When I was little, I had an Atari 2600 and a small stack of games. Games were as pricey then as they are now, and my parents, while certainly not stingy, thought getting two or three games a year should be more than sufficient to keep me busy. Learning new ways to play, such as left-handed or upside down, extended each game’s life a bit, but in order to stretch my relatively meager gaming resources to their absolute limit, I had to get really creative – by inventing new stories for each and every game.

Pitfall Harry wasn’t braving the dangers of the jungle to search for treasure, he was racing against time to rescue his kidnapped daughter, who was being held for ransom by the evil Baron Blackgarden. As a rookie cop on the beat, I was looking to make a name for myself by capturing the trio of art thieves that had been plaguing the city for months in Maze Craze. I sometimes even acted out dialog for characters, which must’ve looked particularly silly when I was taking turns controlling tanks in Combat. (Terribly sad tale, that one – soldiers forced to fight to the death for the entertainment of an alien race.)

Today’s videogames tell far more complete stories than those of my youth, giving voices, faces, and personalities to the characters we embody. And yet they still leave enough of the canvas bare to allow us to add our own artistic touches, should we want to. Whether we craft new scenes to continue the tale after the game’s end credits roll, or simply use gaming in general as a springboard to create an entirely new narrative, games inspire us to tell stories.

In this week’s issue, we take a small departure from our usual analysis of the world of videogames to share a few such stories with you. Within these tales, you’ll eavesdrop on the thoughts of Tokyo train-riders, visit not one, but two virtual worlds, feel a faded rock star’s pain, and stare down the Locust with Gears of War‘s Dom and Marcus. We invite you to take your own small break from gaming to indulge in a bit of storytime with us.

Share and enjoy,
Susan Arendt

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