Before descending into the murky but wonderful waters of Rapture, I want to offer some thoughts on how we view video games’ stories. Just as it does little good (and perhaps much harm) to dive into the water without knowing the depth, so I should explain one of my central guiding philosophies about how to interact with literature. Have no fear. This won’t be long.
Wilson Knight, a fundamental literary scholar, writes about this difference between criticism and interpretation, something he cites as personal definitions. To paraphrase Knight, criticism judges the work while interpretation seeks to understand the work (The Wheel of Fire, 1-2). These definitions are just two ways in which readers might interact with stories, and for my purposes I agree with Knight. And while Knight favors interpretation (because who can really judge the genius that is Shakespeare, yet people do it), I suspect that there is no need to place value on any single method to interacting with video game stories.
I think my readers will agree (if you do or don’t please let me know) that the world currently is full of criticism. Judgments. Seeking value. Seeking fault and assigning blame. I do not wish to add to that body of work, but rather place the story at the center of our focus and seek to immerse ourselves into it for greater awareness. Like a bathysphere.
We are all bathyspheres of appreciation… or could be.