I have always loved stories. There is nothing quite like sinking in a comfortable chair with a cup of tea in one hand and a book in the other. Getting lost in a different world for hours on end, vividly imagining every detail. Losing track of time and being so invested in a character’s story that if something sad happens to them, you cry. If another character says something funny, you laugh. When the going really gets exciting, you hold on to the edge of the chair and can’t seem to read fast enough, turn the pages fast enough. You might even be holding your breath (happened to me when reading “Fire in the Blood”. Really.) while reading a plot twist you did not anticipate.
Lo and behold, the power of imagination.
I’ve lately been talking with my classmates about some games and especially a conversation about The Order 1886 pops to mind. The game in itself is drop-dead gorgeous – the characters, props, environments, everything. I multitasked with a playthrough by The Rad Brad of it on the other monitor a few weeks back, listening to the game a whole lot while working, and watching it every now and then as well. While I could appreciate the characters and the general feel of the story, the game felt somewhat.. hollow.
Mind you, I loved the story. I adore a good internal conflict and personal growth of characters like I love a good bowl of ice cream.
Galahad’s struggle was a slippery slope down into the delicious kind of misery that wrenches your heart and fills you with profound sadness for someone. There was quite little to counterbalance the tragedy of the latter half of the game, and the ending is a big fat “I’M GOING TO HAVE A SEQUEL WHETHER YOU WANT IT OR NOT” hook. Fair enough. You won this round, The Order 1886. What you didn’t do was leaving ANYTHING for the player to imagine or for them to choose.
Without going into a long rant where I would probably end up paraphrasing most of this article about narrative design for games, I’ll have you ponder the following:
Converting character development into personal development is the key to truly immersive storytelling.
This is, in my opinion, at the very core of what makes some games merely cinematic experiences to be watched, and others masterpieces to be fully immersed in. In order for this kind of development to take place, the player needs to be at ease with (and relate to) the main character. Games like Skyrim are perfect for this: you can create your own avatar, so you’re already more “invested” in whether this character survives their ordeals or not. You choose which quests to do. You choose which faction to side with. You choose whether you spend your days antagonizing local poultry or sneaking your way up the hierarchy of the local guild of mages. I know I did both and had a blast ignoring the main plot until my character (a Bosmer archer who was great at stealth-killing everything in dungeons) had 3 mansions and a husband.
One could argue there is quite little personal development going on in Skyrim, but I digress.
The fact that I’m actually talking about narrative right now is, well, turns out I really like writing. Besides blogging, and talking about the doing-art-thing-that-I’m-doing, I actually have written short stories before. I only ever published snippets here and there, mostly on diverse role-playing game fora. Inspired by NWN (ah, the possibilities of a good ol’ D&D game) and WoW, I’ve written my share of what could be called fan fiction (if fan fiction of my own characters counts as fan fiction). My future husband is attempting to make me write more, besides. When time allows, I’ll try to put up a page with my existing story snippets. Because narrative design and stories are cool.
And because I’m resisting the urge to blather on and on about wedding preparations.
Since this is the last actual week with lessons before the end of the block, some stress can likely be detected for the next few weeks. If you hear unidentifiable banging from the distance, it’s probably just me – banging my head into a wall, or a desk, trying to understand NURBS.