Play me a Story: Player Action as Narrative Articulation
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in...5
×
 

Like this? Share it with your network

Share

Play me a Story: Player Action as Narrative Articulation

on

  • 1,838 views

Pr

Pr

Statistics

Views

Total Views
1,838
Views on SlideShare
1,137
Embed Views
701

Actions

Likes
0
Downloads
12
Comments
0

4 Embeds 701

http://altugi.wordpress.com 697
http://a0.twimg.com 2
http://twitter.com 1
https://altugi.wordpress.com 1

Accessibility

Upload Details

Uploaded via as Microsoft PowerPoint

Usage Rights

© All Rights Reserved

Report content

Flagged as inappropriate Flag as inappropriate
Flag as inappropriate

Select your reason for flagging this presentation as inappropriate.

Cancel
  • Full Name Full Name Comment goes here.
    Are you sure you want to
    Your message goes here
    Processing…
Post Comment
Edit your comment

Play me a Story: Player Action as Narrative Articulation Presentation Transcript

  • 1. Seminar Lecture at the METU, Informatics InstituteAnkara, October 31, 2011
  • 2. Play me a Story: Player Action as Narrative Articulation
  • 3.  Narrative Situation:  the broader rules and conventions that shape the way in which games (game narratives) are consumed.  This is not really part of the narrative itself, but rather the circumstances and cultural codes that allow the game narrative to be perceived and consumed as such.
  • 4.  Storytelling (or Narration):  the various techniques and methods through which the events and story persons to which they belong to are presented to the player.  [Examples from Diablo: ▪ Exposure of information through entering dialogues with the people in town; ▪ gothic iconography and low gamma to foster mood and to communicate genre, ▪ isometric view, ▪ players in-game presence visually divided into avatar and cursor etc]
  • 5.  Story persons (or Actants):  the fictional beings who carry out the actions which articulate as events.  Often theyll signify something larger than their partiular presence and connect to a "will".  Back to the Diablo example: ▪ All monsters in the game are actants or story persons. ▪ But ultimately they articulate under a narrative "force" that we can identify as "Diablo". ▪ This is the "will" that aims to break the "will" of the story person that we act as in the game world.
  • 6.  Events (or Functions):  all actions that are carried out to initiate, continue and terminate a logically connected sequence  an example from Diablo: ▪ zombie is on attack --> kill zombie --> collect gold. The Events layer implies that characters in a story are in a constant process of decision- making.  Chosing the wrong option could mean "end of story".
  • 7.  Historically, the video game has been a form of narrative that through input allowed players to influence how a row of Events will turn out. This is the archetype of video game interactivity and it remains until today fundamental to any game. Influencing the events layer has been the dominant mode of interaction for many decades  Examples: Spacewar!, Pong, Asteroids, Space Invaders, Centipede, Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Zaxxon
  • 8.  Over time we saw game designers explore the possibilities of the other layers of narrative. Players could modify or remove existing characters, create characters from scratch, change their looks, traits and behaviors. Other games allowed us to change the environment, to add, modify or remove objects, to modify terrain etc. Examples: Civilization, Sim City, Diablo, The Sims, Rollercoaster Tycoon, Railroad Tycoon, X-Com Apocalypse, Football Manager
  • 9.  Most modern games have added to these two layers the modification of the layer of Narration:  We can now modify the camera angle or behavior,  switch between POVs,  chose the music and gamma (ambience)  alter the frequency of in-game commentary,  switch on or off replays  etc Pro Evolution Soccer, Need for Speed, Medal of Honor are just a few examples that come in mind.
  • 10. Play me a Story: Player Action as Narrative Articulation
  • 11.  We distinguished already between the four interdependent layers that form a narrative. The first two of these layers, Events and Actants, provide the content of the narrative. The other two layers, Narration and Narrative Situation are regarded as the form of the narrative.
  • 12. Play me a Story: Player Action as Narrative Articulation
  • 13.  Narrative Situation addresses the broadest parameters. We usually deal with aspects of the narrative situation when we specify overall gameplay options or when we decide on a certain game mode:  Preferring a Capture the Flag mode over a Deathmatch mode  These are about specifying the broadest lines of the narrative content and its narration.
