Video Games as Literature 101: MomoCon 2024 Panel

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Last month was MomoCon 2024 in Atlanta, GA, and for the first time I presented two panels in one day! This was exhausting, so I must apologize because it took me about a month to get videos of my panels uploaded. My first panel was Video Games as Literature 101, and the video for that panel can be viewed below. I received many thoughtful questions at this panel, and due to my fatigue I may not have given the most thorough answers in the moment, so I wanted to add some extended answers to the Q & A here in this blog post. I hope this helps!

Note: The links on each question will lead you to the specific part of the video where the question is asked.

A: Yes, and here is the post about Shadow of the Colossus that I referenced in my answer to this question during the panel: Shadow of the Colossus. And here is a link to some more information on the Hideo Kojima documentary I referenced: Hideo Kojima: Connecting Worlds.

A: Absolutely, though I would advise everyone to keep in mind that most western fantasy stories -- and even non-fantasy stories -- have some aspect of Arthurian influence in them as the Arthurian legends are considered the most influential literature of Great Britain (in fact, the entire Arthurian canon is often referred to as "The Matter of Britain.") This influence has spread to much of the world through Great Britain's colonization. I do see a lot of influence specifically from the British Isles in the Dragon Age series, however, and not only is King Arthur a strong influence, but Celtic mythology is specifically noticeable in Dragon Age. If you want to read more scholarly literature on the Dragon Age series, here is a link to a WorldCat search on the subject. The books I recommend to start learning about Arthurian Literature include The Once and Future King and The Crystal Cave

A: These games are historical fiction as they are fictionalized versions of real time periods, and occasionally real events. Call of Duty is a tricky game to discuss in terms of historical depictions, as the series has been called out for revising history in its depictions of war -- especially when it comes to depictions of The United States and their actions in certain conflicts. The Assassin's Creed series is known (especially in more recent games in the series) for its extreme accuracy in terms of historical and architectural depictions. The Assassin's Creed games, ultimately, are still fiction, especially as they usually feature made-up characters and mythological encounters. Sid Meier's Civilization games can also teach you a lot about history, but they tend to crunch a lot of historical events together in the timeline for gameplay value, so take anything you learn from those games with a grain of salt.

I also mentioned "archaeogaming" in the panel, and the archeological study of Assassin's Creed and Tomb Raider games, specifically. You can learn more about archaeogaming here

A: There are so many cultures in the world with so much diverse folklore that in my short life I haven't had a chance to study them all. I am so happy to hear people interested in folklore that isn't the usual English, French, or German fare that we usually read about in the west, though! In my panel I recommended the Persona series, and by extension the Shin Megami Tensei franchise, as those games incorporate folklore and myths from a large variety of sources. Wikipedia says that, "the series has incorporated elements of Gnosticism, various world mythologies and religions including Christianity and Buddhism, early science fiction, Jungian psychology and archetypes, occultism, punk, and cyberpunk." (Source) Welsh folklore, specifically, has trickled down over the centuries into the general folklore of Great Britain, and thus much British folklore is derived from Welsh folklore, especially Arthurian tales as previously mentioned.

I also tried to reference a recent indie game I had played, though in my exhaustion I couldn't remember the title. The game is called Unsighted, and the creators are from Brazil, though I don't know how much folklore is incorporated into the game.

Two indie games that I am excited to play are coming out soon and they both incorporate folklore from less represented regions. One of the games is called Scarlet Deer Inn and it is based on Slavic folklore. Another game coming out soon is called Near-Mage and it is not only based on Transylvanian folklore, but it is made by developers from Transylvania (the region, specifically -- they're not from elsewhere in Romania). 

Upon searching I also found a yet-to-be released game based on Vietnamese folklore called Divine Guardian | Vệ Thần, which I promptly added to my Steam wishlist. As I said in my panel, I expect that indie game developers will take the lead when it comes to introducing various folk tales to modern gamers, and I'm excited for this future of indie gaming!

A: Apparently I have some self-educating to do, as I seem to be lacking knowledge on a major story called "Journey to the West" that apparently everyone else knows about? I established during the panel that this story is the main influence for the Dragon Ball franchise, which I (surprisingly) watched very little of. Of course after I got home from MomoCon, I immediately did some research and realized a few things. First, I had heard of this story under the title, "The Monkey King," which is one of various translated titles. Second, there seem to be a limited number of English translations to choose from, and I will need to do some more research to find out which translation is most accurate and culturally sensitive. One of the panel's attendees mentioned the game "Enslaved: Odyssey to the West" which I have yet to play but will definitely get to soon.

A: In the panel I referenced the blog post I had written on H.P. Lovecraft: The Cthulhu Mythos in Sci-Fi and Fantasy Video Games. I can't really answer this question from my personal knowledge base, which I explained a bit in the panel, but this would definitely be an interesting topic for future research!

A: Of course I love these small pieces of literature found in many games, especially in the RPG genre. I have been working on a video about Skyrim's collection of books, which I may one day finish, and I have started, but not finished, several different blog posts on this topic. Ultimately these pieces of lore and literature found within games are part of what makes excellent storytelling in a game, though it is a known problem that many players just don't bother to read these parts of games. I would especially recommend spending time reading the lore in the Elder Scrolls series, the Fallout series, Horizon: Zero Dawn, and of course the Soulsborne games.