On Narrative in Games

Mind filled with a lot of questions, mixed feelings, after leaving work. Thoughts of wanting to really pursue, at least, the conceptual procedures of making a game.

The past couple days have illuminated to me the fact that most of my coworkers, or supervisors that like to play games, want to make games, as evinced by what happened tonight, thus, perhaps solidifying my mental meandering.

Yesterday, I tested a game that was a sort of promotional demonstration of the Havok Engine. The game being demonstrated, eh…but the fact that the people that made the demo are allowing people access to their work for free says a lot…essentially, they’re trying to trump Unity by giving, at least GOOD examples of what the engine can do.

This discovery opened up discussions with my supervisor. He told me he was interested in game development, but would have to learn programming. I later learned, well, earlier this evening, that the kinds of games my supervisor wants to make might require programming experience, as they require physics. I get what he’s getting at…but, see, physics, actions and enhancements are secondary to me for a game. I want a narrative, and I want to know how to do that best with every possible means in a game. This is where I find a lot of problems for games–narrative.

My former professor Dr. Jay Clayton at Vanderbilt University has elucidated to the problems of video games and narrative, perhaps most directly with his Coursera course, “Online Games.” I’m enrolled in this course, and so far, he has brought to light serious issues within interactive media (I would say beyond videogames) that could potentially change, in my view, detrimentally, narrative.

These are my views, but Dr. Clayton is -perhaps- purposefully circumspect about the matter. He has good reason to be, I suppose, but, I wonder…want to know…how games fail to provide “good” narratives for players.

Context, I think is the first thing that makes a narrative important, for writer and reader. If the narrative can be broken into segments, then, why not If chapters extend for dozens of pages and must be, somehow, directly-connected, to the next chapter, then I think gameplay must reflect that, regardless of genre.

Dr. Clayton chose a problematic story, LOTR, because he knew it would cause discourse. For that I am thankful, but I have yet to see something a dev might find useful, just commentary on Turbine’s game mechanics and complaints relative to that effect.

My theories of narrative for games will have to wait, though, but, thanks for reading!
-MT

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About WickedCultured

I play -test- and review mobile games for the Android platform. Yes. I play videogames for a living, but occasionally am involved in interface design for mobile apps. I am also a published poet and the author of the blog WickedCultured.
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