OWL Magazine Korea

“Digital Games, a New Territory of Imagination” by Lee Jungyeop

As a senior in the second semester of university, about to graduate, it was a time when I was sending out resumes to various companies for job hunting. Remembering my past experience with games, I made a serious plan to apply to a “game company” and proceeded with it.

As I considered working for a game company, I naturally began to explore various books related to games. This book was also found during that process.

“The game exists between entertainment and art.”

In this book, the author unfolds the writing by comparing and analyzing the perspective of games with other artistic genres based on narratology. It starts by discussing how the narrative text of a novel is conveyed to readers theoretically and mentioning how the narrative style in movies is expressed.

In movies, it is difficult to distinguish narrators clearly as in first-person and third-person perspectives in novels because multiple perspectives are used. The author says that since various camera perspectives are shown, it is difficult to define it as one, and it conveys the narrative from an integrated perspective to the audience.

“Regarding the First Person Shooting Perspective…”

The section introducing the communication situation and perspective of the game in earnest is the “FPS” perspective. This perspective was first introduced in the game “Doom,” which was a huge success in the past. It is introduced as a perspective that is closest to virtual reality and is similar to the rarely applied “second-person perspective” in novels. It is said that this new second-person perspective, which goes beyond the first-person and third-person perspectives, has succeeded independently in games.

This FPS perspective has evolved gradually, achieving success, and the author names “Half-Life 2” as a successful game that has utilized this perspective well. It is a game that boasts graphics that can be confused with live-action, and the reason why the graphics are excellent is because Pixar, an animation production company, was in charge of the graphics part.

Not only that, but it also showed excellence in storytelling techniques, and it is cited as a case where the second-person storytelling technique is well implemented.

“From Third-Person Perspective to First-Person Perspective…”

Even in genres where most games were in the past third-person perspective, there is a recent trend of shifting to the first-person perspective. In baseball games, for example, in the past, games like the “Hardball” series controlled the entire team from an overall perspective. However, in games like “Real! Pro Baseball,” they reversed this perspective and applied a perspective that progresses the game from the viewpoint of one player.

Basketball games are similar. Departing from the overall perspective seen in the “NBA” series, games like “Freestyle” allow players to enjoy basketball games from the perspective of individual players, indicating that the importance of “perspective” in games is quite significant.

“The Development Direction of MMORPG Storytelling Through Guild Wars”

As we move into the middle of the book, the author argues about the direction in which MMORPG storytelling should go using the game “Guild Wars” as an example.

The author points out the problem with existing MMORPG games represented by Lineage as being too hardcore. It is because they adopt a growth-oriented storytelling structure, requiring players to play the game continuously 24 hours a day to accumulate experience points.

Guild Wars is said to address these problems seen in existing MMORPGs like Lineage. In Guild Wars, missions and quests are separated to allow for adventures tailored to the overall story. It supplements this by allowing players to progress from “Mission A” to “Story B” and then to “Mission C” after completing “Mission A.” This was an attempt to move away from the traditional MMORPG approach of treating quests as mere auxiliary devices.

“Story Construction Through More Coherent Stories”

Even in the area of constructing Guild Wars stories, literary elements that can be seen in Shakespeare’s literature are reused to structure the story. This provides an experience where interest can be felt in the story itself. Furthermore, the story contains many unexpected elements, so the author strives to provide enjoyment in following the story.

“Level Limitation to Avoid Meaningless Leveling Up”

In addition, a level limit was introduced to avoid meaningless leveling up. Instead of imposing a maximum level limit like “20,” strategic elements are emphasized, similar to StarCraft, even though it is an MMORPG. To maintain this system, continuous patches are being made to prevent weaknesses that may arise from balancing issues.

“Implementation of Global Unified Servers”

Unlike other MMORPGs, Guild Wars implemented global unified servers. To prevent disruption to game progress due to simultaneous access by numerous users, a unique system was established.

