Is story still a misnomer in games? – The Narrative Design Exploratorium™

Is story still a misnomer in games?

Sometimes we eat our own hype way too much. It should come as no surprise that most current video game production models continue to treat story as a misnomer. Giving narrative teams small budget allotments, and for the most part treating writing as a disposable commodity it’s no wonder the promises of high drama in games has fallen short. GTA4 was the fodder for an opinion piece by Justin Marks on Gamasutra today. A link was passed around the WSIG, and being the sheep I am, I clicked. Titled “Is Gameplay As Narrative The Answer?” the quote which drove me most was:

“After all the incredible advances in their game engine, why does
Rockstar insist on making its story an accessory — a needless,
comparatively inferior element? More to the point, how did narrative
become such a side bar to the real point of gaming, i.e. our ability to
play out our deepest fantasies in a virtual world?” (1)

Story
has remained icing on a gameplay cake for sometime. While previous
generations of games used story as a marketing device, due to
technological constraints, there is no reason that games should
continue to remain compulsion loop inducing click fests bent on force
feeding players stale repetitive mechanics.

“I say stop writing high-minded stories. Start writing games. And let the stories grow from them.” (1)

Superficially a seemingly simple statement, but what Justin calls for
here is something I’ve been protesting about for sometime. The
fundamental models of game production need to restructured to create
the environment for the development of these higher dramatic forms of
game, or interactive narrative.

Mechanics,
action, is the substance that we use to externally move through life,
through reality. When video games developers stop mimicking old forms,
and start actually creating sets of proactive story/play mechanics
through which players can experience various forms of drama we will be
upon a new form of game. It’s not about better stories, but a well
crafted balance of meaningful play and story. This new form will need a
new name because many people are afraid of drama and games. Hell, some
people just want to have Wii-bowl tournaments,
know what I’m saying ese? For us seeking high-culture, we’ll need to
create a new form. The public is hungry for deep interactive stories,
rest assured narrative will prevail.

1. Justin Marks. Is Gameplay As Narrative The Answer?. Gamasutra.com .2008

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This page contains a single article by Stephen E. Dinehart published on June 3, 2008 6:15 PM.

Defining Narrative Design was the previous entry in this blog.

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