Monday, July 14, 2008

A Writer’s New Home? - God of War

Being a fan of mythology can have strange side effects. I find myself drawn to myths in many of their diverse forms, merely to see what the retelling would be like. This can lead to some strange and unexpected discoveries. For example I found myself picking up a copy of the Playstation 2 game, "God of War". This game is set in a mythological Greek world, where the gods rule, monsters roam and heroes thrive. The main character is a Spartan warrior named Kratos. He is feared by men and cursed by the gods. However, he becomes the only one powerful enough to face Aries, the god of war. Looks like Aries decided that Olympus wasn't good enough and that he wanted to take the whole world. With the other gods guiding Kratos, you control the ghost of Sparta through his quest to find a way to defeat Aries and replace him as the new God of War.

The story was solid, the game play was fun, fast and furious, and the graphics captured a dark, bloody and nightmare version of Greek mythology that was refreshing (even if it was a bit messy. Got gore all over the screen). I especially liked the amoral nature of Kratos. Talk about an anti-hero!

The game did well enough to generate a sequel, and I ended up with that game too. In this story, Kratos finds himself unhappy as the new God of War. Things go really bad when the Olympians deem Kratos too dangerous and sap him of his powers and attempt to kill him. Well, Kratos isn't going to stand for it, so he aligns himself with the Titans (the original gods before the Olympians deposed them). Kratos mission is to take the reigns of fate and change history - this time, the Olympians will fail and the Titans will rule, with Kratos at their side.

It struck me as I having Kratos do battle with classic Greek heroes (Theseus, Jason and Perseus - played by Harry Hamlin no less!) that this revamp of mythology was ingenious and entertaining. It was something that I had been toying with for a while. My approach was not as graphic or bloody as this, but it was more modern than the classic approaches and still delivered the same thrills and themes that makes those stories timeless. To see it done in a game was something of a revelation.

This made me wonder - is this a new avenue for writers to explore? Could a story or series of stories that might not work so well in a novel form or screenplay form be used as a game instead. Suddenly the possibilities seemed very intriguing. God of War showed me that something I thought wouldn't really work so well as a novel, could be very effective if brought into a video game. Of course the flip side to this is that, like the movie industry, the video game industry is very much concerned with profit. It's a business and as such it might not be so open to radical departures. In addition a writer would find their work changed by programmers and graphic artists. But this wouldn't be any different from seeing a movie script changed by a director, actors and special effects. And at the moment it seems that the game industry (at least from my uniformed perspective) seems a bit more open to new ideas and directions than Hollywood.

What do you think of writers for games? Have you had any experiences with that industry? Do you have any ideas that might work for a game? Have you played God of War and what did you think of it?

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