I spent a lot of time in the world of video games during the Christmas holidays, most notably Dragon Age Inquisition and This War of Mine. I talked about games and their stories way back in Chapter 4 and I felt I could continue on the topic a bit.
For those of you who don’t know what This War of Mine is, it’s a war game – the kind of war game where you’re the civilian, not the soldier. Basically it’s a survival adventure game, focusing on a group of people trying to survive in a city during war time. There’s lack of everything and you need to get food/medicine/supplies/etc. by scavanging areas around you, hoping you don’t get gunned or knifed while doing it.
While the survival genre in games certainly hasn’t been quiet lately (zombie/post-apocalyptic survivals, I’m looking at you), This War of Mine brings a new perspective and emotional depth to war games. It’s quite depressing at times but that’s what makes it good in my opinion.
These changes of perspective are refreshing not in just games but in everything. It’s good to shift focus every once in a while, even though it might seem hard. The old cliche of everything not being just black and white is true on many occasion. Especially as a writer changing perspective can bring a lot to a novel. I don’t mean having 20 characters with their unique PoVs, more like sitting down and thinking if your idea could work better from another angle.
It always doesn’t and it’s not good to force out a new perspective if the story suffers from it. Still, you shouldn’t underestimate it, as it can offer a way to improve the story and separate it from the rest. For example, if there’s a pile of books where the princess is the hero, there can be a much bigger chance of your book getting picked up if the hero is the princess’ servant or cook or tutor. Maybe not the best example ever but I’m sure you get the point. Try something a little different.
With This War of Mine, the very core of the game is nothing unique. You just need to survive. The perspective, the civilians struggling in the middle of a war, gives it an edge that attracts players. It’s not for everyone and there’s nothing wrong with other types of survival games, it just makes it more visible and known among people when “Do you know a game where you try to survive as a civilian in a war?” tends to bring up only one title. And it can work great with books too.
The thing about stories, especially in books, is that everything is pretty much written already. The most basic elements of any story can be found in a hundred other books as well, so it’s up to the details, the perspective, the added layers, to make it stand out. These basic elements are the reason YouTube is filled with videos like “Why movie X is actually movie Y!” Sometimes the videos are just silly but sometimes you can see how alike the plot devices and character types are, even if you’ve never thought about the two movies being similar at all.
I’m sure that if you go through your bookcase, you can find many books that have similar elements in them. Maybe you need to peel off some layers and give it some thought, but they’re going to have something in common. Then you can look at all the things that made them different, and perhaps learn a thing or two.
Have you encountered books/movies/games/etc. that have somehow felt refreshing? A new angle, some twist to the usual?