Video Game Lore

I'm pretty sure I got this image off Nintendo's site but I can't remember, sorry,

I’m pretty sure I got this image off Nintendo’s site but I can’t remember, sorry.

Today I want to talk a bit about game lore. Personally, I love game lore. I will spend hours reading about it online (wiki holes can be dangerous), watching videos about it on YouTube, and read novels about games I love. For me It increases the believability of the world I’m playing in and helps to expand the universe in which the game is placed. Lore for games has been around since almost the beginning of video games themselves. Zork had a small book worth of reading that as a player you wanted to read to introduce to the world. Today games have just as much or even more lore surrounding them or contained inside. Skyrim has literal libraries of books that expand upon Tamriel and the people, places, and events that have shaped the games long history and that’s only the most recent game, all the Elder Scrolls games have books upon books. Games like The Legend of Zelda had mysterious lands and ruins from civilizations from the past that we’re never really explained that I always wanted to learn more about. Although, this leads to a lot of guesses to these places as the series continued I can now assume the ruins are locations in newer Zelda games that took place in the past. This may not be intentional but it seems to have become all connected.

Lore for some games ties them to the source material which they came from. Games like the Batman Arkham series use the Batman lore from the comics either directly or make reference to it, even with characters who don’t appear in the games. This gives these games a sense of completeness. The Transformers: Fall of Cybertron also delved deep into the past of the TV show to pull in concepts originated on the show brought to the game. As you get to play through the past you play through the stories that was only explained on the show. Many game novels have expanded the universe of some games by going in the opposite direction. They have taken world shaped by some games and expanded them within the novels. The novel “The Infernal City” is an Elder Scrolls novel taking place between Oblivion (The Elder Scrolls 4) and Skyrim (The Elder Scrolls 5) filling in the 100 year gap between games. The Halo series also has many books expanding the games lore, keeping people interested in the stories and growing the universe of the game. The Bioshock novel “Bioshock Rapture” tells the tale of the founding of Rapture and helps to bind together the first and second game.

Another reason I love gaming lore is because of its connection to the story I’m playing through within the game. As you finish a game the events in that game become the lore to the world. This may even be evident in later games. Some games are connected directly, playing Dane character into the next game, for example Mass Effect (which has its own expansive and fascinating lore) where you play through all 3 games as the same character. While games like Fable you play a hero in the second game and your own child in the third, expanding upon the lore for a possible later game. The previously mentioned Zelda series follow different Links throughout different points in Hyrule history building upon the lore of itself every time Nintendo releases a new game and the stories you play become the history of later games.

Sometimes lore can be a bit heavy or even a deterrent to playing a game. Ask any die hard Elder Scrolls fan for a quick review of the game’s history (especially if it’s your first game in the series) be prepared for a long explanation of the extensive history. I’ve been guilty of this sometimes. For newer player to a series with an extensive history digging through the lore may seem like a near impossible entrance fee to a games, especially if lore doesn’t hold much interest to them. I hunted every audio diary I could find in my time in Rapture, exploring every corner of the dark beautiful world to get any new scrape of the city’s history, while friends just ran right by them to get to the next level and to move the game along. I’m guilty of not reading every book I find in Skyrim but others have never even looked through them unless the are given a reward for it, such as a spell book. Games, in my option, work best when the lore doesn’t get in the way of enjoying a game but is readily available if player want it and dig into it, like me.
One of my favorite aspects of game lore is sharing it with others. I’ve spend hours or even days talking with friends about a game’s lore and getting their ideas and opinions about it. Jinx and I will have long winding conversations about the history of Elder Scrolls and how the history explains why Nords hate Dunmar or something like that. This not only increases my love of the game but my love of the history that surrounds the game. Bright Matrix just sent me back my Bioshock books and I’m excited to talk in length about his feelings about the story and how it connect to the game, even though he has never played it, I can fill in emptying spaces or explain why thing happened because they did. It’s one of my favorite aspects of gaming culture is this concept of shared game history, not all that different to the D&D we have been talking about forever. Do I guess lore can build bridges in game and outside of them as we’ll. So where do you stand on lore, love it, hate, play through with little attention to it? Let me know, as I said I love the conversation it starts.

About Ness

As a chaotic good nerd I try to be as well rounded as possible, from video games, comics, tabletop RPGs, anime, and cartoons I try to fit it all in. Although I enjoy all of it, video games have always dominated the majority of my time and attention. My plan for here is not to write previews or reviews but to talk about how I relate to the games I play. Hopefully we can all play along.

  • brightmatrix

    Gaming lore is an amazingly rich layer of depth and detail in many beloved video games indeed. I’ve spent countless hours looking through rooms and rooms of Final Fantasy games seeking hidden snippets of game knowledge, but the finest example I’ve played was the Metroid Prime series. Just as you said, it’s easy enough to steamroll through the game and scan only the 10% or so screens you need to advance, but I relished reading every last detail the “optional” screens offered up. To me, it truly does add to the world-building aspect and the overall enjoyment of the game. Thanks for sharing your love of lore!