How I Use Video Games as Writing Inspiration

I get my writing ideas from a lot of places: usually from experience first, but then there’s Pinterest, movies, books, and so much more.

But one place that may seem a bit unconventional is the video game.

Video games have been a huge part of my life since childhood, from the kiddie PC games I played when I was tiny, to classic Nintendo, to the epic RPGs that I’ve played recently. And, actually, they make awesome places for writing inspiration. Here’s why.

Sprawling Worlds

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Some of my all-time favorite video games have amazing, sprawling worlds that are just begging you to explore them. Open-world video games like Super Mario 64, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Xenoblade Chronicles X are so much fun for me because their main emphasis is exploring the large worlds they’re set in, spending time with them and getting to know them. It’s like “The Lion King”: everything the light touches (or everything you can see from a distance) is yours.

I’ll admit that as a writer, settings are my weakness. I’ve always tended to focus on characters and plot more because – let’s face it – they’re important to keeping readers invested in the story, and they’re in the figurative foreground, while the setting winds up being the literal and figurative background. But one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever read is that you should treat your setting like a character. Get to know it well. Your characters will be in these settings a lot, so the better you know them, the easier it will be to transport your readers to the worlds of your making.

World-Building and Exposition

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Along those same lines, world-building and exposition are just as important, but they need to be handled with great care.

Exposition is an important tool for world-building; however, it’s important to handle exposition correctly.

As much as I love Xenoblade Chronicles X, one weakness it has is that the action is sometimes broken by cutscenes as long as twenty minutes dedicated to exposition: mainly, the characters literally standing in a circle talking about what’s about to happen next. That gets old, and if I can skip those cutscenes, I will. Or I’ll be snacking on Nitro Taki’s through them, at least.

“Show, don’t tell” is a great way to build your world. Also, don’t be afraid to use characters and their actions and dialogue to explain what’s going on. Just make sure you keep things going and keep the action moving steadily to keep your readers engaged still.

Plucky Protagonists You’ll Love Sticking With to the End

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I love, love, love Luigi’s Mansion. Luigi from the Super Mario Bros. series was always my favorite character growing up – and still is – because no one paid that much attention to him; he was original in comparison to the very nice, but frankly “vanilla” characters of Mario, Princess Peach, etc.

Eventually, he got his own series of games where he embarked on “Ghostbusters”-esque adventures of his own, and I was hooked. I loved that he wasn’t a perfect character; his defining character trait at that point was that he was easily spooked by pretty much any creepy-crawly or ghost that dared to say “hi.” But I think that’s why he was so relatable, and why I wanted to root for him so badly. He wasn’t cowardly; he faced ghosts in spite of his fears. In fact, one defining character trait in the game is that he whistles the game’s theme song as he cleans out the mansion riddled with ghosts.

Write characters like that, guys. Give them defining traits, but don’t be afraid to give them original quirks that make them stand out and memorable to the reader. And, most of all, make them relatable and easy to root for.

Concise Plots that Make Sense

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Consider the plot of Super Mario Bros.: A princess is captured. A plucky plumber must save her from a turtle monster and his many, many minions. After countless (failed) attempts, he finally saves her in the end. And they all live happily ever after.

Yes, that plot is insanely simple, but it works. The trope of the daring prince saving his princess from the dragon may be an old one, but there’s a reason why it’s repeated here. And there’s a reason why that trope is repeated over and over in not just that series of video games, but also literature and movies. It works. It’s a story that can be played with and altered, while still having that same root of good-versus-evil.

It’s okay for your plot to be simple at it’s core: if your character just has a conflict or two to get through or a goal to achieve, and that’s it, that’s okay. That can be the backbone of an amazing story. In short, if you keep the backbone of your story simple, then add flourishes, it will be a much easier story to write and a much more gripping story to read.

Want to pin to Pinterest for later? Go for it! 🙂

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I hope you guys liked this post! This was a really, really fun one for me to write. 🙂 Have you ever used video games for inspiration before? Let’s talk in the comments!

(Also, all video game art is copyright to their respective owners)

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