Check It Out: Story-driven video games are new norm

Video games have come a long way since the days of Mario rescuing a princess from Bowser and Pac-Man chasing after power pellets while avoiding his ghostly foes.

In the last 15 years, video games have evolved into a story-telling medium, no longer about collecting the highest score. Much like a great film or an engaging book, the stories in games are fully developed with character development and story arcs.

This week's column will focus on video games that have tossed out scores and power-ups in favor of telling an emotionally engaging story. These games may be checked out from the Central Library with a Newport Beach Public Library card.

Developed by Rockstar Games, "Red Dead Redemption" (Xbox 360, PS3) is the story of John Marston. Beginning in medias res, Marston has been forced by federal agents to locate the surviving members of his former gang as the government begins its final push to bring law, order and civilization to the Old West.

With the lives of his wife and son on the line, Marston must once again endure the life he so badly wanted to escape from. Marston's experiences will entertain and the emotional final hours will stick with you long after the credits have ended. "Red Dead Redemption" is rated M for "Mature," suitable for those 17 years and older.

What happens when you combine Ayn Rand with an underwater utopia? You get Ken Levine's "BioShock" (Xbox 360, PS3). Set in 1959, you control a young man named Jack, whose flight over the Atlantic crashes, leaving him stranded in the middle of the ocean near a massive lighthouse.

Journeying inside, Jack stumbles upon a secret world governed by a man named Andrew Ryan, who fled society with the best and brightest in order to create a civilization solely based on the philosophy of "Objectivism." This utopia seemed short-lived, as a civil war has broken out between anti- and pro-Ryan supporters. "BioShock" is rated M for "Mature," suitable to those 17 years and older.

In "Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars" (Nintendo Wii), George Stobbart is just your average guy enjoying a European vacation. While sipping coffee outside a Parisian café, he spies a clown running from the building just moments before it violently explodes.

Although the local police are convinced it is simply a random act of violence, George is determined to find an answer. Teaming up with a local reporter, George uncovers a conspiracy that dates all the way back to the establishment of the famed Knights Templar. "Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars" is rated T for "Teen," suitable for those 13 and older.

Fans of "Blade Runner," William Gibson and cyberpunk take note, "Deus Ex: Human Revolution" (Xbox 360, PS3) will enjoy this story of corporate espionage set in a futuristic world in which science has advanced the field robotics and cybernetics, allowing anyone to become "augmented" — that is, become a hybrid of man and machine.

Adam Jensen is chief of security for a high profile robotics firm and expresses a dislike for this new breed of humanity. When a bold and violent attack on the company leaves his body a broken mess, Jensen has no choice but to be augmented. While Jensen adjusts to this new life, he makes it his mission to track down those responsible for the attack that left him damaged. "Deus Ex: Human Revolution" is rated M for "Mature," suitable for those 17 years and older.

"Heavy Rain" (PS3) is the most emotionally charged video game in the library's collection. This interactive drama follows the lives of four characters connected by the actions of a serial killer dubbed the Origami Killer.

Ethan Mars finds his life turned upside down after he witnesses the death of his oldest son from a car accident. Madison Paige is an investigative reporter who suffers from night terrors and, as a result, insomnia. Scott Shelby is a tired private detective and Norman Jayden is an upcoming FBI agent who struggles with an addiction to a performance enhancing drug.

When Ethan's son is captured by the Origami Killer, he is forced to undergo a series of physical trials and tortures, each providing a clue to the boy's location. The game puts you in the shoes of each character and whether or not Ethan finds his son is up to the decisions you make.

CHECK IT OUT is written by the staff of the Newport Beach Public Library. All titles may be reserved from home or office computers by accessing the catalog at For more information on the Central Library or any of the branches, please contact the Newport Beach Public Library at (949) 717-3800, option 2.

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