Storytellers and Videogame Zinesters

Almost-review by Ashleigh Kelman

Everyone Anna Anthropy

everyone, a print by anna anthropy

It’s nothing terribly groundbreaking when I say technology’s rapid development has changed how we approach and engage with stories. Weighty tomes of paper and ink haven’t been outright replaced by backlit slates, but it’s an increasingly popular option that is only getting easier to access and use. So it’s only natural that storytelling – which is as adaptive as imagination itself – is embracing new ways to express creativity through technology, one of those ways being through games.

Anna Anthropy’s Rise of the Videogame Zinesters (Seven Stories Press) is a part-autobiography, part-handbook look into the phenomenon of games that explore and experiment with stories. With interactivity the unique aspect of the form, games have the ability to reach people in new ways, and being able to create such games has never been easier. As Anthropy’s passionate encouragement fills each chapter of the book, she guides you through the brief history of games, what they are, and how creators have used them to share unconventional pieces of themselves. Because the goal here is that you can make games, just as much as you can write a novel or create an artwork.

It makes sense for creators to be close to their work and to own their work completely […] When an individual or pair is solely responsible for a work you can watch an individual style develop: you can trace themes, both mechanical and otherwise, across a creator’s work. […] It makes us better, more literate critics of games to be able to see and discuss the progress of [a single person] as a designer. And it makes games more richly personal if we can play them in the context of the ongoing work and growth of a knowable author.

The first jump into the gaming form is, of course, scary – even for people who are avid fans of Choose Your Own Adventure stories like 80 Days. But it’s important to demystify the form; just like how Hollywood isn’t entirely gritty action movies or superhero stories, games aren’t all gritty action shooters or the Super Mario Bros. series. There are large communities of “weird games” developers and enthusiasts; people making simple zine-like games and experimenting with ideas until something brilliant comes together. Perhaps just as importantly, there are a variety of tools made entirely for accessible game creation. Rise of the Videogame Zinesters is all at once a peek into what authors are creating as well as a coach for the reader to jump into a first tool, a first idea, a first piece of art.

Of course, while Rise of the Videogame Zinesters is one of the most accessible resources for even vaguely interested creators (as the full title says: for anyone from freaks and normals to housewives and dreamers), the book by itself isn’t likely to spur you into dumping your epic fantasy novel for point-and-click adventure stories. It’s more a resource for the interested but uninitiated, with enough information to start you on your journey of zine-like game discovery and get your creative gears turning. As Anthropy says, “Making games more pervasive—not just games, but game CREATION—will help us to better appreciate games and think about the craft and design of them.” And for writers willing to plunge into the weird end of a new form, there’s nothing better than the bizarre world crafted by videogame zinesters.

Written by SCWC

Posted on July 27, 2016