When we write about the past we’re always writing about the present. That writing can take a personal tone, showing how a person got to the place that they are through the person that they’ve been. Ben Carson stabs a guy and runs for President of these United States. Jessa Crispin runs away from those same States and into a cavalcade of experiences across Europe. Everyone has to make it through time in order to get to where we are, and we shape the contours of that story in order to ground our current lives.
The writing can also take a cultural form. The stories take the same shape as the personal ones, but the stakes become higher and broader. This is the realm of Manifest Destiny and the triumph of American ingenuity. This is where we learn that we have to make America great again, like all we need to do is dive into the pool of the past to grab the pearls of a long-gone triumph.
I wrote a short piece about Far Cry Primal for Paste. Of late I’ve been interested in what kinds of stories games are telling and why (this isn’t something I’ve always cared about), and I think that’s because there’s such a wide range of popular and accessible games with such a wide range of types of storytelling. There was a point where you could say something about “game narrative” as a monolith, and even though an enthusiast could tell you that you were wrong, the broad strokes might not have been far off. At this point, I think it’s (at best) disingenuous to say “narrative game” or “game story” as a monolith, and that’s an excellent thing.
And so from Carson to Crispin, Firewatch to Far Cry, I’m interested in how framing stories about a “back then” influence the narratives about the now. It’s a necessary mechanism for every story, and the minutiae of how that shuffles out is my jam right now.