Interactive Story

With GDC coming, up, there’s been the corresponding talk about bringing story to games. I’ve worked in the field for a couple of years now, and the thoughts that keeps going through my head:

(1) Most everything that can be tried probably has. Several times. Companies have a lot of money, and people cycle through the industry fast enough. They just don’t publicize their failure.

(2) Games aren’t like stories. Games are like life. You make active situational choices that the world reacts to. You tell your friends stories about it afterwards over a beer, as a form of reflection.

They aren’t the same thing. When you play a game of Starcraft, you tell people a story about the results, not while you’re playing. If you recall Ninja Gaiden, the movies that bookended the gameplay play through our heads sequentially. We don’t replay the story in our heads with the gameplay meaningfully and accurately dispersed throughout. Just like we don’t replay the gameplay in our heads with the story in it.

It’s not impossible. Life has conflict, and drama. Meaning, and character. But our brains interpret it differently, and we have to respect that.

How can I be James Bond?
What did Scrooge feel?
What did Jak and Daxter really learn about themselves?

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