Sunday, March 23, 2008

Video Game Tales: The Sequel

One of my favorite examples of video games spawning a complex story is Mortal Kombat. Okay, I know what you’re probably thinking. “Isn’t that the one where two characters just beat the crap out of each other? A complex story? Yeah RIGHT.”
Actually, it is that game. But it’s so much more. Considering that it began as a curious desire to ‘digitize’ real people into Capcom’s Street Fighter II, it’s quite impressive. To be honest, I’m only half-heartedly a fan of the game. It can be fun, but it quickly becomes tiresome for me. The real treasure of Mortal Kombat is the storyline. Don’t worry…I’m not going to relate the whole thing it to you. But I will explain what I mean.

Mortal Kombat could be called an expanding story…one in which a creator discovers more of her or his own world as time goes on. [Not unlike C. S. Lewis writing Narnia.] At its root, it’s a tale about a place called Outworld and its ruler, Shao Khan, who wants control of Earth. To claim it, ten consecutive tournaments of Mortal Kombat must be won. The first game is about the Tenth Tournament, and naturally, hero Liu Kang saves the day for us. Each character has a backstory. These stories are also woven together. With each new game, new elements were brought in…but in a way refreshingly adherent to what had already been established. For example, it isn't until the second game that we discovered Outworld, learning that sorcerer Shang Tsung worked for Emperor Shao Khan. Later in the series we hear of the Elder Gods, who set up Mortal Kombat and the rules. Later still comes the answer as to why. And all the while we are introduced to new locations and characters, many related to others in various ways such as race, blood, etc. Each has a backstory riddled with fun details. The MK storyline includes: a banished Elder God, conspiracies against the throne, ancestral lines, spiritual and emotional themes, secret amulets, clan feuds, free-roaming sorcerers (unlike Shang Tsung) and an ancient Dragon King. All the makings of a fantasy adventure. Not bad for a game where it’s just two figures beating the crap out of each other. Think about it. They certainly did not have to put that much creative energy into it to make the games. But thank goodness they did. It's one hell of a tale. Oh. My favorite character is Raiden, God of Thunder and Lightning and Protector of the Realm of Earth.

If you want to know more, or to see just how intricate it can be, Wikipedia does a good job.

Thank you, Boon and Tobias. Bravo.

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