  • 14.  Before we start to play a session of Rise of Nations or Civilization, we are allowed to specify  the settings in the game (whether wed like to play on a single continent or over a number of islands, which time frame we prefer etc),  the number of existents (how many rival nations there will be, what the population limits will be etc)  and their aspects (whether special abilities are allowed or not etc),  the winning conditions (under what condition the conflict will be regarded as solved) etc.  Moreover we can specify sight & sound settings and change key assignments. All these operations are carried out on the narrative situation layer. Our choices will have an impact on narration and the content that will be narrated.
  • 15. Play me a Story: Player Action as Narrative Articulation
  • 16.  Narration is the audio-visual and tactile presentation of the fictional game universe, its existents (including the players presence), and the events that take place in it (including the narration of and "feedback" on the players actions and decisions). A game that allows us to modify the ways in which sight, sound and other types of information are presented to us can be regarded as being open to manipulation on the narration layer. Examples would be Need for Speed, in which we can switch between first-person and third-person perspective, or Counter- Strike, in which we can modify the angle of our perspective by moving the cursor.
  • 17.  Statements are medium-dependent, that is, every medium has its unique possibilities and limitations in expression. Narration consists of Statements which may be mediated and unmediated, that is, they may be expressed through the voice of a narrator or not. In many games we will find a mix of unmediated and mediated statements. In cases in which the statements are mediated, they are voiced by or hint at a narrator whose speech addresses a narratee.
  • 18.  A lot of games seem to be narrated eclusively through unmediated statements, that is, they make minimal or no use of a narrator.  Instead of a verbal account of things, they go for a "simulation of events". Indeed, most "formal" games (like for example Tetris) are of this kind.  The text adventure genre on the other hand, can be given as an example in which mediated narration is preferred.  In such games, the presence of a narrator and a narrattee is often very easy to detect.  The narrator would simply say things like "You [the narrattee] stand in front of a closed door.« But we should always be prepared to find a mix of mediated and unmediated statements: In a game that went with unmediated statements for a long time, you suddenly may come accross a mediated statement (and vice versa).
  • 19.  Football Manager is a good example of how complex it can become in regard to the presence of narrators.  This game uses mediated statements throughout the communication that takes place on the message boards.  Here, one of the narrators uses statements like "Your assistant informs you that..." whereas our assistant might have spoken directly to us.  Another narrator uses the register of sports news portals. Yet another narrator is the match commentator that accompanies with his comments the simulated events that take place during a match. Games that allow us to turn off tutorials are often examples for at least one narrator in the story being eliminated. We must distinguish between pure narrators and character-narrators.  Some narrators may not be involved into the events that take place, but they may be still all-knowing about them, while others may be actively involved into the ongoing events, but yet possess limited information on the situation.  An example for the latter would be Max Payne, in which the protagonist is the narrator of the mystery that he tries to solve. When a narrator is involved, his statements are always directed towards a narrattee, that is, someone whom the speech is addressing.  The narrattee isnt necessarily the player, but may be some other character in the game world.
  • 20. Play me a Story: Player Action as Narrative Articulation
  • 21.  Actants are the characters and the settings that play a central role in the maintenance of the plot. Actants possess a degree of functionality in making the plot progress.  Central to this are the actions they carry out, and how central these actions are in deciding the outcome of the narrated sequence of events.
  • 22.  A good example for the degree of importance to the plot is how we perceive our encounter with ordinary enemies and with bosses.  Ordinary enemies are often just some "loot bags" to us, we often use words like "cannon fodder" when we speak of them and by doing so, we address their degree of importance to the plot.  On the other hand, the encounter with a boss is perceived as a milestone in the progress that we make. ▪ We consider this as a core event which also reveals that the boss type of actants have a degree of importance to the plot. Oviously, the actant with the highest degree of importance to the plot is our own actant. The same counts for settings. In Rise of Nations for example, some environmental elements and existents may have no big importance to the plot, whereas resource areas are central to it.
