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Terminology

Terminology
« on: April 16, 2010, 09:55:58 am »

So in this thread the aim is to define or at least discuss various terms that are used. This should be of some help among us on the forum, but also a way of causing the least misunderstanding among others. Because of the second reason, I think it is important that we do not invent terms unless needed, use existing terminology (if any) and apply them it a way that fits what most people think about these.

Gonna start of with a few storytelling related:

Story
What the videogame is about and a sort of summary of the space of events in the work. In order to have a story the videogame can not be pure abstractions, but must have some kind of symbolism. Example, Tetris has no story but Galaga does (space pilot fights aliens).

Narrative
A chain of events/emotions after they have unfolded. This is basically the sum of the player's experience. A more personal version of story.

Plot
A finite number of, by a designer, preplanned event/emotions. A videogame can have a narrative without plot, but the plot sets up a frame work for how the narrative will unfold. The more free a game is, the less plot it has.

Lore/Background/???
This is sort of the framework for the story, in Galaga this would be "Aliens attack earth" or similar. It serves as background information for the player, but does not have to take an active part in the game. The reason I add this here, is because I want to differentiate it from story, which is much more general.

Please comment and disagree! Smiley
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Re: Terminology
« Reply #1 on: April 18, 2010, 12:24:54 am »

My thinking is that we should start with the idea of designing experiences. Halo is one example of something that's designed to produce a certain experience (or certain range of experiences); others include a book, a concert, a shopping mall, someone's outfit/perfume/makeup. . .

When we design an experience, we make use of various elements. Background music, visual presentation, some kind of story, some kind of game. These are like ingredients in a recipe- you can and should analyze individual ingredients, but you also have to pay attention to the chemistry that occurs when you implement one or more elements in a certain fashion, because that plays a crucial role in determining the actual results- the effects the experience has on people.

What do you guys think, does that make sense?

(The following is a further explanation of my thinking, but it's also veering into matters that are becoming a sort of personal soapbox for me. Feel free to run with the first two paragraphs and ignore this one.) The results of that chemistry can be positive or negative; it can take two delicious ingredients and make them into something inedible, or vice versa. Because of this, I think it's often a bad idea to apply general-purpose value judgments to ingredients in and of themselves. Sure, you don't want to make a dish using rotten apples; but the kinds of apples that taste best when eaten plain, the kind that make the best apple pie and the kind that make the best apple cider can be different even before you account for individual taste.
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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: Terminology
« Reply #2 on: April 18, 2010, 12:53:14 am »

I'm very sloppy with words. Partially because words don't express what I intend to say anyway. And partially because words tend to mean different things to different people. Especially when discussing a new creative form where the place of all these concepts isn't clear yet.

I like your definitions. But "narrative" confuses me a bit. The problem being, probably, that to me "narrative" feels like story-telling. And playing a game is not the same as being told a story, nor as telling a story. It's living through an experience. And that's just a bunch of events that only form a sequence because of the passing of time but that may not necessarily have any narrative logic (as in cause and effect).

And how does "meaning" fit in your puzzle?
« Last Edit: April 18, 2010, 12:55:39 am by Michaël Samyn »
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Re: Terminology
« Reply #3 on: April 18, 2010, 08:45:00 am »

I agree Dagda's descriptions. However I would having it start at an even lower level:

Meaning: This is what you want to express with the game. It should sort of be the essence of the experience.

After that one starts tailoring the experience to express the meaning and go on as Dagda described. At least that is the way I think it Smiley

The story would then be a sort of basic part of the experience, it could be (as experience does not need a story) a summary of what the experience would be about.

Michaël:
I feel like narrative is something that is created when you play. So after (or during) a playsession you can tell someone about that session and this retelling is the narrative. It is one person's subjective experience about the game. Does this retelling need to have strict cause and effect? I think not.
« Last Edit: April 18, 2010, 08:47:27 am by Thomas »
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Re: Terminology
« Reply #4 on: April 18, 2010, 11:38:16 am »

Meaning: This is what you want to express with the game. It should sort of be the essence of the experience.

As an artist, I'm afraid I have to disagree with this. That's just not how we, and many artists we know, work. Art is not simply the expression of an idea. It's a lot more organic and intuitive than that. Especially with the interactive medium, which we have adopted mostly because it allowed us to not work with a single meaning, but to create a space in which many different meanings can be explored.

In my experience, this "meaning" that underlies a game, the thing that I try to "express" is extremely vague, almost subconscious, and open to change during the creative process. The creative process itself is an exploration of what this feeling could mean or why I might find it interesting. But this exploration is by no means concluded when the work is done. On the contrary!

I don't want my work to "mean" a single thing. I want its essence to be much more like the meaning of word "essence" as "perfume or scent": something invisible that you can smell and almost feel and that penetrates your very being but stays mostly far away from your rational understanding. That's what art is about for me. (but of course not all videogames need to be created or function as art)

Why not use the word "essence" instead of "meaning"?

