Fantasy is a genre that has been ingrained in culture and storytelling from the earliest days of human communications, spanning many mediums and primarily deals with forces of supernatural or magical nature. Fantasy works tend to be set in highly fictional worlds where strange creatures, magic and tales of adventure are common themes throughout .
This knockout, we are going head to head to see which medium you think offers the best experience of the fantasy genre: Books or Games.
In novels, the fantasy genre offers readers a unique reading experience, unlike other fictional genres that tend to stick to real world mechanics. Fantasy isn’t bound by modern convention and is not confined to the restraints of social norms or even such things as the laws of physics. It is for these reasons that I feel Fantasy is best suited to books.
Reading at it’s most basic level allows a person to create an entire world within their head.They create unique characters from basic textual descriptions, as well as complete landscapes and settings. When reading, no two people can completely envision a novel in the exact same way. Subtle differences in how people perceive different pockets of information then affect how they imagine appearance, body language, or actions panning out. The reader is in the directors seat, and the novel is the script. It is the reader’s unique and personal interpretation that offers the biggest lead that novels have over games. As it’s my belief that what you experience in a game, is really the product of somebody else’s interpretation.
It is because of interpretation that readers in general feel very attached to characters. Reading is a very personal experience which is why, again and again we see many book to film adaptations not going very well. When you imagine characters in a certain way, and a global franchise suddenly dictates that this is how this character should look, and act, fandoms can get very angsty in response. In saying that, there have been instances where the books actually compliment another medium. Game of Thrones for instance is an adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire, and although they do not rigidly stick to the book plot, the common consensus is that the books enhance the enjoyment of the series, with many fans of the TV show opting to dive into reading the books in order to find out what twists and turns may lie ahead.
Fantasy novels also offer readers a deeper level of interaction than any other medium. You can generally see right into the mind of the main characters, their thought processes, their feelings and how they interact naturally with other characters. Something that can come off as being a bit more contrived or rigid in games. Of course it is fantasy we are discussing, and fantasy novels are known for their use of magic. So of course any fictional world you build in your head as you read a novel should be without constraints, and limits, an environment that is ideal for such a genre.
So to sum up my thoughts, I believe books are the better medium for fantasy, as books are a doorway into a world without limits. Readers can connect on a much deeper level with the content, as well as developing a more personal and unique experience. Not to mention the fact that books have been a medium for fantasy far longer than games, and have clearly stood the test of time.
Both side of this argument have their merits, both mediums are very accomplished in the fantasy genre. Books tend to have more original fantasy, and this could be due to many reasons, games however tend to rely more on adaptations of other stories. That’s not to say gaming doesn’t have some very acclaimed original stories, two franchises that come to my mind are The Legend of Zelda and the Souls series.
The reason I feel games really perform in portraying fantasy is the visual feedback of seeing these grand scenes. Books rely on the imagination of the reader, while games can let you actually see the events. I admit I have some very fond memories of reading books and picturing certain events in my head, but just from the two franchises I mentioned I have tons of memories. I remember the first time I encountered Ganondorf in Ocarina of Time. It was a brilliant moment to see this confrontation play out.
I enjoyed the Inheritance books by Christopher Paolini, which for those who don’t know showed a world where certain people pair with and ride dragons. I still remember a lot of scenes from the books where I remember feeling excited about the events happening. However I remember more vividly then first time I walked out from a basement in the first world of Demon’s Souls and saw a large blue dragon fly over the path ahead, toasting it as it went. I remember the surprise, the awe and the worry of it.
That last point is important because it’s one of the biggest reasons I enjoy playing fantasy games over reading fantasy books. When reading a book you are witnessing a story, in the Inheritance books you follow the journey of a boy named Eragon but in games you take part in your own story. It’s true that games are predetermined as well, in Dark Souls for example everyone will play the same game, fight the same enemies and see the same areas for the most part at least.
The experience is different though, the order in which the events happen are different for different players. When I go to certain areas, if I skip certain ones, what equipment I use and how well I do. All this could be different when I play it and when I watch someone else play it. That amount of choice is what I love so much about games, and that series in particular. I’m not reading about the adventure of someone else, I’m having my own adventure and I don’t have to imagine it or create what it looks like. It’s right there in front of me, I can see it unfold.
When I read The Lord of the Rings and when my friend does we both read the same things, however with Dark Souls I can hear the story of when my friend got cursed and had to abandon his current area and venture down to a new area filled with ghosts where he can find an NPC who can get rid of the curse. That’s a scenario of events that never happened to me, a mini story I never experienced but he did.
The Legend of Zelda I mentioned because it provides a different, but similar, reason. The accomplishment of figuring things out. Many times in books the hero will be confused or facing a puzzle but by the nature of books the solution is revealed. Games however let you discover the solution – I still remember in the final dungeon of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker you had to defeat a phantom knight who dropped his sword when he died. There are four doors in the room and the dropped sword pointed handle first to the correct door. I remember the feeling when I figured that out, it may not be a difficult puzzle but the feeling of figuring out the puzzle and the interactivity of it was great to me.
These reasons, the mini stories within the main story are a big reason why I love games, and feel they can tell a great multi-route fantasy story which is something books just can’t. The feeling that you figured something out is a sense of reward I just don’t get with books. I’m not saying this as a concrete rule obviously, The Lord of the Rings works better as a book than I think it could as a game and I’m not saying books are crap, but just that there are just some game experiences that I think really excel beyond what I’ve experienced with books I’ve read.