“CIA: Operation Ajax”- Graphic Novel App

CIA: Operation Ajax” is another interactive graphic novel app available for both iOS and Android devices. This graphic novel is a spy thriller that follows global powers trying to take control of oil in the Middle East. British agents have been controlling the flow of oil in Iran and, although there is peace in the Middle East for the time being, it is so fragile. No agent or other character can be trusted because American, British, and Persian agents are interested in controlling the flow of oil and, thus, control many foreign powers. There are so many rumors of secret deals, revolt, and plots to overthrow the government all because of greed. This immense greed exhibited by characters of different nations causes them to commit crimes and is the reason nobody can be trusted.  This app depicts a story about the CIA’s plot to stage a coup of Iran’s government in light of all of these circumstances.

This app, like “Bottom of the Ninth” takes the traditional graphic novel format and makes it interactive utilizing new technology only possible with electronic media sources. The app uses a musical score and animation to form what the Apple App Store calls “a groundbreaking cinematic reading experience.” This app also combines an interactive graphic novel with cinematic elements to create a unique experience for the reader. The story has several complex characters and also utilizes authentic historical information such as newsreel videos and CIA documents. This not only adds to the validity of the story, but it also makes it more interesting for the person reading the novel because it enhances the quality of the story. Furthermore, the quality and interaction of this app is reflective of the tenets of electric literature that we learned about in class. This app is an evolution of literature and is an example of a new and evolving form of literature that will only become more prevalent in our society in the future.


“Bottom of the Ninth”- Graphic Novel App

Bottom of the Ninth” is an app that is a graphic novel about baseball, but it has a twist. The story is set in the year 2172 in a city where baseball is incredibly popular. However, the game is not like the game of baseball we know today. It is more advanced, and it is a version that is enhanced by artificial gravity. The story follows player Candy Cunningham, an 18-year old pitcher playing this new game of baseball. Candy’s adventures in this new game of baseball are not all fun and games. Following her career, the readers find that she is met with much opposition from opposing teams and fans alike because they are not used to seeing a girl pitcher. Candy must fight through the many boos and jeers she receives during her career to prove that she can be great at baseball even though she is a girl.

This app is very interesting in that it takes the traditional format of a graphic novel and uses technology to spin it in a completely new direction. The pictures and graphics similar to that of a paper novel. There are a couple of unique features, however; it is interactive and it can be viewed in both 2-D and 3-D. In addition it has added music scores and touch-activated voices for each of the word bubbles in the graphic novel. This app takes graphic novels and storytelling to a completely new level and almost combines traditional graphic novels with film. This is a perfect example of the evolution of literature as we know it. The forms of electric literature that we reviewed in class were almost all interactive, and the interaction allows the user to make decisions and explore more about issues brought up in the literature. In this story, for example, the user can follow Candy during her career and experience some of the stereotypes and prejudices she is experiencing in a way that would not be possible with traditional literature.

Video Games as Literature

Ever since the creation of “Pong” in the early 1970s, video games have been becoming increasingly popular and more widely appreciated. As their technology has evolved, video games have been employing literary techniques in their development. These aspects of more modern video games spark interesting debate about whether video games should be considered literature and about the reasons behind and effectiveness of using these literary techniques in the creation of video games. An investigation of the use of literary techniques in specific video games gives people the opportunity to learn and experience ideas through a more unexplored, yet useful, medium.

As video games have evolved and the technology that composes them advances, video games have become more like literature and have begun employing literary techniques. One of these such techniques is the addition and development of more in-depth, creative storylines. Even first-person shooter games such as “Bioshock” have developed stories between the action. So many gamers crave these stories, and they keep the gamers hooked on the game even more. In fact, such storylines have proven successful tools for many games. Some gamers play games for not only the action and the participation but also for the story. These complex stories in which gamers can become engaged and connected with the different characters and the plot of the game enhance the video game and make it more enjoyable for its players.

For example, the computer game series “Civilization,” a series of games in which the user forms a nation and competes with other nations for cultural, technological, or militaristic domination, offers several complex pieces of a story. The gamer must decide which religion, form of government, military, culture, and technologies their nation will adopt, and they must decide which resources, units, and sciences are most valuable to the nation in order to outcompete the other nations in the game.

Map from Sid Meier’s “Civilization Revolution”

With each new release of the game series, the games have become increasingly complex not only in terms of graphics, but also in the number and variety of resources, playable units, cities, technologies, and more. This has only added to the diversity of this particular game series, and other video games employ similar complexities and diverse storylines.

In addition to these more in-depth storylines, video game developers have incorporated more deep and serious themes and messages into their gameplay. These themes can range anywhere from issues involving morality to questions about the environment. Dr. Amy Green explains this idea and gives specific examples of how games handle these themes in her TED talk. The video of Dr. Green’s talk can be found below. She explains that the game “The Last of Us” explores issues of morality regarding the spread of infectious disease. In the game, the user is thrown into a futuristic world in which a fungal disease has jumped species and killed a large percentage of the human population. There is a group trying to find a cure and they want to study a little girl who is immune to the disease in an effort to do so, so they send a man to bring her to them. However, when the man finds out that the girl must die to be examined, he decides to protect her instead. Green notes that this decision, along with those made every time the man stops someone who tries to kidnap the girl, explores questions of morality about the value of one life when compared with the possible salvation of several lives.

