NB: This is the first installment of a developing post on This War of Mine. I will play it more and my opinion might change
As an expressive form, video games have long established themselves as a way to communicate serious topics, from HIV to oil sands exploitation. War is a new and important topic for games. No, not war as a soldier, as a party in the fighting – that certainly is old news. But war as experienced by non-combatants (in the day and age of asymmetrical opponents and civil wars, the word “civilian” does not seem to be a strong enough distinction anymore from those fighting) that try to survive alongside the hostilities, is a new topic.
I was excited when I heard about a game on non-combatants, as I envisioned a rich interactive narrative giving players a glimpse of the horrors of war, carrying an important message especially for those – like me – who have been so lucky to never have experienced it personally.
You’re right that the Holy Grail is beyond our reach; I have tacitly admitted as much with my Siboot project, which is half-game, half-storyworld. The interactive storytelling in Siboot uses only about three-quarters of the technology in SWAT; I have ripped out a lot of the more complex components. I dumped the ability to travel to stages; that’s all handled directly by the Engine. I limited Actor attributes to just three; I replaced the Tinkertoy Text system with an iconic system that is computationally simpler. Only two actors are allowed on a stage at once; no three-party interactions are allowed. There’s no hiding, no spying, and no automatic lie detection. I can’t recall some of the other simplifications I have made.
In part 3 of the discussion, Chris expands on the disciplinary divide in the field, before discussing a communal approach versus the single genius. Finally, he lays out his approach and talks about his current project Siboot. In turn, I talk he audience and the difficulty to extend something as well known (by almost everybody) as narrative.
Wow! That was a great piece. It’s sort of “A Quick Summary of the Field of IDN in 2500 Words or Less”. I don’t keep up with what others are doing, largely because I don’t have access to the printed academic literature and I can’t go to the academic conferences. On a deeper level, I’m a troglodytic lone wolf anyway. I *like* my cave!
I agree and disagree with everything you wrote — and that is my standard for perfection in writing. A good essay should include just enough agreeable content to command credence, and just enough disagreeable content to stimulate thought. I think you hit the perfect balance here.
In part 1, the discussion started around the question of authorship in interactive narrative, this second part concentrates on the issue of computational story models and how different perspectives in this interdisciplinary field affect the discussion and research agenda. I also bring up the question of enabling collaboration through exchange standards.
I am pessimistic about the prospect of making interactive storytelling authorship available to Everyman. This was in fact the goal of the Erasmatron, and it was a spectacular failure — the system required was far to complicated. With Storytron I made some aspects of the technology more accessible, but the underlying model grew more complex.
The central problem, however, is the difficulty of creating a computable model for storytelling. Every effort I have seen relies on a different conception of the structure of a story and the process of storytelling. We cannot collaborate because we all see storytelling differently.
Save the Date is a real gem from the perspective of interactive digital narrative. This game puts the affordances of digital media to great use by demonstrating how procedurality and interactivity can extend narrative. At the same time, this work challenges long-standing conventions in both games and narrative.
So what does this game do? Save the Date reflects the player’s growing knowledge in consecutive replays though an evolving narrative. In addition, this work extends the notion of metanarrative in an important way and challenges the player to consider abandoning the game to reach a successful ending.
The Games & Narrativ group invites participants to a workshop on the future of Interactive Digital Narrative at ICIDS 2014 in Singapore.
After more than 25 years of fruitful research, starting with Brenda Laure’s 1986 PhD thesis, and productive practice in interactive digital narrative, it is a good time to consider future directions amid a maturing research field and a growing market for narrative-based interactive media. The Games & Narrative group invites participants to discuss ongoing issues as well successful methods and projects with us. On this foundation the workshop will enter into a phase of “futuring” – productive speculation – how will IDN look like in 5, 10, 25 or even 50 years? In addition to this, we will also take this opportunity to debate concrete initiatives, like joint research proposals, exploratory projects, forums for interdisciplinary dialogue, a central repository for projects or an academic/professional organization. The results of the workshop will be made available on the Games & Narrative website.
A decade ago, the new discipline of games studies/ludology vigorously denied any connection between games and narrative (Aarseth 2001, Eskelinen 2001, Juul 2001, Frasca 2003). For example, Markku Eskelinen wrote that since a well accepted descriptive methodology for traditional games – he references The Study of Games (1971) – does not consider narrative as part of the ludic field, computer games should follow the same route. If they do not, as he implicitly suggests, it is more because of marketing strategies than of intrinsic characteristics.