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The Role We Don't Play

Discussion in 'RPG News & Content' started by Diogo Ribeiro, Mar 30, 2007.

  1. psorcerer Novice

    psorcerer
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    Israel
    Man, you're so cool!

    Oh, you can even make conclusions!
    Yep, toys and add Tetris to your list.

    Ah, you're a deep thinker. Let's see: can we tell a story without narrative? No.

    So, no problem with NWN?
     
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  2. Diogo Ribeiro Erudite

    Diogo Ribeiro
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    Thanks. It takes blood and guts to be this cool but I'm still just a cliche. Your well founded knowledge and scholarly insight into the medium should be revered, however.


    Any other videogame you'd like to place in the same field as yo-yos and teddy bears?


    And once again, how does this relate to the article?


    Can you tell the difference between a lacking design tool and a videogame?
     
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  3. suibhne Erudite

    suibhne
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    BZZT. Wrong.

    Thanks for playing.
     
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  4. Zomg Arbiter

    Zomg
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    What? I can see how you could have a narrative without telling a story, but not the other way around. I didn't read the guy you're responding to - this is a fresh fork.
     
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  5. suibhne Erudite

    suibhne
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    Depends on what you mean by "narrative" and "story".

    Let's start with the assumption that they're actually different, since conflating them gets rid of any reason to use both words in the first place. With that in mind, "narrative" is a much-abused word that has fairly specific theoretical/critical meanings dating all the way to Aristotle, while "story" is much looser. (You might use entirely different definitions; mine are pretty much grounded in academia, which doesn't make them right.)

    It's all definitional, but psorceror's approach isn't particularly sophisticated and certainly isn't necessary. If you choose to equate story and narrative, or define narrative as a necessary property of stories (basically the same thing), then why mince words about the two ideas in the first place? On the other hand, if you're going to meaningfully distinguish between formal narrative (in the complex sense understood by Western literature for the past 2000 years) and informal (or less formal) story, then there's something to talk about - and it's certainly possible to have story without a traditional narrative structure.

    A less vague way of approaching this is to look at my grocery-shopping trip yesterday evening. I can tell you a story about what happened, but is it also a narrative (or does it have narrative structure) without characters, conflict, development, climax, etc.? If it does, then what's the difference between narrative and story? If there isn't one, why are we having this conversation in the first place? :wink:
     
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  6. kingcomrade Kingcomrade Edgy

    kingcomrade
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    Narrative and story are social constructs erected by the self-perpetuating white phallocracy to oppress women.
     
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  7. Fez Erudite

    Fez
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    Tell it like it is, moon-sister!
     
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  8. Veracity Liturgist

    Veracity
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    Interesting read, thanks for taking the time to write it up. It could perhaps be accused of getting a little bogged down in using an awful lot of words to communicate the fairly obvious point that games aren't movies, but considering the current liberal use of 'cinematic' as an unqualified self-compliment by gaming PR weasels everywhere, maybe it's a point that needs some stressing.
    That's fair enough, but I still find myself wanting to ask who your intended audience is - who's the 'we' you're speaking for in the conclusion? If the aim is for a handful of grumpy nerds to sit around stroking our neck beards and nodding sagely as we agree that things aren't what they used to be and the gaming industry's gone all to cock, mission accomplished. If you want your arguments to impact developers' thinking, independent or otherwise, I'd contend you need to make more of a commercial case for the shift you advocate than you have. Whatever 'we' might like to play, railroaded, low-interactivity, low-branching, completist-oriented story-driven games sell pretty well - whether this is because 'we' buy them anyway in the absence of anything better, or because they're targeting someone else (both?), I don't know.

    I agree with some posters that focusing on simulation mechanics is the way what you're calling for is likely to come about. Current story-led RPGs would suck a lot less if developers hired actual writers to work on them, but not in the manner you're interested in. I wonder if the RPG market is simply the wrong place to look, these days, though? Strategy/4X titles of the past few years might be more ripe for a push towards producing emergent narrative :)cringe:). They might not end up with 'RPG' on the box, but would that necessarily matter, if they provided something close enough to the play experience you're looking for?
     
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  9. galsiah Erudite

    galsiah
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    If you mean that a gameworld inherently provides story, so that producing an interesting gameworld creates enough story not to need the veneer of a film script, you're right.
    I don't think that's what you mean. Ergo, you are talking crap.

    Crap again.
    First, the common view of the game-vs-toy issue is that a game must contain goals and conflicts. A toy can quite simply become a game if used in a certain way - the player just needs to play with goals in mind, and to perceive some form of adversary; similarly, any game can become a toy if goals and conflicts are disregarded. It's a vague subject which inherently hinges on perspective.
    The idea that story has anything to do with something's being a game is daft.

    Also, whether something is a "game" (by whatever definition), is almost entirely irrelevant. All that matters is the entertainment it provides - both the degree of entertainment, and the form of it if you have specific goals. Whether it's a game couldn't matter less. Is Sim-City a game? In many senses it isn't. So what?

