Wasting time vs quality time

Lately I’ve read quite a few books but I haven’t found time to review them, partly because I’ve been prioritising other things in my evenings and weekends. (Partly because I have been exhausted from working a lot of hours.) And reflecting on that has got me thinking about the choices I make.

I know that the ways that I spend most of my leisure time – watching TV, hanging out in pubs, doing crosswords, playing computer games, reading books – might be considered time-wasting, particularly the TV. But another way to look at is it that most of that time is spent with Tim and he’s my partner, my family, so surely that’s quality time. Yes, even watching TV together. Perhaps especially that – we laugh together, discuss plot points, get annoyed or scared or sad together.

This weekend we had intended to go to on a couple of day trips but I was tired, so instead we have mostly been playing games, or rather one specific game: Civilization VI. Civ has been part of our relationship since the start, in its various iterations. When I was a student we would lose days on end to playing it but it has been several years since we last did this. We are effectively telling a story together, making decisions that are both life-or-death and completely meaningless. It’s really a lot of fun.

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Narrative in computer games

I’ve written here before about appreciating the art in computer games and discovering narrative games. Since then I have played a number of small indie games that play with storytelling in very different ways. Here are a few that have stayed with me.

It’s now two years since Tim and I played Her Story and it remains a real high point. The interface looks like an old (early 1990s) computer console and it’s supposed to be the police database files from one particular case. All you have is a search bar where the results are video clips from a suspect’s interrogation. You’re given a hint of what to search for first, which also serves as a clue to the crime that has been committed. The video clips are actual videos, starring actress Viva Seifert. The story is really well told, even in short, out-of-order clips. It touches on fairy tales, family and some pretty dark stuff. I loved this so much I insisted on finding a way to watch every single video clip, long after we’d figured out the story.

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Sunday Salon: Narrative computer games

The Sunday SalonI wouldn’t call myself a gamer by any stretch, but I’ve always played the occasional computer game. I was quite young when we had our first home computer (possibly an Amiga? I don’t really remember) and it was pretty much just for playing games on (a PC followed a few years later with its multifunctionality). I was never an obsessive gamer, tending to give up if I failed a few times.

Computer games have been enough a part of my life that I have never considered them a bad thing or in any way at odds with my love of reading. But it’s only in recent years that I’ve started to interrogate their value as a narrative artform. They certainly are an artform, that’s without question for me, but are they a form of storytelling? And if so, are they a good format for stories?

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