Specifically, players can only encounter other players in towns, and in battlefields or dungeons, they cannot encounter other players. This system is similar to creating a room on Battle.net for StarCraft and playing the game only with those who enter the room.

Support for up to 16 players is available, and 8:8 matches are possible. In this regard, it can be seen as similar to Westwood’s game “Nox.”

“The Continued Recreation of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms”

It would be difficult to find literature recreated as a game subject as much as the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Among the numerous games based on the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, it is impossible to overlook the Romance of the Three Kingdoms series by the Japanese game company Koei.

The author also introduces the change in perspective seen in Romance of the Three Kingdoms games produced by Koei. In the Romance of the Three Kingdoms series produced by Koei, until “1-6,” only the perspective of rulers was introduced. However, from “7-8,” attempts were made to introduce the perspective of generals.

In “9,” a system was established to conduct battles and internal affairs on one map, and in “11,” it was upgraded. (At the time this book was published, only Romance of the Three Kingdoms 10 was available, so additional content has been added based on the author’s experience.)

In “10,” elements of the original romance were added to the story. Furthermore, while “12” simplified internal affairs and overly simplified the game, the attempt to challenge online Romance of the Three Kingdoms through the service “Romance of the Three Kingdoms Online” was also interesting.

As of 2024, Koei’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms series has released up to “14,” and “13” is a game where players progress by selecting generals, called the “General’s Edition,” and “14” has returned to the “Ruler’s Edition,” where players progress by selecting rulers.

“Avatar-Type Characters and the Fate of Characters”

In the latter part of the book, the author discusses avatars under the subtitle “Avatar-Type Characters and the Fate of Characters.” (Here, the avatar is not related to the movie Avatar released in 2009 because the book was published in 2005.)

The book introduces the origin of avatars and delves into the story of “Bhata.”

“The origin of the term ‘avatar’ can be found in the Sanskrit word ‘avatara (avatara).’ Originally, avatar is a compound word of the Sanskrit words ‘Ava,’ meaning ‘to come down,’ and ‘Terr,’ meaning ‘land.’ ‘Avatara’ is a noun form of the verb ‘avatara,’ meaning ‘to come down ,’ and means ‘a being that descends to the earth’ or ‘an incarnation of a god that descends to the earth.’ The Sanskrit ‘avatara’ is pronounced ‘avatar’ in Hindi. Hindu mythology used the term avatar to refer to beings that came down to preserve. For example, gods like Vishnu were referred to as ‘the preservers of the world,’ and they used the term to refer to beings that came down to the earth, gaining corporeality. 

However, the modern meaning of the term ‘avatar’ can be found in Neal Stephenson’s science fiction novel ‘Snow Crash.’ While the original meaning of avatar contained mythological significance, in modern usage, it simply refers to a character that users recreate arbitrarily.

“The Direction Games Should Take in the Future”

In the final part of the book, the author also discusses the direction games should take in the future. Games, which were once exclusively for men, now need to introduce storytelling for women to attract female players.

There was a game called “Barbie Fashion Designer,” which was the best-selling game for women since the 1990s. However, it was difficult to find narrative elements in the game.

However, in the 2000s and 2010s, casual games like “Crazy Arcade” and “Kart Rider” also gained popularity among women, indicating that by incorporating elements that women like and simplifying games, it is possible to create games that can be enjoyed by both men and women.

To move forward with games that involve women, the following are needed, according to the author:

  • Remove violence.
  • Add elements that can gain social empathy.
  • Add cute character designs.

When considering the AI era and the metaverse era that will come in the 2020s, it can be said that the metaverse is naturally connected to “games.” Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard ultimately means that game content was needed to complete the “metaverse.”

In this respect, the approach that shifts from making games for “enthusiasts” in the past to making games that “everyone can enjoy” is also an important factor in growing the game industry.

“Digital Games, a New Territory of Imagination”