Annika Waern is a professor at Uppsala University, previously at Mobile Life/Stockholm, and she’s one of the top researchers on narrative, experience and live-action role playing games.
She writes: “I look at emergent narrative as storymaking; as stories that do not just ‘happen’, but that we actively and consciously create from (or during) an experience of events. It is not something that every player is good at or even wants to do, not even in live action roleplaying games. Players engage in different ways in larp just as they do in computer games. In particular, there is an interesting and confusing interplay between storymaking and character immersion, which I’m not attempting to figure out in this post.”
The narrative qualities (or lack thereof) of computer games are a debated topic that is clearly very close to my interests. I have often lamented the lack of a complete, authoritative, up to date and balanced reference on this point. I’ve very recently discovered a very good entry by Britta Neitzel on the Living Handbook of Narratology on this topic that makes a good job of summing up a very reasonable approach to this topic. “Narrativity can be understood as a virtual capacity of computer games. Like every game, computer games consist of rule-governed actions carried out by a player. But they may also contain elements typical for narratives: actions, events, characters, and a setting. If these elements are arranged in a story-like order, a computer game possesses narrativity. Additionally, computer games, in contrast to other games (such as ball games or chess), integrate a representational level depicting the player’s actions in the game world and the player herself in the form of an avatar who acts within this world. This representational level can be compared with the level of narrative discourse”.
Peter Eliot has compiled a carefully crafted annotation of the cult game ICO. He writes: “ICO is at once intriguing and confusing because it insists on holding silence on its own narrative. It shows and suggests enough to convince us that something big is going on but will not tell us what it is. So I propose an exercise: I am going to take a walk through the story and point out noteworthy elements that may help us make sense of what is happening. I will not be a neutral observer; I will advance my thoughts on what I observe”.
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.
David Jackson published an interview to indie designer Jason Rohrer: “With art games in general the idea was really about coming up with something that I wanted to explore that couldn’t be put into words, because if it could be put into words I would just go ahead and write it or say it. Something that seemed like it could be expressed well through interactive game mechanics directly and then crafting mechanics that would express what I was trying to express through the systems I was building”.
Ice-bound is an upcoming narrative experience combining a printed book with an iPad app. Telling a multi-layered story about a polar base sinking into the ice, a famous author’s unfinished final novel, and a doubt-riddled artificial intelligence given an impossible task, the project uses procedural generation and augmented reality to help create a truly unique experience where story and gameplay melt into one another.
A collaboration between Aaron Reed and Jacob Garbe, two award-winning writers and game artists, and inspired by the fractal narratives of Borges, Danielewski, Calvino, and Nabokov, Ice-bound is expected to debut in early 2015.
Aaron A. Reed has shown projects at IndieCade, IGF, and the Slamdance Guerrilla Gamemakers Festival. His 2009 interactive fiction Blue Lacuna was named one of the top ten text adventures of all time by the IFDB, and he served as lead writer for the ambitious AI-driven storygame Prom Week, which garnered both IndieCade and IGF nominations in 2012. His experimental narrative collage-maker 18 Cadence was a Kirkus”Best Book App” of 2013 and an IGF Nuovo Honorable Mention.
Jacob Garbe is a writer and new media artist working with augmented reality and procedural narrative. He was the recipient of the 2010 International Aeon Award for short fiction, and was recently featured as an electronic literature artist in the Pathfinders: 25 years of Experimental Literary Art exhibit at the Modern Language Association. He is currently working with Storybricks exploring dynamic text generation for the upcoming MMO Everquest Next.
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.
Let’s Play a Story Together: Narrative Construction in a Board Game is an interesting thesis by Samu Lattu from the University of Helsinki.
He writes: “This study delves into the relationship between stories and games with a cognitive perspective. The subject of narrative in games in the past decade has overheated running in place. With this in mind a game medium previously untapped – board games – was chosen as the means of study and an approach to narrative untested in the context of games previously was chosen as the lenses of inquiry. The study considers what in board games gets players to interpret the flow of the game as narrative; how players pick and choose parts of the game experience and use them to construct a chain of events; how players picture a world and its inhabitants; how players experience the character they play; what is their relationship with the game world; what games tell us about the narrativity of games and whether a narrative tool or way of meaning is particular to games”.