Wherein we sing “Puff the Magic Dragon”… or not

Wow, it’s been a long time since my last post. It feels like I wrote that thing fucking yesterday.

I blame daylight saving time.

I suppose I could continue my train of thought from the last one, but I’m like a five-year old when it comes to that. It’s a new week! I’m thinking NEW shit now.

Of course, after spending a few minutes in metacognition, I realize that I don’t have much new to say this week. Therefore, I’ll go off on a bit of a tangent from last week’s post:

Gamasutra has an interesting article on the subject of games and story

We believe that game designers are in the business of experience creation rather than that of storytelling. The story that is generated through gameplay is the player’s personal story that has been mediated by the game systems.
This is a rather substantial shift from the concept of the auteur sitting down and penning a tale of love and despair. Instead of writing about passion, our goal is to help the user experience passion. Instead of describing fear, our goal as game designers to is cause fear. We construct systems, whirling social and mechanical environments that lead, poke, prod, react, connect and encourage the player to reach, out of their own free will, a peak physiological and mental state.

I think that’s what I was trying to say before. The idea that a game can only tell a story, or that the story is somehow removed from the player, removes that kind of interaction between our game and its audience.

When film was a young medium, a lot of people made very simple movies. You saw a lot of straight-up filmings of stage productions, films with simple premises (“The Train Robbery”), and things like that. After almost a century of growing pains, film has matured and figured out what it could do that its forbears couldn’t do. While those early films may not have actually been much different than watching a play, listening to a radio program, or reading a book — films now are certainly much different, and many times that’s a good thing.

I think we’re reaching a similar point with video games. People are finally starting to dig down and think to themselves “What is it about video gaming that makes it a different medium? What can it do that its forbears couldn’t?” And therein lies the special sauce — the thing that will eventually make video games come into their own.

At any rate, let me know what you think of the article I linked above. What do you think of their analysis? One thing that interested me a lot was the inclusion of social networking sites into their musings. I’ve been hearing a lot of game developers murmuring about these sites recently, but since I don’t really use much besides linkedin I don’t have a ton of experience with the things. Do any of you use them a lot? If so, what lessons (if any) do you think games can take away from them?

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One Comment

  1. Damn, I only just responded to your last post, but I’m glad to find my response hasn’t become totally irrelevant.

    What do I think of the article?

    Amusingly, I take particular exception with the section you quoted. Did Hitchcock sit down and aim to describe fear or instill it? Stephen King? Come on, those guys describe fear only as a means toward frightening their audience. Vertigo seeks to make the audience feel actual vertigo, and uses film tricks to attempt it. Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy) does the same thing with claustrophobia; the tricks are different but the goal is essentially the same.

    However, I don’t entirely disagree with that section. Gameplay doesn’t create a story, it either allows the player to create one, has one that’s separate from the gameplay, or both (often disastrously, like our gay Army of Two). Thats that part you focused on, and I agree with you.

    Mostly, I like the analogy of the Watery Pachinko Machine of Doom, I see the need to look at non-game sources to inform how games are approached, and I wish I had been at the actual conversation. The idea of using Disneyland as a source of level design is solid, and the parallels between ARGs and video games are interesting. They seem quite optimistic about the future of AI, but it’s hard to work based on stuff that’s only theoretically possible.

    All in all, a decent article, but it left me strangely unsatisfied. It’s more of a conversation and less of a lecture. I guess I’m just not used to that.

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