This is just one example of more serious themes in video games. Author Maxwell Neely-Cohen further explains the connection between books and video games in terms of serious themes in his article “Appetite for Risk: At the Intersection of Video Games and Literature.” Neely-Cohen spoke with many different video game developers to get their input on connections like this, and one such developer explained that he believed that several books would make incredible video games because of such themes. Video games could introduce new ideas about and exploration of these themes that would not be possible in books. In reference to Cormac McCarthy’s book Bloodlust, this particular developer said, “McCarthy explores the depths of human evil and bloodlust; an interactive version could allow the player to explore their own personal capacity for those same things.” Video games are a media that allow gamers to delve into concepts in a way that other media cannot, so this is yet another useful integration of literary techniques into this newer form of media.

Similarly to literature, video games often attempt to mimic many aspects of human life in their gameplay. Dr. Alistair Brown of Durham University explains this in her guest blog “Are Video Games Literature?” In the story of a game, the gamer will often make mistakes which cause the gamer and the character they are playing as to return to a certain checkpoint and try again. By forcing the gamer to attempt that portion of the game again, the gamer will eventually learn from his or her mistakes and overcome the challenge to proceed further into the game. While not necessarily in the same way, many books also mimic different aspects of life. This valuable technique not only makes books and video games more realistic, but it also makes them more relatable and appealing to the person reading the book or playing the game.

These specific ways in which video games employ literary techniques only scratch the surface of how similar video games are to literature. However, in order to fully understand the practicality behind utilizing literary techniques in video games, one must contemplate why video game writers and developers do so. In doing so, it is necessary to view this motivation through two separate lenses: that of the game developers and that of the gamers.

One of the more obvious and logical reasons that game developers have begun integrating literary aspects into gameplay is for the developers to become more well-known and be taken more seriously and for them to make the maximum profit off of their games as possible. In the same article by author Maxwell Neely-Cohen, he describes that in every conversation he had with video game artists, each artist has expressed that he or she would like to be taken more seriously as a creator. In reality, video game authors are not nearly as celebrated or recognized as authors or film creators are. Because video game developers recognize the success of the literary and film industries, they attempt to use literary techniques to enhance their video games, to make the games more successful on the market, and to help the developers become more known and appreciated as authors and creators.

Video game developers also use literary techniques in their games for the benefit of the gamers who play them. One reason these literary aspects are useful in video games is because of their rising popularity among a diverse group of gamers. Video games are becoming an increasingly popular form of media, and they are therefore perfect opportunities to engage gamers. As stated before, many video games are complex and have serious, thought provoking themes and ideas woven into their storylines. These themes and ideas are great tools to help gamers learn and think about important life questions, and video games’ rising popularity helps more people think about these topics.

Video games are a media unlike any other, and their unique features can utilize literary techniques in ways that books and movies cannot. Video games are participatory; the gamer must choose which actions to perform and which direction to go with the game. Vlogger (video blogger) Ariel Bissett explains this further in one of her video blogs (see below) by offering the idea that gamers are “co-authors.” She explains that unlike the linear progression of books, gamers have more freedom to choose how to play the game and they are almost writing the story along with the game’s authors. This idea of a co-author in video games is certainly unique to this form of media, but it would not have even been possible if video games had not started employing literary techniques similar to those used in books and movies. These similar techniques set the stage for their further evolution in video games.

Video games can also spark interest in many different forms of literature because of the content that comprises them. One teacher, as described in Neely-Cohen’s article, remarked that at one period of time in her classroom many of her students were playing and discussing the video game “Dante’s Inferno.” Not long after she heard the kids discussing the game, she noticed that some of the students had purchased copies of The Divine Comedy and were reading them in school. Apparently, the video game, which is loosely based off of Dante’s work, inspired these students to learn more about the subject matter they were experiencing in the game. They were interested in the game’s content, and its connection to literature incited in these young students a hunger for more knowledge. This is a sample of what even the simplest of literary themes and ideas embedded in video games can provoke in the minds of the gamers who play them.

One question still remains: are video games literature? There is still much debate about the answer to this question, and it may never be fully answered. However, one thing is certain: video games frequently employ various literary aspects into their gameplay. This newer media is rapidly evolving and becoming increasingly popular, and game developers are taking advantage of this fact by making their storylines more in-depth and rich in thought-provoking ideas. This method allows gamers to explore these topics and gives them the potential to become more cultured, independent, and serious thinkers. Video games are becoming more accepted and valued in society, and it will be intriguing to see how this media and its use of literary techniques develops further in the future.

