The written word. The visual word. The participatory word. All three of these nicknames are not only a descriptive stretch for dramatic effect but also a representation of the three primary mediums by which we tell stories. 

Books, movies, and video games have similar goals, but the ways in which they reach that goal are completely different. Despite this, comparing the three as superior or inferior to one another is something often done. 

It’s commonly done, but the results are a mixed bag to put it lightly. And critics are adamant to tell us why. But the problem is more fundamental than you’d think. 

Books lean on perfect diction to tell stories as the lack of pictorial elements means the author has only one lens to tell the story: words. Furthermore, they rely on being able to connect to one’s imagination. 

By contrast, movies have access to people’s perceptions of the world. They use the audience’s senses against them in order to immerse them. Ranging from the score to how the camera focuses, stories are told visually. 

Finally, video games, generally, rely on immersion and agency, twisting and manipulating how people interact with the world to evoke emotion and emphasize different story elements. They allow the audience to participate in the story even if they’re guided to the end. 

In the end, the three mediums accomplish different things through different human elements. Of course, there’s overlap among the three, but the fundamental differences are nonetheless present. 

Trying to compare the three ways to tell stories is like trying to compare a Boeing 747 to a KIA Soul. They have the same goal, but the mode of doing so is completely different. 

In turn, if special effort isn’t put towards taking advantage of each medium’s pros, then a disservice is being done to the very stories trying to be told.

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