The Modern Way of Storytelling
One of my fondest childhood memories was watching my father ride his horses. Every Saturday morning, I would nestle down onto the couch to watch him race across the desert. He weaved through the cacti, narrowly avoiding the waves of bullets being shot at him. I would watch him anxiously until my mother realized I was downstairs.
“Ashley, you know this game isn’t for kids. Let’s go upstairs,” she would say.
I’d protest, but eventually resign to my fate. No more Red Dead Redemption today. I’m sure those Saturdays were just another weekend for my father, but I think my love for video games truly began 12 years ago in that living room.
I’d finally get my hands on a controller some odd years later, and I found myself met with an unfortunate truth. I wasn’t good. I had to play every game on “Easy” just to have a fighting chance. When I played by myself, it didn’t matter. But when I played with others, that’s where the trouble began.
“Oh my God, what are you doing?!” my brother would scream, as I walked directly into yet another poorly disguised ambush. And then I would die, leaving him alone to carry us to victory. Safe to say, Call of Duty was not my thing. No matter how much I practiced, I was never quick enough, never clever enough, never good enough.
“It’s embarrassing to play with you,” he grumbled, after yet another loss. “This is why girls shouldn’t play video games.”
So, I stopped playing. It seemed I was better suited for the sidelines, to observe rather than participate. I would stay up late with him, watching him and his friends play their games. It was fun too, I suppose. It was better than being a living, breathing stereotype. I found other hobbies to engulf myself in, and I parted ways with video games.
Well, at least I did for a while. Scrolling through YouTube one lazy summer afternoon, I stumbled across a video of a man playing a game called Persona 5. The premise was interesting enough, so I clicked play. The following hours went by in a blur. It had been years since a story and its characters gripped me with such ferocity. When the playlist reached its end, it was like I was snapped out of a trance. There was nothing else to watch. I had to wait. And wait I did. I practically lived my life from upload to upload, itching for the notification that the next piece of the story was ready for my consumption. And then, nearly three quarters of the way through the game, the uploads stopped.
I was devastated, I would never know how their story ended. Months of investment, all for nothing. I tried to find other games to watch, but nothing held my interest like Persona did. I was in entertainment purgatory, never able to watch what I wanted and never able to find something better. Then, it dawned on me. There was nothing stopping me from playing the game myself.
Forty dollars and 100 hours later, I managed to completely change my stance on video games. No matter how bad I was at them, there was still entertainment to be wrought from a well-written story. There was a certain immersion only video games were able to provide. And if there’s one thing I know about myself, it’s that I love escapism.
It’s been several years since I’ve finished Persona, and so far, only one game has rivaled the grip that game had on me: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The summer of 2021 was a difficult time for me, and I found myself itching for a new story, a new world, to get lost in. It was pure happenstance that I chose Breath of the Wild out of the handful of other games I owned. But I will be forever grateful that I did.
The first thing people associate with Breath of the Wild is its big, beautiful open world, but the subtle story woven into it really struck a chord with me. While it’s lovely to look at, there’s a sense of bleakness to the kingdom of Hyrule, a bleakness that mirrored what I felt in my own life. Calamity Ganon destroyed much of the kingdom and many lives were lost. Link, the chosen hero himself, barely escaped with his life. The player enters the world 100 years after this tragedy, left to pick up the pieces. Breath of the Wild isn’t just riding horses and hunting for Koroks, it’s a story about hope. A story about trying again when you fail. A story about doing what you must, even if it scares the hell out of you.
I finished Breath of the Wild right around the start of my senior year, a time that should’ve been exciting, but was instead filled with anxiety. It was time to start applying to colleges, a task I had been dreading since I was 14. I didn’t know where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do. I was hoping it would all magically fall into place by that fall, but to no one’s surprise, it didn’t. But if Link could pick up the Master Sword and finish his quest after all he went through 100 years ago, then maybe I could find a way to keep on going too.
I spent many late November nights perusing the course catalogs of various colleges, hoping that something, anything, would jump out at me. Many schools offered creative writing courses, the only prospective degree that interested me at the time, but they were all so similar that they started to blend into one, boring, mega-course in my brain. I was looking at one last school before calling this night another failure, when something caught my eye.
ENGL 20900 Writing for Game Design
Now that was something that had never occurred to me before. The stories of video games were always what stood out to me. Yes, the gameplay had to be fun and the visuals appealing, but the story was what I always got hung up on. No matter how chaotic the tides of my life were, stories had always been a rock for me to cling to. It almost felt like a sign, one course perfectly curated to my interests. My mouse hovered over the button as I debated back and forth. Then I clicked it.
Welcome to Lindenwood University’s Online Application
Ashley Haberberger is an undergraduate student at Lindenwood University, where she's planning to get her BFA in Creative Writing. When she’s not writing, Ashley enjoys reading every book she can get her hands on, playing video games like it’s her full-time job, and spending time with her friends and family. This is her debut creative nonfiction publication.