The Future of Storytelling: A Free, Online Course on iversity.org (Also: Week One Creative Task.)

Note: If you’re here redirected from the Answers on the iversity website, please click here to jump past the blog and get to the answer! Thank you for visiting!

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.

Women in Games: a rant.

I don’t really understand what the fuss is all about.

Today I read a refreshingly straightforward blog post about what women want in female protagonists. I highly recommend reading it for yourself, but what it boils down to is we want to be portrayed as humans with personalities like any male protagonist is. It really doesn’t seem like it should be a problem, but the comments … oh, the comments.

I eventually navigated to this post through a link that Deputy Editor of the New Staesman Helen Lewis retweeted about what women who are serving or have served in the armed forces think of modern FPS games. (Clicking on THAT link, I warn you, may lead to a tangential path of vaguely related but equally interesting blogs and articles.) Helen Lewis is pretty much a fantastic person all around, but to cover the basics: she’s a smart lady who plays video games and can write and is fortunate to have acquired a tough skin to deal with people who want to push her out of the video game world.

I mention her not just because she led me (somewhat … okay, entirely indirectly) to write this blog today but also because, through her writings, has a law of the internet in her name.

Lewis’ Law: The comments on any article about feminism justify feminism.

I think a large part of the reason that Anita Sarkeesian gets so much hate is because she’s not so great at articulating the things she means to say and she repeats a lot of phrases that come off as antagonistic to members of the boys’ club of which she speaks – she’s by no means wrong, and their comments serve as evidence to her cause, but I believe that her vocabulary rubs her audience wrong, including supporters of her cause.

But as a woman, and as a gamer, (and as an avid player and lover of The Longest Journey series, which everyone should play, featuring one of the richest plots and not one but SEVERAL strong female protagonists), I truly don’t believe that this movement is trying to change something that would negatively affect anyone. The first story I direct y’all to today iterates this point: There’s nothing wrong with sexy. There’s something wrong with immersion-breaking eroticism for the purpose of arousing guys in the hope of attracting more guys to buy the game.

In AP Microeconomics, we recently covered the Production Possibilities Curve model. Stick with me here for a minute. The PPC is a graphical representation of two resources any given business/economy/individual/constructive-in-some-way group can make, what’s efficient and inefficient, and what cannot be done. It shows how many products of X you can make when making none of Y, vice-versa, and every possibility in between. The only way to increase productivity from an efficient point on this graph is an increase in technology or the acquiring of more resources to use.

Female gamers do not want to decrease the quality of games. They don’t want to bring misery to the traditional male gamer. They want better technology and better resources – they want the quality of games to improve. A lot of people on both sides of the debate are throwing punches because they feel like they ought to, but what we’re really fighting for should only positively affect everyone involved. Almost any teenager-father pair who plays World of Warcraft can tell you that dads love playing chicks. While it doesn’t really apply to WoW, because WoW handles gender neutrality/irrelevance very well, that signifies that men could only benefit from more quality female prevalence in games.

And while that’s my strongest point and my English teacher last year would tell me to stop here, I’m going to go back for one more minute. Last Saturday, Helen Lewis wrote this for The Guardian (a prestigious place if there ever was one) defending Grand Theft Auto V for its quality and still stating that she wished it served women better. Even so, commenters continued to attack her for judging only on the women’s side of things what was obviously a “man’s game,” telling her she should have played the game for the game’s value rather than with a feminist eye … and completely ignoring all of the good things she said about it in the article. This is why this issue is an issue. One side doesn’t listen to the other and starts slinging mud, and then we’re all in a huge fight because we’re not even paying attention to the issue we’re fighting about.

Talking About It Without Using “It”

I don’t usually post twice in one day, but this is a really great listen if you’ve got 8 minutes. Extra Credits is a wonderful show because they tackle topics that other people can’t do right, and always find a way to weasel in reason and compromise for every side of the story. Also addresses all sorts of other issues in video game culture that are not directly mentioned (also this episode is older than some bigger outbreaks of hatred) but is rather implicitly talked about.