In the car heading to church last Sunday, I overheard the boys talking about a video game that has a story mode.

“Oh, that sounds cool,” I said. “You get to read stories while you are playing video games.”

They looked at me like I had suggested that their video game might also help them sort out their sock drawer or catalog their step-mother’s spice cabinet.

“It’s not that kind of story,” one of the boys explained. “It’s where you have battles and stuff.”

“I like my idea better,” I said, imagining the extreme eye rolling happening in the back seat.

Turns out, my idea is part of the new NBA 2K16 video game which includes the Spike Lee Livin Da Dream story mode where the virtual players not only have tattoos and facial grimaces, they now have backstories, complete with families and neighborhoods and a best friend. It’s a story they watch, not read, but adding narrative to video games can only be an improvement in my mind.

If the Atlantic review is any indication, though, story mode for NBA 2K16 needs some work before players of the game—like my stepsons—will be happy about being forced to be part of it.

But hey, at least they aren’t forced to read as part of the game. (Insert stepmom eyerolls.)

Livin Da Dream reminded me of another Atlantic article which suggests that most of us actually live in story mode. “In the realm of narrative psychology, a person’s life story is not a Wikipedia biography of the facts and events of a life, but rather the way a person integrates those facts and events internally—picks them apart and weaves them back together to make meaning,” writes Julie Beck. “This narrative becomes a form of identity, in which the things someone chooses to include in the story, and the way she tells it, can both reflect and shape who she is.  A life story doesn’t just say what happened, it says why it was important, what it means for who the person is, for who they’ll become, and for what happens next.”

Of course, the story of one’s life eventually becomes as much about what is not included as what is. I currently am working on a book of linked essays that has a strong element of memoir to it. In the writing, I feel like I am leaving almost everything out. Unless readers want a 45-year complete replay of my life, however, I have to do that. The stories I include serve as representations of entire decades, relationships, and places. Those stories make up the current version of life as I know it.

My story mode includes very few battles, though. I can’t handle all the gore.


Maybe it’s time to turn on your story mode. Download my quick guide to telling more stories in your life, and get to work telling, listening to, and jotting down the stories that make you you.