The Magic of the Group Story Experience

Most of us can remember sitting in front of our teachers as little kids, eagerly listening to a story. We were each enveloped in our own way, but occasionally, we’d glance around and share the moment with our classmates– the excitement, the shock, the happy ending.

After all, storytellers have been wowing our civilizations as long as we’ve existed.

While reading is majorly a solo experience, there’s magic in sharing the narrative with others. And while I say reading there, I should say that it expands long past words on a page.

For example, a few years ago, one of my favorite games released possibly one of the BEST downloadable content stories ever: Borderlands 2, with Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep.

Now, the Borderlands series can certainly be played solo. But it’s meant to be taken in with up to four players, who can all drop in and out of the same story experience.

Our Borderlands rule? WE PLAY IT TOGETHER.

With my husband and two of our best friends, we began the story of Dragon Keep. As with all things Borderlands, it’s a wild ride, full of crass, funny, outrageous things… and lots of killing enemies.

Lots of killing.

We made our way through magical realms, ensorcelled towns, and ancient ruins, happily taking out bosses while listening to characters play Bunkers & Badasses, the Borderlands version of Dungeons & Dragons.

The ending, though… the ending is where the laughs stopped.

(SPOILERS IF YOU HAVEN’T PLAYED THIS.)

You see, Tiny Tina, the youngest psycho of the Borderlands, was using this game to work through and understand her grief and denial; her best friend, the man who saved her after her parents’ death, had died earlier in the Borderlands story. (ALSO HE WAS MY MAIN CHARACTER IN BORDERLANDS 1 SO I WAS SUPER EMOTIONAL ALREADY)

But here, he was her White Knight, her savior all over again.

The scene ends with an emotional breakdown on her part, the rest of the characters reminding her that he’s dead, before realizing what she was doing: she was letting him be the hero, one last time. (Along with another little friend we’d sadly lost on the way.)

No words were spoken in our group chat. Silence and sniffles overtook us. We hadn’t expected this at all. We were watching this scene play out together, connected with the moment, all feeling what Tina felt.

And there was magic in our sadness.

We didn’t have to recount the story to one another later, sans emotional impact. No “you had to be there” needed.

Of course, the goofiness picks right back up, and our zany Borderlands experience continues… because Butt Stallion.

Book clubs of course get to share this experience too, and those who share their movie experiences. (Hello, Avengers: Infinity War *cries*)

Just getting to be in that moment with others, whether it be loss, joy, excitement, fear– it connects us on a deeper level. It creates a bridge between people that transcends our personal selves, where we are a part of something larger.

And it is indeed powerful.

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