    Seeking to trivialize certain creations by sticking a "toy" label on them is idiotic.
    You sir, are a cretin.


    On the article, I generally agree. I think simulation is the most interesting direction for games to head. I think that a player can experience a rich game world as more than a linear story - but I'd go further than to say it's about a player authored story; I'd say it's about something more than story. A wide range of influential game world events, and the player's perception of/influence on them, needn't fit neatly into any notion of a story. The player is there, experiencing the game world. That experience is what's important - with it's many combinations of related and unrelated events/perceptions, any of which could be seen as a story.

    I don't think it helps to try to organize that experience into some kind of newspaper report - however player-authored / non-linear / dynamic. Any neat, sequential organization of an experience is trivial compared to the experience itself (or ought to be). Trying to understand/model/control that experience in such simple terms is to risk trivializing it - since you end up creating the experience from your trivial model. The best worlds shouldn't allow any neat description. Any story you can tell in such worlds ought to be a subjective, half-understood approximation. Where a story is a rigid, clear description of exactly what happened, it isn't really a story any more.
     
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  10. quix0te Novice

    quix0te
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    To a degree I agree with the Role-Player. I was particularly put out when I played COH and everything I did was a 'job' I was given by a contact. These jobs were outside of my character, unrelated to him. Which largely defies Superhero conventions, when superhero missions are an outgrowth of THEM. Their lives and friends and enemies. So in that sense I know what he's talking about.

    But at the same time, I think his argument is 90% bogus.
    First, I like having a story to follow. It gives the game structure, it speeds immersion. Most importantly it allows developers to have more depth in their games since they dont have to try and allow for every possible thing the player might want to to do. I like having some latitude in how I follow the story, but I'd rather have one than not.
    Second, and this is the big one for me, I think most people would rather just do what is in front of them rather than FIND stuff to do. I dont say this out of meanness or pettiness. I've played PnP RPGs for almost 30 years now. My experiences are that about 1 player in 3 or so has volition. Leave them alone, their characters will do something on their own. The other two-thirds have no volition. If you leave them alone they just sit, waiting for you to give them a direction. And I think the ratios for CRPGS are much worse because the people I game with are generally smarter and more dynamic than average.
    If you doubt it, walk into a McDonalds or a Mall and mentally compare the people you see to the people you game with. These people are a developer's target audience.

    Would there be an audience for a plotless, or plot-lite, sandbox game? Yes. Would it be large enough to cover development costs? I dont think so. Particularly development costs for the kind of depth thats going to be needed if you are basically going to hand the player a toybox and say 'go nuts'.
     
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  11. Merkaal Novice

    Merkaal
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    It's a good article. By merely having choices and consequences you end up with a plot. It may not be spelled out for you on the chalkboard; it may not be a well written or even interesting, but it's definitely there and it's unavoidable because causation equals plot.

    The question should not be one of narrative or lack thereof, but of the ability to control the course of the narrative to no end through roleplay. Good RPGs should have more in common with simulations in this respect.

    I had an idea of an MMORPG where there was completely no NPCs, hostile or no, instead having the gameworld made up entirely of player characters. The setting would be some sort of fantasy to make it at least a bit more interesting than real life, but the lore would be blank slated and up to the community to "create" as events would happen spontaneously in the gameworld and be historically accounted for. Hence, the game would revolve around a strong community hub and the narratives would be experienced first hand (or interpreted second-hand) by the player rather than being spoonfed ala more classical art forms. It certainly has potential, although would be a lot harder to implement as a single player experience.
     
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  12. Diogo Ribeiro Erudite

    Diogo Ribeiro
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    Location:
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    I know this is late into the game so apologies for not having responded earlier.

    The verbosity was planned in the sense that I didn't want to write a footnote instead of an article, although the long winded approach which vulches around the same point is a mistake born out of a lack of time to manage a proper revision.


    One of the failings of the article comes from not picking specific targets or making clear who I'm speaking to. I didn't have a particular desire to speak for anyone but this happened as the article was originally not a Codex piece but in adapting it to the site I inevitably felt like trying to mirror some of the audience's concerns. As for impacting developers' thinking, I agree that a more focused approach could have been made although at first the intent was more on providing alternatives to something which I feel as a problem (ie., trying to adapt cinematic language into a medium that offers better story-telling possibilities and suffers with this collage) on a design level, not necessarily on a commercial perspective.

    Once again, proper revision and stuff.


    The article is not a hymn against story or storytelling, quite the opposite. Most of the content is aimed at pointing out issues inherent in trying to adapt linear storytelling methods and their associated artifacts into a medium that simply does not need these leftovers from other mediums. It's not about rejecting story but rejecting the notion that story needs to be linear and forced on players, or that it needs - or even gains anything - from being presented through storytelling devices that remove player agency and largely understand the possibilities in videogames. Why are we being treated as a passive audience when the medium has the possibility to be anything but passive?
     
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