Hello again, everyone! Now, I am not the most obsessed person in the world when it comes to video games, for the simple reason that I’ve got too many hobbies to devote all of my time to any single one of them. I may leave my PS3 off for a week or two at a time, depending on what else I have to do. That being said, I do love video games and I enjoy the hell out of them when I can. Because of that, I’ve logged a lot of hours over the years and played through a good many titles, gaining some interesting insights on the subject, especially as it relates to other types of media.
In particular, I find that video games are usually a really good opportunity to experience some really good atmosphere. Now, it’s not to say that other types of entertainment can’t pull off a similar effect, but video games just have a leg up on the idea. Why? To tell the truth, it’s most likely got to do with the fact that you’re the one in control, leaving you with a more immersive experience, easier. TV and movies can immerse and enthrall you with the best of them, despite that, with clever dialogue and filming, along with exceptional music and sound effects. Books are the ones that have it the hardest, since all you don’t have that ‘the other person is the one in control’ element (unless you’re writing a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ novel) and you’ve also missing the ability to get your audience to listen to whatever music/sound effects you’ve picked out.
But, as I said before, video games have it all. If I wanted to talk about them all day in regards to atmosphere, I’d certainly have the opportunity: there are, after all, literally tons of great titles to discuss. Everything from Mass Effect, Dragon Age, the Elder Scrolls series, and Fallout would definitely make the cut when it comes to providing great atmosphere by using every tool to your advantage. After all, I doubt you can really tell me that you don’t feel like the Dragonborn him/herself when you’ve walking around, killing bad guys with ‘Sons of Skyrim’ playing in the background. Link provided, in case you’ve never heard that track. All that being said, none of those really win the prize for me when it comes to atmosphere. No, that one belongs to another…
Demon’s Souls is an action adventure RPG exclusively for the PS3 that nails atmosphere like it was Paris Hilton drunk at a soiree.
Now, in case you can’t tell from the picture two above, the game oozes atmosphere. It’s creepy and dark. Most of the time, you’re alone and outnumbered against vast numbers of possessed madmen/ creatures of legend/ demons. All that, and you’re just one lost little human, trapped in a cycle of death and despair… and it does all this with about 20 cutscenes total in the entire game (most of which are doors opening) which total maybe ten minutes, and very little actual character dialogue with the Non-Player Characters in the story. It’s these traits that earn it my respect and my pick.
Much like Wall-E, a movie that showed how good a movie can be without a huge cast of high shelf actors or elaborate dialogue, this game shows off some impressive lessons to potential authors. The value of ‘showing, not telling’ really sinks in when you’re wandering down a dark corridor, rats creeping around your legs and just off to your right, you hear a sharp clink from the wall. What was that? And then you slowly walk up to check, stepping into the sunlight and…
It hooks you, it drives you, it tears into you and then it lifts you higher than you might have believed when you finally beat it. It’s hard as hell to get used to it, but fun as nothing else is once you do. And no, I’m not sure whether I’m talking about Demon’s Souls or writing right now. All that being said, the lessons of Demon’s Souls on atmosphere are, ‘you don’t need great dialogue to have a great story: be subtle,’ ‘show, instead of telling,’ ‘provide a connection and let the audience make it,’ and ‘practice doesn’t make perfect: perfect practice makes perfect, so get to it.’
So, how about you? Ever run into a book, movie, tv show, or video game that just sucked you into its atmosphere? If so, please share it in the comments below!