Pages: 1 [2]

Some thoughts on story telling

Re: Some thoughts on story telling
« Reply #15 on: April 01, 2010, 07:55:04 am »

I think it's important to consider what stories are, underneath all the different ways we tell them (all the mediums, plot structures, et cetera). I could bring up Robert McKee here, but instead I'll lift a quote from this piece:
Quote
OUR FRIENDS. THE PENGUINS, THINK THAT WE, THEREFORE, ARE EMPLOYED TO COMMUNICATE *INFORMATION* — AND, SO, AT TIMES, IT SEEMS TO US.

BUT NOTE:THE AUDIENCE WILL NOT TUNE IN TO WATCH INFORMATION. YOU WOULDN’T, I WOULDN’T. NO ONE WOULD OR WILL. THE AUDIENCE WILL ONLY TUNE IN AND STAY TUNED TO WATCH DRAMA.

QUESTION:WHAT IS DRAMA? DRAMA, AGAIN, IS THE QUEST OF THE HERO TO OVERCOME THOSE THINGS WHICH PREVENT HIM FROM ACHIEVING A SPECIFIC, *ACUTE* GOAL.

SO: WE, THE WRITERS, MUST ASK OURSELVES *OF EVERY SCENE* THESE THREE QUESTIONS.

1) WHO WANTS WHAT?
2) WHAT HAPPENS IF HER DON’T GET IT?
3) WHY NOW?
During a good story, the protagonist is trying to overcome challenges in order to pursue their goal.
During a good game, the player is trying to overcome interesting challenges.
I suspect there may be some potential synergies here.  Tongue

All right, let me shift from theory to the pragmatic end of the spectrum and address Thomas' original question. The most powerful storytelling trick I've noticed in games so far has cropped up in these isolated moments in a number of different games. Some examples:
-In Metal Gear Solid 3, standing there as you wait to pull the trigger of a gun- one that's pointed at a person you love more than anyone else in the world.
-In Modern Warfare 2's conclusion, staggering up to a crashed helicopter and its injured pilot, a knife in your hand.
-In The Darkness, watching a movie with your girlfriend on the couch, knowing you can press a button at any time to get up and leave.
-In Assassin's Creed, using your one available action during conversations (walking around within a 20' by 20' area) to pace in circles, turn your back on someone and walk away, etc.

Moments like these are striking; they can singlehandedly make a story much more engaging and meaningful to the player. It took some reflection, but I think I've figured out why. The thing all these moments share is that the narrative that's playing out contains a variable which has been given dramatic significance by the game, but is now determined by the player. If Solid Snake stands paralyzed while the minutes drag on until he finally pulls that trigger, that's a different story (in a dramatic/significant way) from the narrative where he hesitates for all of a second. While that moment lasted, the player had a degree of genuine control over the narrative while it was unfolding. Psychologically, they went from an audience member (albeit one who gets to walk around the set and sometimes make a call in the director's place) to one of the actors on the stage.

And as a bonus, the narrative has gone from being a mass-produced experience to one that only this player has had, something that can be very important to people.

Any of that make sense?
« Last Edit: April 01, 2010, 09:12:27 am by Dagda »
Logged

Your daily does of devil's advocacy: "We're largely past the idea that games are solely for children, but many people are consciously trying to give their games more intellectual depth. Works of true brilliance are rarely motivated by insecurity."
Re: Some thoughts on story telling
« Reply #16 on: April 03, 2010, 12:19:17 am »

Thank you for your insightful reply, Michaƫl... I enjoy how you go from radical to nuanced. (Honest enjoyment, I mean, not sarcastic enjoyment.)

I want to reply again but find myself restricted. Will reply soon though, very important subject!
Logged
Re: Some thoughts on story telling
« Reply #17 on: April 03, 2010, 12:34:45 am »

Any of that make sense?

Yes. Good point about isolating a single element that is controlled by the player. I'm thinking about how to apply that generally...
Logged
Re: Some thoughts on story telling
« Reply #18 on: April 03, 2010, 01:31:08 pm »

I'm not sure it *can* be applied generally (though I don't want to discourage you from trying to figure it out). The question is how a given 'scene' in a story can have some dramatically significant in-game variable- creating different narratives depending on how it plays out- which is then controlled by the player. I suppose your answer to that question can be one that works for all the other scenes in a game, but beyond that my suggestion's to approach this on a case-by-case basis.

Last time I discussed this, I asked the game dev students I was chatting with to just give me a random example of a scene where the player couldn't do anything. One of them offered the start of one of the games in the Dungeon Siege series, where the player's first 60 seconds are spent in a prison cell/cage (I forget which) while someone walks up and talk to you through the bars. One way to introduce a variable there would be to let the player press a button to slam on or rattle the bars at any time while the NPC's speaking to them. The in-game narrative variable this creates is how their character reacts to their confinement and the things the NPC says to them- they can take things in stride but then react violently to one of his statements in particular. You could expand on this by having the NPC pause his speech and shake his head the first time the player rattles the bars once he's started speaking, then look away the second time- the behavior of the player's character leads him to demonstrate his own character. (Another Robert McKee lesson here- someone's habits, demeanor, vocal quirks, those are all characteristics. Character is what someone does, when faced with a given situation.)
Logged

Your daily does of devil's advocacy: "We're largely past the idea that games are solely for children, but many people are consciously trying to give their games more intellectual depth. Works of true brilliance are rarely motivated by insecurity."
Pages: 1 [2]
Jump to: