Andrew has a fantastic question up. Towards the end, he actually completely changes subjects, but I think it’s important to start at the beginning. He asks:
I keep thinking about what it is that narrative does. I’m not especially interested in the ‘effects’ of narrative on the player so much as the ‘function’ of narrative. That is, what role does narrative have in the process of playing of a game?
What indeed! After a quick brainstorm:
- A framework and metaphor for expectations that creates predictable system reactions
- Goal communication
- Immersion expectations and world impacts leading to long term investment
- A skeleton to build post-play reflection around
- Rules that can be explored
Of these, these, the first 3 we are great at, the 4th we do ok, and the last, well. While the role-playing conversation games have used the player’s understanding of narrative structure to do morality games and plays (Ultima IV, Bioware, etc), only a few games have let players play with the narrative structure itself. Obviously Facade comes to mind, and I’m sure there’s a few more. But it has yet to catch on in the mainstream, and until (or unless) it does, narrative seems likely to remain only in a feedback role, thus a non-interactive role.