I suppose this post is a little bit of the "video killed the radio star" but I've definitely noticed something about the reactions to my latest works. The last two or three years of my life have been spent juggling game development and writing a novel. The video game universe and the novel are one in the same, and they briefly cross paths at one fateful moment. A single event is witnessed by two strangers who never meet but they shared that moment from different perspectives, one within the novel and the other within the game.
I am glad that the novel, Mind of the Mencist, and the game, Retribution, are now available. I can't tell you how excited I am to finally be at the tail end of a very long and ambitious project. What started out as a blank page has turned into a brooding and disturbing peak into a dystopian future. This future is described with intimate detail within the novel, and a brutally difficult shoot'em up experience is delivered by the game.
The stories of these characters overlap but my intent was to keep the intensity high within the game. In the game, the story was only secondary to the gameplay. The story within the game was meant to be the tiniest of carrots to give players a reason not to give up on the difficult gameplay. My plan seems to have worked, but I also discovered something else that I find a little disturbing; nobody reads anymore.
As proud as I am about the novel, I went into that task fully expecting it to sink into obscurity. I am just as guilty as most people, reading maybe a small handful of books each year and filling the gaps with short bursts of blogs, tweets, and articles that breeze by my RSS feeds. I am probably reading just as much as I always have, but now it's broken down into 140 characters at a time.
Unfortunately this change in lifestyle has spread to just about every corner of our lives. I am often reading video game reviews that complain about scrolls of text and how they had wished for voice acting, pleading for a surrogate pair of eyes to do the reading for them. There was a time when text adventures were a legitimate genre but is now a lost form of entertainment because we are all too busy or lazy to read a paragraph and make a decision. "Graphic Adventure" games are the closest thing we have, and even those are expected to bolster fully voiced narratives if they hope to impress.
Retribution is the complete opposite from a methodical depiction of the Ashlands universe. It is an all-out frantic shooter; kill or be killed, and every bit of text, audio, and video that has nothing to do with shooting aliens in the face can be skipped by the press of a button. As a result it seems, Retribution has received considerable praise. And while the novel sleeps quietly on the internet, a very healthy number of outlets are running stories on the game and applauding the visuals as well as the brief interludes of voiced narration.
Even comic books and their abbreviated lines of dialog are moving in the direction of fully voiced motion comics, and short stories are being filtered through text-to-speech processors. I feel like there are plenty more stories to tell in the universe of Ashlands, but I question if that same audience has the patience to consume written works as ravenously as they do their video games...