1,000 Days of Syria is a video game / newsgame that tells the story of some journalists in the Syrian conflicts. Its author Mitch Swenson describes it as “part electric literature; part newscast; and part choose-your-own-adventure”.
In a recent news article on The Guardian, Simon Parkin wrote about the game: “You follow one of three narratives, that of a foreign photojournalist, a mother of two living in Daraa or a rebel youth living in Aleppo. The story is delivered in disparate chunks and, at the end of each excerpt, you make choices about what to do next: will you attempt to flee the country or stay put? How will you try to pass the time when you’re imprisoned in a dimly lit cell? Each character has three possible endings and, at times, their stories intersect.”
Play the game for free at http://1000daysofsyria.com/
Read the article online at http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/may/22/1000-days-of-syria-war-journalism-online-game
In a recent WSJ column, book author Christopher John Farley wonders whether literature could be social in the same way social networking sites are. He writes “Video games used to be more like books – essentially solitary experiences which involved people separating themselves from groups”. http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2014/01/02/can-social-literature-compete-with-social-media/
The reasoning follows: if video games managed to become ‘social’, so can books. I disagree on this point, and I think that linear narratives are wonderful things that should give value to their own merits – not chase the characteristics of interactive media. And, likewise, so should video games.
I suppose that we might be witnessing a new trend in the relation between games and narratives. Until now, many game-authors suffered from “narrative envy” (e.g. the tendency to forget the strengths of ludic media in favor of linear narration). I wonder if we’re witnessing a reversal: the rise of “game envy” in traditional book authors.
I do not support this trend. What I propose, instead, is a widespread digital alphabetization and education where authors – regardless of their preferred medium: ludic, linear, transmedia or otherwise – engage in a dialogue with related fields but at the same time remain very conscious of the affordances and limitations of their own.
“A Dark Room”, a text-only game available for free via a browser or at 0,99$ on iOS, seems simplistic and outdated (without any graphics?) but has been praised for its edgy narrative. On Slate, Will Oremus writes: “A Dark Room situates these mechanics in an ominous postapocalyptic landscape, evoked in spare language inspired by Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. And it layers onto them a role-playing, exploratory element, along with jolts of narrative that prod the story into darker terrain without ever fully illuminating it”.
The game can be played online for free at http://adarkroom.doublespeakgames.com/ or bought on https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/a-dark-room/id736683061
Also read Will’s article on Slate and Leigh Alexander’s piece on Gamasutra.
Time and Space in Digital Game Storytelling, by Huaxin Wei, Jim Bizzocchi, and Tom Calvert.
Abstract: The design and representation of time and space are important in any narrative form. Not surprisingly there is an extensive literature on specific considerations of space or time in game design. However, there is less attention to more systematic analyses that examine both of these key factors—including their dynamic interrelationship within game storytelling. This paper adapts critical frameworks of narrative space and narrative time drawn from other media and demonstrates their application in the understanding of game narratives. In order to do this we incorporate fundamental concepts from the field of game studies to build a game-specific framework for analyzing the design of narrative time and narrative space. The paper applies this framework against a case analysis in order to demonstrate its operation and utility. This process grounds the understanding of game narrative space and narrative time in broader traditions of narrative discourse and analysis.
“A Song for Viggo’s” is an narrative art game that explores the grief, depression and guilt of a parent who accidentally kills his son. Developer Simon Karlsson writes: “Your goal is to maintain everyday life, despite the tragic circumstances. Be there for your daughter. Put food on the table. Do the dishes. Keep your marriage together. The struggles are of a psychological, rather than mechanical, nature. There is only one puzzle. It’s called life”.
Apart from the courageous approach to such a difficult and mature theme, it will be interesting to examine which strategies for narrative and game dynamics will be included in this piece.
A Song for Viggo’s is currently being crowdfunded at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/109042642/a-song-for-viggo-a-game-made-of-paper-unfolding-de
Game writer Daniel Bernhoff talks about how can we use game narratives to raise awareness on real-world discrimination. In his blog post Project Temporality and real-life oppression he writes: “I’m very concerned about how fascist parties all over Europe gain popularity by portraying immigrants and their descendants as faceless, alien hordes, how refugees drown by the hundreds in the Mediterranean because no country lets them enter port, and how anti-gay laws in Russia and other countries all over the world are used by governments to redirect the discontent of the citizens towards minorities”.
Read Daniel’s whole post at: http://gamasutra.com/blogs/DanielBernhoff/20140305/212326/Project_Temporality_and_reallife_oppression.php Continue reading
Tale of Tales, the studio responsible for the great The Graveyard and The Path, is working on Sunset, an exploration game that puts you in the role of a nosy housekeeper. Being the person taking care of the house is an interesting narrative twist. As the housekeeper, you look after an apartment belonging to someone involved in the war that has broken out around you.
The game is currently being funded on kickstarter. Read the full piece on http://kotaku.com/a-game-about-war-with-no-guns-because-youre-the-housek-1592315384/+patriciahernandez
Meghan Blythe Adams, PhD candidate at the University of Western Ontario, writes: “Death in the game is a rupture not merely of the narrative of the game or the experience of play, but the player’s fundamental identification as player-character. Player-death meant to function both punitively and educationally models this conscious separation through various degrees of spectacle and even partially relies on it in order to function”. In her paper Spectacular Mortality, she analyzes the intersections of death, the spectacle, punishment and education in games today.
Read the full paper at http://www.firstpersonscholar.com/spectacular-mortality/
Curtain is a lo-fi narrative about destructive relationships by indie developer llaura dreamfeel. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes to complete, and it is available for Win/Mac/Linux with a pay-what-you-want formula.
Danielle Riendeau writes on Polygon: “Curtain is less a cautionary tale and more a cathartic exploration of a terrible, complex situation. It’s real-life horror, with a “monster” that’s infinitely more complicated and human than anything in fiction”.
Get the game at http://dreamfeel.itch.io/curtain and read the piece on Polygon at http://www.polygon.com/2014/9/12/6136433/curtain-indie-game-abuse
Game writer Chris Dahlen blogged: “Players recall stories from other media without any trouble. But when it came to games, they got lost somewhere after the beginning. They missed big events, and forgot key plot points. Gamers still need a sense of mission and an emotional attachment. Games can hook us with characters, as well as tone, atmosphere, a strong premise, and even a great loading screen. But of all the elements of storytelling that we can use, plot is one of the weakest”.
How can we solve this issue from the point of view of game narrative? Read the full article at http://www.polygon.com/2014/4/25/5647136/video-game-stories-plot