Thirty years ago, video games captured the imagination and the attention of a society. They served as a touchstone for both promise and anxiety about our identity, both individual and as a whole. They forced us to ask hard questions about youth culture, about attitudes regarding leisure and work. They challenged educators to rethink their means of engaging young people in learning. They provided new tools for the forward-thinking and they were an obvious target of those looking to score easy political points, too. Video games have been shape-shifters, and they will continue to be, changing in meaning and importance based on their beholder, their utility, their dollar value. But the essence of video games, with their reliance on novelty in both the cultural representations that make up their content and in the technological power they need to run, places them irrevocably at the fore of the new, and of the future.
What makes a narrative vast, according to the contributors to the recent MIT volume Third Person? Based on the varied content, spread across multiple media, covered by the book, vast narratives receive their designation not only due to the interior nature of the narrative, which may span unusual lengths when measured in years, amount of content produced, number of media in which the world is present, among other features (Harrigan and Wardrip-Fruin 2). Yet the volume is also vast, as in catholic, given its broad interpretation of what constitutes a narrative: consider outsider artist/author Henry Darger's inclusion alongside other constructed worlds and universes of comic books (Ford and Jenkins), traditional paper and pen gaming (Laws), video games, television programs whose mythologies extend beyond the reach of traditional broadcast and into transmedia, such as in the case of Lost (Lavery). (In the interest of full disclosure: Lost is of particular interest to me at present, as I only discovered it last semester, watching five seasons on Netflix while I read about the show elsewhere.)