Why can’t games be like their books?
I am looking at you, Epic.
I recently got a Kindle, and swayed by the ongoing hype for the game, and a word of mouth from our tech senior Tamioor Hafeez, I purchased the first Gears of War novel to do the honors of my new gadget.
I am an avid reader, and I can read through even the most average of books, as long it doesn’t bore me to death. With Aspho Fields, the first novel in the Gears of War book series, I was expecting nothing more than that. You know, like the game it is based on. Now don’t get me wrong – Gears of War was a great game. It changed the landscape for console graphics, brought in solid shooter mechanics and added a new layer to the multiplayer mode. But as a story, it fell apart completely. It seemed to have an epic back drop, an emotional story of Dom’s lost wife and Marcus’ missing father, but all of that was given away for overdose of machoism and cheesy one-liners.
But the book? I literally could not put it down. I skipped sessions of Deus Ex:Human Revolution to read what would happen next in the life of the Gears. Unlike the game, the book had a soul, with characters and storylines that one could relate, feel and empathize with. The book takes place between Gears of War 1 and Gears of War 2, with flashbacks accommodating the pre-E-Day war between the different factions humanity had created over imulsion.
The flashbacks were the main meat of the story as it explored the lives of three brothers, Carlos, Dom and Marcux, the latter accepted as an “honorary” member into the Santiago family as he had none of his own. The plot even explains why Marcus has a permanent scowl on his face: his mother had run away, and his father barely had time from his science work to even bother about him. With a lonely childhood, spent in a large, expensive yet empty estate that he called home, Marcus lived a suppressed life which drove him to create a shell around him, bottling up emotions and feelings.
When Marcus broke down after a series of incidences that shook both him and Dom, it was a shocking revelation and a rare show of character – the real Marcus.
It has the kind of depth that makes a good story. Nah, make that a great story. Before reading the book, I couldn’t have cared less about the series as a whole. Why would I want to expense my time playing a game that has no heads or tails? But now I look at the game from a completely different angle. I know what Marcus and Dom has been through, why Cole is keeping up with his larger than life personality, who Anya Stroud his, who her mother was, and why she is attracted to Marcus. It all makes sense somehow and I am truly eager to go through the third installment.
It has breathed a new life into the game for me, and it leaves me wondering – why couldn’t the game be more like the book? We have seen some great examples of video games featuring in-depth storylines, so don’t tell me adding them would be a deterrent to the gameplay. Gears of War, the game, could have been so much more had it not been left so half-heartedly. Over the years, the game is now much more focused on the multiplayer, and it’s a shame that the back drop it created, so great and full of stories, is just neglected to work as a “tutorial” of sorts for the eventual multiplayer rounds. I have been hearing good things about Gears of War 3’s story and I hope it lives up to its books.