I feel like narrative is something that is created when you play. So after (or during) a playsession you can tell someone about that session and this retelling is the narrative. It is one person's subjective experience about the game. Does this retelling need to have strict cause and effect? I think not.


The word "narrative" has connotations of a structured story to me. Wouldn't the words "report" or "account" suit your description better?
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Re: Terminology
« Reply #5 on: April 18, 2010, 05:25:54 pm »

Michaël:
I have probably a too strict definition of meaning then and I agree that essence should probably be better then. However, I also kinda see meaning as an answer to the question: "why?". Do you think this fits how you see the meaning of the word? I mean, is speaking of "why" you made a work same as speaking of the meaning? Or is this really separate to you? Is meaning the sum of process and an audience experiencing the work?

Okay, if narrative means structure to you then it might be a bad word altogether? Because I have heard people stating that narrative does not have to be specific plot point at all. So perhaps narrativeis best avoided?
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Re: Terminology
« Reply #6 on: April 19, 2010, 08:37:40 am »

Essence feels like a good answer to the question why to me. Though sometimes the essence of a work might be different than what it was originally intended to be. So then essence would not be the answer to the question "Why did you create this work?" But I think this is an exception. Most of the time, in my experience, essence is very vague at the start of a project and it doesn't change as much as it gets defined during production.

For instance, you might want to make a work that feels scary and then you make a prototype with a monster and you realize that the scariness it evokes doesn't feel right. So you alter the work to feel more gloomy than scary. I don't think that this necessarily means that you've changed the essence you were going for. It's think it was just badly defined in the beginning.

Then again, the essence (or meaning) of a work is certainly different for each player, even for each play session. So it should actually not be so strictly connected to the author. It should be subjective. Then the question would be "What is the essence of this work for you?"

I do think it's important to have a word for the "story as it grows in the mind of the player as a result of playing". Maybe it needs a more nuanced term like narrative experience? "Experienced narrative" would be more correct but doesn't sound as well.
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Re: Terminology
« Reply #7 on: April 19, 2010, 03:20:48 pm »

It's probably been two years since I first scribbled this note to myself:
Quote
Inspiration comes from without. Meaning comes from within.
That is to say, I don't think you can create something that's inherently meaningful in a particular way. One man's epic manifesto on the human condition is another man's shallow entertainment. As far as I can see, the reason human beings can "find" meaning in just about anything is that the 'meaningful' element of an experience is actually something we generate internally. The outside world just provides the stimuli to keep the gears in our heads turning.

Now, I do have a term for the fundamental thing I'm after. But it needs to be prefaced with word of warning- I don't consider myself an artist, unless you define that term broadly enough to include the vast majority of human beings out there. To me, art is abstract self-expression. I think it's very important and have great deal of respect for the artists in our society, but I don't count myself among them.

What I do consider myself to be is a craftsman. And the fundamental quality I'm pursuing with my works is impact. I want my creations to make people laugh, cry, scream, cheer for joy. I want to enrich their lives, to come up with something that people are still mulling over hours, days, even years later. I want to simultaneously engage people on as many levels as possible, to create something that stimulates your rational mind, plucks at your heartstrings, and resonates deep within your soul in ways you couldn't even begin to articulate.

And I also want to help others who're after the same thing.
« Last Edit: April 19, 2010, 03:23:04 pm by Dagda »
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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: Terminology
« Reply #8 on: April 20, 2010, 07:25:18 am »

I personally like the idea of not using (banning!) some of those words. Damn I hate "narrative", my whole final thesis at uni is filled with it but I still don't really know how to use it!

At gdc Alec proposed the word Xoblax (i think?) as the name for "all interactive entertainment". Kinda like a superclass for everything, including games if i got it right. Seems useful (until people start stretching the meaning of the word, that is)
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Re: Terminology
« Reply #9 on: May 09, 2010, 10:47:04 am »

I just remembered that I like using the word content in game design. Content is the answer to the question "What is the game about?" The nice thing about content is that it can be anything (a theme, a story, a statement, an emotion, etc) and that it is clearly separate from form (which would include things like gameplay, fun, narrative structure, etc).
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Re: Terminology
« Reply #10 on: May 10, 2010, 05:03:51 am »

Yeah, content is a kinda useful word. Normal game developers likes to use it as a kind of measurement of how many 3d-models to make tho. I've heard this kind of sentence a bit too many times: "yeah, that sounds like a fun idea for a game! Then we just need to add content..."
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Re: Terminology
« Reply #11 on: May 10, 2010, 08:54:49 am »

"yeah, that sounds like a fun idea for a game! Then we just need to add content..."

Haha. Game development has inflated language so much! A synonym for this in gamedev lingo would be "Then we just need to add art"!  Cheesy
While, in actually, the term they should be using is "assets"!
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Re: Terminology
« Reply #12 on: May 11, 2010, 02:56:04 am »

Art will be added to future games by requesting a special certificate from Apple that then is embedded into your code.
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Re: Terminology
« Reply #13 on: May 11, 2010, 08:23:20 am »

Art will be added to future games by requesting a special certificate from Apple that then is embedded into your code.
Angry
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