“An Immigrant’s Dream for a Better Life”

This photo essay details the life of Blanca, a pre-med student at Berkley who is an immigrant to the United States from Mexico. This is an interesting article complete with simple pictures of Blanca’s life and that of her family. This, unlike other stories, is one that is not complete.

The ‘Initiation’ portion of this story occurred when Blanca and her family moved from Mexico to Bakersfield, California. Only Blanca’s sister has United States citizenship. The family left their familiar world to enter a new world in a new country with a new culture. Some of their struggles include language barriers and struggles encountered because they are not United States citizens. The author of this photo essay became an ally to the family, following them and detailing their lives (while keeping them as anonymous as possible).

The ‘Initiation’ event occurred when Republicans in Congress wanted to undo some of President Obama’s actions to grant legal status to United States immigrants. This is one of the biggest and most current struggles that Blanca and her family are facing. While she is fairly stable and able to have a bank account, driver’s license, etc., it is still difficult for her to have the same rights and privileges as United States citizens.

The ‘Return’ stage of this story is different than that of other stories, and it is not complete yet because the story is not over. The article does not say, but I do not believe that Blanca and her family intend on returning to Mexico. They are trying to make a new life in the United States and she is trying to become a doctor. While the family is stable now, I believe their story is still in the “ordeal” part of Campbell and Vogler’s story model.

Blanca and her family are changing dynamically. Blanca’s changes include adapting to American culture and trying to overcome the struggles of being an immigrant in the United States despite Congress’ attempts to stop her from becoming a citizen. She is becoming stronger in the face of this adversity and working hard to be a good student and make a good life for herself in this country.


Super Mario Brothers 3- GameBoy

I frequently played Super Mario Brothers 3 on my GameBoy when I was little. This story line also follows the one introduced by Campbell and Vogler. The ‘Departure’ part of the story happens when Bowser kidnapped Princess Toadstool from the Mushroom Kingdom. Mario immediately left his home and traveled through 8 worlds in pursuit of Bowser and Princess Toadstool. He was accompanied by his brother, Luigi, and made many enemies along the way like the bosses of each of the worlds, koopas, and goombas. The “tests” that these brothers encounter are each level of the game and the final level on each world where the two need to defeat the “Koopaling” (Bowser’s child) and restore the king of that world to power.

The ‘Initiation’ stage of this game occurred when Mario and Luigi made it to Bowser’s land in the 8th world of the game. The “approach to the inmost cave” that Campell and Vogler mentioned occurred when the two journeyed through each level in this world and got closer to Bowser’s castle. The “ordeal” occurred when the two finally made it to the castle. First, the two had to travel through the castle, which was full of spikes, lava, pits, and enemies. After making it through the castle, they had to battle Bowser and make him fall to his doom in a pit. The two are then rewarded with Princess Toadstool’s release and the safety of the kingdom.

The ‘Return,’ as in Kingdom Hearts, is short in this game. Princess Toadstool, Mario, and Luigi return to the Mushroom Kingdom where they are greeted by the kingdom and rewarded and praised for their journey to find and free Princess Toadstool.

The change that occurs in Mario and Luigi throughout this story is that they become more respected. Not only are the two of them more respected in the Mushroom Kingdom because they saved the princess, but they are respected in each of the other worlds as well for returning the kings to power.



Kingdom Hearts

Kingdom Hearts is a Disney video game I played when I was younger, and its story line follows the one described by Campbell and Vogler. The ‘Departure’ in the game occurs when Sora’s (the protagonist) home island is devoured by evil creatures called the Heartless. Like Campbell and Vogler describe, Sora left his comfortable home and was “called to adventure.” When he arrived in Traverse Town, another world, he was scared to learn about the Heartless and his destiny as the “Keyblade Master.” He was told he was supposed to go free other worlds from the control of the Heartless, but was reluctant. However, he was encouraged by Aerith, Yufi, and Leon, three characters who were older and wiser mentors to Sora. He then set off to other worlds with new allies Goofy and Donald to battle Heartless and “lock” the worlds so they couldn’t enter again.

The ‘Initiation’ part of this story line occurs during the time Sora and his friends arrive at Hollow Bastion, a world that is overrun by Heartless and many powerful enemies. After defeating enemies like his possessed friend Riku and Maleficent, Sora and friends enter the final Keyhole and go into the world of the Heartless. There, they fight the master of the Heartless, Ansem, and open Kingdom Hearts, a doorway of light. They have now overcome their main ordeal.

Finally, the ‘Return’ portion of the story is very short. The worlds that were overrun by Heartless are restored, and Riku, Sora, and Sora’s girlfriend Kairi return to their island after saying goodbye to their friends. Their journey home is sad because they have to say goodbye to Goofy, Donald, and King Mickey, but they get to go back home so it is also happy.

The change that occurs in Sora is huge. He becomes much more mature and worldly after traveling to so many worlds and experiencing new friendships. He also gets stronger and better and fighting because of his enemies. Finally, he develops a stronger connection to his friends and his personal values, and he learns to hold what he loves close because he understands the fragility of the world.