comes from the film Finding Forrester. In this film, Sean Connery plays the role of William Forrester –– a legendary but hermit-like writer who takes on a protégé. At one point, Forrester helps said protégé to “find his own words” by starting him off with some of his (Forrester’s) own. The younger writer starts to type out a short story Forrester had written, until he reaches the point at which he’s in a rhythm. Then he sets the story aside and continues it on his own.
Now, to be extremely clear, we are not recommending this approach for any work that anybody intends to sell or publish; the point is not to pass someone else’s words or ideas off as your own. But this really can be an excellent way to learn how to build on a premise, or to practice the flow of writing. Purely as an exercise, it’s a valuable idea.
Inspiration From Games
Rather than simply passing along this idea from the film however, we want to look into a twist on it. Specifically, instead of suggesting stories to build off of, we’re going to suggest some games from which you might draw the same benefit. According to Statista, more than three billion people are estimated to be “active video gamers” as of 2022. So we suspect this idea may speak to a fair few of you!
With that said, here are some areas in gaming you might look to for story inspiration and the occasional writing jumpstart.
Indie Mobile Games
As the mobile gaming category has ballooned in the past decade, countless independent developers have tried their hands at producing games. Typically these developers have smaller budgets than larger gaming companies, and thus produce games that are, in many respects, simpler. The best of these indie gaming apps, however, still captivate players –– sometimes purely via enjoyable gameplay, but often via beautiful graphics and sounds that convey a sense of atmosphere.
A recent list at Viebly sought to identify some of the best mobile indie games available in 2022 and highlighted some excellent examples. Namely, the post identified The Room, a mysterious first-person escape puzzle; Monument Valley, a dreamy geometric puzzle-solver; and Alto’s Adventure, a mesmerizing ski arcade. And it just so happens that these three titles exemplify why one might turn to gaming for story inspiration. Each of them supplies you with a defined and brilliant setting, but virtually nothing in the way of narrative.
What is it you’re trying to escape from in The Room? How did the princess get trapped in the puzzle palace of Monument Valley? Who is Alto and why is he on his ski adventure? With settings and characters already in place, these become prompts that can easily launch you into the beginning of a practice story.
Online Slot Games
As expressed regarding indie games, the idea here is essentially to find video games that provide atmosphere or characters, but lack narrative. This gives you an opportunity to use existing elements as ready-made inspiration for an original story. And there may not be a category of gaming better suited to it than that of online slot arcades.
While there are thousands of games in this category –– and many are fairly basic “fruit slot” imitations –– the best of the modern video slots do as much to establish settings as top mobile indie games. Currently, the Megaways section at Gala Spins is doing a particularly good job of showcasing these newer and more sophisticated slots –– keeping titles like Big Top Bonanza (a circus-themed slot), Ali Baba’s Luck (a play on Arabian adventure tales), and Leprechaun’s Magic (a luck-themed fantasy) front and center.
These are bright and vibrant games that make you feel as if you’ve fallen into fictions –– though there are no actual stories to be found. Those can be yours to write!
The last category we’ll point to for potential story inspiration is that of fighting games. Popular since the times of mall arcades and early consoles, these have always been character-centric games. Look through a 2022 list of the top fighting game options published at The Loadout, and you’ll see that this hasn’t changed. Top options include the likes of Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate (featuring classic characters like Sub-Zero and Scorpion), Street Fighter V: Champion Edition (with the likes of Ryu and Ken), and Smash Bros. Ultimate (starring Super Mario and a host of other Nintendo creations).
In these games, players pick characters to fight one another, typically with a variety of different settings serving as backgrounds… and that’s about it! While there have been some fighting games that have sought to infuse “story modes,” there is typically a lack of narrative. With the wealth of characters and settings in play however, one could certainly be inspired to write about why these characters or at odds, or how a chosen hero is attempting to navigate an adventure in which the others play assorted roles.
There are of course countless ways to find inspiration for stories and practice your craft. Adopting the Finding Forrester method in connection to games, however, makes for a creative and fruitful option. Just remember –– it’s only for practice!
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