So, today, I want to introduce you to something I used to do. It was not a famous or popular thing, but I enjoyed doing it for the brief time I could. You see, I really like video games. After writing, they are my favorite hobby both to relax with and to explore through. While not all great games have great stories (or even good ones), those that do are often my very favorite titles to play and replay. Because of this, six or so years ago, I became…
…the MONOCLED GAMER.
“Yes, yes. Good show and all that.”
Yeah, dumb title, I know. The point of the channel, though, was to talk about games old or new, forgotten or celebrated, that pushed storytelling in the medium forward. While I have no intention of making it “a thing” again, I think it’s important for you folks to have an idea of who I am and what motivates me. So, from time to time, you’ll see a post in a folder called “Monocled Gamer” that will extol or decry something video game story-related. In a similar fashion, posts about music, movies, and such will intermittently make themselves known—but always with an eye toward the process of writing or storytelling.
For example, by way of introduction, let’s chat for just a minute about Persona 5: a game developed by Atlus that I had no interest in playing.
For the diehard fans out there, I apologize. I am known to sometimes love a good JRPG (Japanese Role Playing Game for those not in “the know”), I just never played any of the earlier games in this series and, therefore, had no interest. The point is that I knew the game was coming out, knew that it had taken many years to make, and knew that it was a JRPG a lot of fangirls and fanboys were desperate to get their hands on.
To celebrate a work achievement, since the reviews were SO good, I picked up Persona 5, content with the idea of selling it online if I didn’t like it. Since then, I’ve put 200+ hours into the game (I know, right?!): 140 in my first playthrough and the rest on a New Game+. All of this led me to question what I am so enamored with, intrigued by, and excited about regarding Persona 5. And I use “what” conspicuously. There are parts of the game I’m not overly fond of; nothing’s perfect after all. Nonetheless, in spite of those things, Persona 5 ranks within my favorite games of all time.
A lot of factors play into that, of course; the insane attention to detail, the terrific style, the bumpin’ soundtrack, etc. But the two things that most pull me in are core elements of the story. The first, and biggest, is that it tells an incredibly ambitious tale (the things it pulls off are impressive) built around a simple conceit—the world isn’t fair, crappy people often succeed most, but you have the power to change those people and the world for the better.
That concept is not original to this game or franchise, and I know it. However, the unbridled optimism with which the game tackles it, encourages players to feel a bit of that optimism themselves. It is a game that, when played with an open heart and mind, will leave you smiling at the end—even though you’ll be sad that it’s over.
All of that is great, truly, but it wouldn’t work without the second and, I would say, most important piece: characters that feel pretty friggin’ real. Throughout the game, you engage with and can choose to develop deeper relationships (romantic or not) with dozens of characters. Some want to help you, some want to use you, and some want to harm you. Going back to something I said in a previous post on this site, these characters motivations never really come off as plot-driven. They have their own problems caused by past decisions they’ve made or unfortunate turns of events in the world around them. If you choose to help them, you’ll inevitably learn more about them that maybe you wanted to know…or maybe you didn’t.
“Futaba is the best. If you disagree, you’re mistaken.”
That is what is remarkable about this game to me. While I was engaged in the main story, I am so much more engaged in these little vignettes and quiet, personal moments that occurred between friends, family, and enemies on the street each day. Yes, of course, there are tropes and stereotypes and the occasional “I can’t believe that just happened” moments, but those largely fail to take away from the realism of the relationships that develop.
If you’re the type of gamer, reader, or writer that enjoys interpersonal relationships developing over time, check this game out. You’ll thank me later.
And if you’re the type of storyteller that enjoys video games, keep an eye out for more Monocled Gamer posts in the future!