  • 23.  Aspect is in regard to the identity and qualities of the actants, such as their moods and traits. These may be detailed or shallow, depending on the game we play. Also the type of narration sets a limit on how much we know about the aspect of actants.  For example in large parts of Duke Nukem we have not much knowledge about the physical appearance of Duke due to the first-person perspective that the narration is visually build around (until we come accross a mirror!).
  • 24.  Sometimes the aspect of actants may only become only visible through their actions.  For example in Tetris, the player is an actant that becomes visible through his decisions in regard to how he moves and places blocks; whereas the "antagonist" becomes visible through his choices in regard to which block to send next.  "It" challenges us by sending the blocks faster and faster, often denying us the block that we are in need of to clean the level. All these reveal aspect to a certain degree.
  • 25.  A lot of games provide us with a lot of information about the aspects of actants. In Football Manager for example, you may find information about the identities of managers and footballers, and the statements they release in the press tell us about their moods and traits.  Some will always apologize when you fine them for unproper conduct whereas others will be very rejective and immediately demand to be put on the transfer list. Actually, the FM Editor provides a database that allows us to overwrite the aspect side of actants:  You may change a soccer players identity, his mood (level of aggression), and his traits (likes to the chip the ball, or likes to play it around the keeper etc.) and all these will have an impact on how events will play out.
  • 26.  In terms of openness of the actants layer, The Sims is a remarkable example:  The detailed character creation process in the game is first and foremost about creating characters that are important to the plot.  But then, it is also about defining the details of their aspect. We have great freedom in shaping the identity and qualities of characters and settings.  And we can simply put an end to their importance to the plot by removing families and homes from the neighborhood.  Besides, the many expansion packs of the Sims series add a great number of settings and characters, and new options to alter their aspects.
  • 27. Play me a Story: Player Action as Narrative Articulation
  • 28.  Events typically include the actions and happenings in the story.  Whether an event is an action or a happening depends on agency, that is, the answer who carries out the action, and who is subject to it. On the other hand, necessity marks how central an event is to the plot.  An event that can be skipped or ommitted without making the narrative as whole collapse, is a sattelite, whereas an event that opens a gap in the logic and chronology when removed from the narrative, is a kernel.
  • 29.  Actions are the things done by actants. Happenings on the other hand are those things that happen to characters.  The difference lies in agency. It must be understood that often one actantss action equals to a happening for the actant subject to that action.  For example in a multiplayer FPS, an action is when I shoot at someone, whereas for the player that is my target, the same thing is a happening. In most single player games, players deal with the actions part, whereas the AI cares for the happenings.  In Sim City for example, the actions are centered around the players decisions in regard to how to build the city, whereas the majority of other events comes in form of happenings: Traffic, smog, riots, disasters, crime rates, advisors speaking to us etc.
  • 30.  Events are categorized based on the level of necessity they possess. Some events are core to the story, that is, if wed leave them out, the experience feels incomplete, as if it were truncated.  We call these Kernels ▪ The narrative simply wouldnt be able to maintain itself without that event. ▪ Certain quests or cutscenes are kernels, because when we skip them, we may not be able to obtain a key that is necessary to unlock another level, or we may miss an important information that may be later on necessary to solve the conflict. Sattelites, on the other hand, are complementary, but not necessary.  For example we can skip quite a lot of quests or cutscenes because the events they contain are sattelites, not kernels.  The narrative can live without them.
  • 31.  Events are categorized based on the level of necessity they possess. Some events are core to the story, that is, if wed leave them out, the experience feels incomplete, as if it were truncated.  We call these Kernels ▪ The narrative simply wouldnt be able to maintain itself without that event. ▪ Certain quests or cutscenes are kernels, because when we skip them, we may not be able to obtain a key that is necessary to unlock another level, or we may miss an important information that may be later on necessary to solve the conflict. Sattelites, on the other hand, are complementary, but not necessary.  For example we can skip quite a lot of quests or cutscenes because the events they contain are sattelites, not kernels.  The narrative can live without them.
