1) Videogames sell more than books today. In your opinion, what videogames storytelling could give to books? And what to transmedia storytelling?
I think it’s actually the other way around and what books could give to videogames and it’s actually in the role of the author. In books, the author gets complete control over the story, over the characters, over the storyworld, but the writer in games is right down the other end of the spectrum: they get no control over everything.
So actually, looking at books and understanding the importance, it’s obvious the importance of an author for a book but it’s not as easy to see the importance of an author for a game. And it’s actually treating writers more like authors of books, for videogames as well, which I think will probably help. So it’s actually kind of the other way round – it’s treating games narrative with the seriousness and the respect that book narrative gets.
2) We observe always more frequently the birth of books integrated with the gaming experience. Do you think that is merely a marketing requirement or a need of the video game medium, unable to tell properly a story because of the way it is structured?
I think it’s interesting you talk about the birth of books and the birth of videogames because I worked on a radio documentary about the birth of the novel in England and how when the novel came out there was this old outcry that women were going to be reading novels all day and not getting any housework done and then there was all this fan fiction that came out around the earliest novels and people would write stories of what the characters did next, and they would put pictures on fans, and they would make up gravestones for characters that had died in the books and they would kind of get obsessional about them. And everyone thought that the novel would lead to the rack and ruin of society, which is kind of how videogames get treated. They get treated as a sort of «it’s going to lead to the moral decline of our youth» in the same way that they said that about video nasties, or rock music, or the waltz. So videogames, like novels, have been scapegoated, and we’re still trying to work our way through that, and still trying to tell the wider world that videogames are about more than just violence, and they can be very powerful storytelling vehicles. And I think actually videogames can have their own brand of transmedia, too. I worked on the Overlord games and certainly with Overlord 2, Overlord: Dark Legends (which is on the Wii), and Overlord Minions (which is on the DS), I was working on all of them at the same time and they took place in the same world as the first Overlord game but in different parts. They had a common lore that was the same and you could play in the Minions game you could play as the minions, and then you could play in Overlord 2 and play as a big overlord and then Overlord Wii and play as the son, and you could sort of play different parts of the story at different time periods, which I think was particularly interesting. So, kind of that – the way that games do it themselves – I think can probably help transmedia, and often games can be a great place to start a transmedia project from: build the game and then see if it can work in other media as well. For example I’ve always thought that there are games that could make a great TV series or a movie or something like that. But I think it’s important to have a strong core product at the centre and then build that out, and video games are so good at creating a storyworld – and you can create such a big storyworld in a videogame that I think they’re perfect fodder for transmedia.
Photo by Matteo Piselli, www.ibridodigitale.com