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The past two years, I have participated in (and failed – but enjoyed nonetheless) National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo. Since I’m also on Facebook for a huge amount of my downtime that I’d rather not disclose the specificity of (seriously, guys, social media is consuming me), I also follow the NaNoWriMo Facebook group. About a month ago, some user posted a link to this online, free course in storytelling, which started about a week ago (I know, I know – I’m late!). Tonight, someone re-shared the link and I eagerly jumped at the chance to partake. Free classes in creative writing, that I can enjoy from wherever I am? Yes, please!
I’m writing to discuss the awesome that this course delivers, but also to complete my first “assignment,” though not mandatory, and to share it with you all and the whole Internet, if they care to read through it. If this blog and their page on iversity.org is not enough to pull you in, feel free to check back in another week or two and I’ll review it more, and probably again in 8 weeks when the course ends. Let me tell you, though – I have high hopes for this project I’m undertaking, and if you like writing and/or storytelling enough to still be reading this post, I believe you’ll enjoy it too.
The assignment is as follows:
Please think about what story you’ve read, seen, played or experienced in your whole life that has impressed you most. Retell the story by giving a short summary of what you can remember of it. What was it that fascinated you the most about it? Its characters, its locations, its plot … ? Share both what this story was about, and what has made you value it.
The story I’m choosing is that of the 1999/2000 video game, The Longest Journey.
Let me begin with the context and circumstance of how I played the game. When I was very young, between kindergarten and third grades, I lived with my dad: the huge computer nerd of my family. He knew everything about them, pretty much. He also spent a great deal of time perusing the many wonderful features of computers, be it functionality, Internet networking (or anything, really), or video games and movies for entertainment. When I lived with him in Arlington, when you’re too young to really make friends and hang out with them often and you’re still learning things for yourself, video games have an amazing capacity to both learn and entertain. He started me off with several JumpStart classics and other related educational games … but I went through them pretty quickly, learning (elementary) math and Spanish and spelling, et cetera, with flying colors. Seeing the value and effect these games had on me, he introduced me to others: The Secret of Monkey Island, the King’s Quest series, and Sam and Max Hit the Road, to name a few. One such game was The Longest Journey, a point-and-click adventure game that is (on the surface) about a girl who is chosen to help keep separate the worlds of magic and science, or of disorder and order.
Now … for what I remember? The site instructs in one tiny place that this be around 400 words, so I’ll go pop this in Word and see what I can do. Let me say here that I highly recommend playing this game, and if the above description interested you in the slightest, I recommend you pick it up from Steam (an online video game store that I can’t recommend highly enough, but that could be an entirely separate blog post) or Good Old Games (another online store which specializes in making older games available to the public) and play it for yourself; but if not, feel free to continue reading. Clocking in at 307 words, all of which were not used to describe the important bits of the game, here you go:
The Longest Journey details the life of current college art student April Ryan, who has recently moved away from her home of her whole life to attend aforementioned college. While she is glad to have the new independence, she is finding herself burned out on life and dissatisfied time after time, despite the fact that she’s been able to make friends and get a job.
Cue Cortez: the mysteriously quiet older gentleman of Venice, the futuristic city where they live (and yes, they included canals), who visits old movies and lurks about but never really speaks to anyone. He suddenly approaches Ryan, mentioning her nightmares (which she’s told no one about, because they’re pretty uncanny) and that she’s meant to enter the other world (that of magic) to prevent the conjoining of the two. April, though of course resistant at first, is eventually excited although frightened to go.
Cue … some of the best game story I’ve ever seen, ever, period. The name of the magical world is Arcadia (the name of the science, Stark) and you enter in an old church with paintings on the wall that detail the history of the universe, basically, explaining how both worlds are hinged together. After listening to the story, you roam the village/town and meet its merchants and inhabitants, discovering their fleshed-out personalities and how they interact with each other. And I’m barely past 200 characters but because I don’t want to spoil the game too much: you enjoy several other locales, world-hopping a few more times, meeting several more complex people and discovering the secrets of the universe you’re playing in. If you’re reading this because you weren’t yet intrigued enough to play the game based on a one-line summary (okay, I don’t blame you), I beseech you to give it a look. You will not regret it.
And now: Why do I value it so highly? What stood out to me? It’s worth mentioning that after I finished playing those kiddie educational games, The Longest Journey was the first “adult” video game I beat. It had an amazing story, it had intriguing, deeply developed characters; it had captivating locations and a breathtaking art style (though perhaps antiquated now, it was top-notch in its day) and was basically the whole package wrapped in one with a great big bow on it.
There are some of you who may be thinking (don’t be ashamed, I’ve read other people say so) that TLJ is not all that I make it out to be and that I must be suffering from nostalgia while I praise it. But let me tell you, I’m seventeen now, eighteen in December and I’ve made my way around a video game or two and I am (eventually) hoping to make my own way into the game producing industry. I’m a writer, and I’m taking this class in storytelling; and if you are as involved as you must be to direct yourself to my blog to read my response to this creative task of the week, I can promise you that if for no other reason, The Longest Journey is worth a play through for the story.