  • 32. Play me a Story: Player Action as Narrative Articulation
  • 33.  An interface will enable the articulation of narrative elements that belong to the various narrative layers We can speak of three types of narrative articulation that take place as we use the game interface:  Chrono-logical articulation: ▪ this is the articulation of Events through initiating, manipulating and terminating sequences of actions. Moving a group of soldiers through a desert by clicking on the interface is an example for this.  Audio-visual articulation: the players interferences on the audio-visual continuum that is in progress. ▪ Clicking on a mini-map to view different areas of the game world is an example for this. ▪ This type of articulation works on the Narration layer since it modifies the way events are presented to us. ▪  Actantial articulation: gradually unvealing and altering a ‘paradigm of traits’ (=character) through the use of affordances and the making of choice. ▪ Every choice we make, and every gameplay option we use will add up to shape and define a story character with specific abilities, skills and personality. ▪ This is connected to Actant layer. As each three types of articulation take place as a result of player interference, the game narrative, which is the combined structure of Events, Actants and Narration, comes to life.
  • 34. Play me a Story: Player Action as Narrative Articulation
  • 35.  First of all, and obviously, in this game, the player is the spectator of the ongoing "telecast".  He interpretes the cast events (including his own actions) and the information that is presented to him in order to form hypotheses that will be verified or falsified throughout the process.  The hypotheses he forms are in regard to many different things: ▪ Some of them are about what his affordances are and how he can make use of them. ▪ Some others are about his goals, the obstacles inbetween, and the course of action he can take to overcome these obstacles in order to reach his goal. Also quite obvious, the player is an actant in the game world, that is, he is someone who initiates, carries further, and terminates actual game events.  Examples are plenty, from laying tracks, to building stations, to buying trains, to investing in stock.
  • 36.  What seems to be a bit more hidden is his role as telecaster.  While we would consider them simply as gameplay, many actions do not result in change of the events themselves, but in their audio-visual presentation, that is, the casting of the actual events.  One of the typical operations he can carry out in that regard is switching between cameras, just like someone who’s sitting at the switching table during a live broadcast. The player is both, director and switcher: he decides what should be brought under focus, and he orders these images on the screen by himself.  The scroll function, the zoom buttons and the cam angle modifiers all aid the player in this role.  But he can also blend in info screens and other graphic displays.
  • 37.  It must be said that giving the player this role is a safe way of editing, because the player decides by himself when to switch to a different angle, scale or viewpoint. Giving the control to the player, avoids confusion that can come from AI-controlled switching.  Since it is the player who focuses on whatever he wants, the risk to slow down gameplay by calling in images that the player is not interested in viewing at that particular moment, is minimal.  The result is some sort of continuity editing done by the player himself.
  • 38. Play me a Story: Player Action as Narrative Articulation
  • 39.  In the upper half of the diagram we see the basic relation between video game medium, game discourse and player (the yellow rectangle). Central to the process is the relation between the open text (the game) and the implied reader (player). The video game medium frames this relationship. I define interaction as the mutual influencing between the open work and the implied reader over a medium.
  • 40.  The orange and purple shapes at the lower part of the diagram show the relation between narrative (style and content), artefact (software) and author (game developers). The narrative form of a video game is managed by the game engine whereas the narrative content of a video game is stored as data.  Data contains information on game events and existents.  The game engine deals with how this information is assembled, articulated and presented via the medium.
  • 41. Thank you very much… http://altugi.wordpress.com İsigan (dot) altug (at) gmail (dot) com Twitter: altugi