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Emergent Systems As A Narrative Device

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A presentation on the power of emergent game systems to give us stories that are personal and engaging.

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Emergent Systems As A Narrative Device

  1. 1. Emergent Systems as Narrative Devices
  2. 2. The Importance of Stories “ Man … is the storytelling animal. He has to go on telling stories. He has to keep on making them up. As long as there's a story, it's all right. Even in his last moments, it's said, in the split second of a fatal fall--or when he's about to drown--he sees, passing rapidly before him, the story of his whole life.” Graham Swift, Waterland How many stories have you told about Halo? How many of those were about toppling the covenant? How many of them were about messing around with plasma grenades? We want to tell OUR stories
  3. 3. Emergent Systems “ Complexity is intrinsically linked to meaningful play. Playing a game is synonymous with exploring a game’s space of possibility. If a system is fixed, periodic, or chaotic, it does not provide a space of possibility large or flexible enough for players to explore through meaningful play” Eric Zimmerman, “Rules of Play” “ When we’re at our best [as game designers] we can even create systems that allow [users] to set in motion events that we don’t control, can’t anticipate, and didn’t plan for … and that’s when things get really interesting!” Warren Spector
  4. 4. Definitions Story: A sequence of events, preferably structured & compelling. Narrative: The means by which these events are portrayed or communicated.
  5. 5. Plot: A sequence of events that show causality. The King died, then The Queen died. = Story The King died, then The Queen died = Story OF GRIEF PLOT EM Forster
  6. 6. “ A story should have a beginning, a middle and an end … but not necessarily in that order” - Jean Luc Godard “ My wiener dog has a beginning, a middle and an end, but that doesn’t make him a story.” - Anonymous Beginning Middle End
  7. 7. Standard Game Narrative (Half Life) Beginning Middle End Branching Game Narrative (Mass Effect) Beginning Optional Branching Paths Funnelled Back To The Middle More Branches Small Number Of Endings
  8. 8. Beginning Middle End Standard Narrative + Side Quests (Fallout / KOTOR) (also most dramatic cinema) Beginning End ? No Central Narrative (Emergent Games) So what drives the player?
  9. 9. Middle End ? The Player’s Own Story “ Implicit Narrative” It happens in comic strips & movies already!
  10. 10. We’re looking for this:
  11. 11. Darkness = Danger Coal = Light Mining = Time Night = Darkness
  12. 12. A Typical Minecraft Story I need Coal! I Seal Myself In A Cave And Wait … The Sun Is Setting! Coal! Glorious Coal! I have Torches … I am Secure!
  13. 13. Jenova Chen’s “Flow in Games” Abilities increase over time when playing Abilities = Time Tension rises with increasing challenge Challenge = Tension
  14. 14. Emergent Game = Chains of Causality Chains of Causality = Plot
  15. 15. Do Emergent Games Have A Story? So … Do Comic Books Have A Story? Well … Do Films Have A Story? And …
  16. 16. “ Closure” It’s what Scott McCloud called It’s why there’s a million stories about Minecraft … … but not so many about Tetris. The natural desire to see characters and stories in things we recognise and understand.
  17. 17. Looking Forward: Emergence is the Essence of Gaming Emergence doesn’t mean No Story Creating a network of causal events can create a compelling plot Conflict between interactive elements creates rising tension Familiarity breeds Closure

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