Last week, I shared 4 reasons why I think all writers should play video games, specifically RPGs. This week, we’re breaking down 3 of the best games for writers.
Though the games I’ve featured mostly cater to writers of dystopia, fantasy, and action, RPGs can teach writers of any genre so much about characterization, world-building, and weaving description seamlessly into prose using lore elements.
But that’s all included in last week’s post. Without further ado, let’s get to the goods you came here for: the best games for writers, by genre!
[Spoiler alert! While I have done my best to avoid spoiling any of the following games, do proceed with caution.]
Disclaimer: the games listed below contain mature content and are rated for an audience of 16+.
Dystopia: Far Cry 5
Brief summary: An extremist religious cult, Eden’s Gate, has taken over Hope County, Montana, slaughtering and drugging innocent people. You, the Deputy, are faced with the task of joining the Resistance to defeat the cult and liberate the county.
Death and destruction are everywhere in Far Cry 5. Here are some of the main strengths of the game’s narrative:
- White American men form the majority of the terrorist group. Yes, your garden-variety, trigger-happy rednecks. How’s that for realistic?
- The story is set in Montana, in the not-so-distant future.
- Many of the game’s conflicts mirror the issues America is facing today, including religious extremism and the rise of false news in a post-truth era.
- The game’s developers said the “us vs. them” attitudes which emerged following the 2008 recession inspired the storyline, which really shines through in the gameplay.
- You cannot save everyone. Characters you love will die, and it will enrage you.
Peaceful moments interspersed with welcome comic relief make the game’s heavy-handed story missions a little lighter. At any time, the Deputy can shed the badge and head down to the lake for a fishing trip, or take to the woods in a four-wheeler.
Plus, one of the side missions involves finding what is clearly meant to be a recording of President Trump’s, erm, golden shower excursion. Yup.
Oh, and those who have the DLCs get to gallivant around Vietnam and incinerate baddies on frickin’ Mars. (I haven’t played the DLCs yet, though, so no firsthand experience on that one.)
What I love most about this game is that there is no happy ending. I won’t spoil it for you, but let’s just put it this way: the moral of the game is to help your neighbors and make their lives a little brighter.
You might still fail in the end, but you helped change a life, and that’s what’s important. Many of us face this same struggle in the very real world.
Fantasy: The Witcher 3
Brief summary: Geralt of Rivia, one of the most successful witchers (monster slayers) on the Continent, must find his adopted daughter, Ciri, who is being hounded by The Wild Hunt.
I know that summary was super vague, but this is one story I really don’t want to spoil. If you’re writing about monsters, magic, and mischief, you need to play The Witcher 3.
This game includes all the elements of any good fantasy story; a well-designed map, a vast cast of unique and memorable characters, and detailed lore elements like the Beastiary and the mini-game of Gwent make The Witcher 3 the fantasy writer’s ultimate videogame companion.
On your quest to find your beloved Ciri, you’ll encounter distractions — after all, folks are always in need of a witcher, and witchers gotta eat, too. You’ll slay hundreds of monsters to earn money, and you’ll also influence the outcome of the war between emperialist Nilfgaard and rebel Redania.
You can also enjoy some “me” time, drinking with your witcher buddies and challenging the townspeople to a good game of Gwent. You might even hit up the Passiflora for a little bit of lovin’.
The Witcher 3 is a rich world that, like real life, is full of choices and opportunities — and the choices you make will shape the story’s ending.
The Witcher 3 even includes a class system — you’ll encounter everyone from poor townsmen and women dressed in rags in the slums of Novigrad to noblemen and women donning exquisite outfits strolling the streets of colorful Beauclair.
One of the coolest things about The Witcher series? It started out as a book series, so author Andrejz Sapkowski did a lot of the hard work on paper before the story ever made it to the big screen. If that doesn’t make it one of the best games for writers, I don’t know what does!
Action: Tomb Raider (2013)
Brief summary: A young Lara Croft and a team of expeditioners venture to the mystic island of Yamatai to investigate the legend of Himiko, the ancient Sun Queen. After their ship wrecks and she is separated from the rest of the team, Lara is left to fend for herself on a dangerous island which seems to have a life of its own.
As a lifelong fan of the Tomb Raider series, I’m totally not biased here, I swear. That said, though, Tomb Raider is one of the few games which made my heart skip a beat during the action scenes.
When Lara almost falls to her death while climbing the mountain in the early scenes; when Lara scoots along narrow ledges a mile above the ground; when Lara wades silently through a river of blood and bones to get the jump on the Solarii — my grip on the controller tightened and I found myself sitting straight up in bed.
Tomb Raider famously combines action with fantasy elements like mythology and magic. The real value of the game, though, is in those heart-twisting moments when our tanktop-clad heroine narrowly escapes the clutches of death for, like, the millionth time.
(Seriously, how she hasn’t become yet another pile of bones in those caverns is beyond me.)
I know this game is an oldie, but it’s still a goodie, and all the newer Tomb Raider games (which I haven’t played yet) follow the same model, so you can expect impactful action scenes no matter which Tomb Raider game you play.
It’s impossible to cover all genres, and this post only scratches the surface of the best games for writers.
What would you add to this list?