Game Development Reference
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is on a mad rampage. The rook is bored. Even though these feelings don't
really exist in the game, they exist in the player's mind, and that's what
matters to the experience.
Apophenia plays a role in nearly all emergent stories. With that in
mind, let's look at some specific ways to create game systems that generate
emergent stories.
Designers can strengthen emergent stories by labeling existing game me-
chanics with fiction.
Close Combat: A Bridge Too Far : This tactical simulator covers battles
between companies of soldiers in World War II. The game names and
tracks every individual soldier on the field. This means that the player can
look at a soldier's record and notice that over the last few battles, all but
one of his squad mates died. He might imagine the bond that these two
soldiers have after the deaths of their comrades. And in the next battle, he
might feel disturbed as he orders one of them to sacrifice himself so that
the other may live.
Medieval: Total War : Every nobleman, princess, and general in this
grand strategy game is named and endowed with a unique characteriza-
tion. But instead of tracking numerical stats like intelligence or strength,
Medieval assigns personality characteristics to nobles and generals. After
events such as getting married or winning a battle, nobles can get labels
like “Drunkard,” “Fearless,” or “Coward,” which give special bonuses and
weaknesses. In another game, a player might lose a battle because his
general has a low Leadership stat. In Medieval , he loses because his general
had a daughter and decided that he loves his family too much to die in
Labeling works because of apophenia. In each example, the emergent
story in the player's mind did not actually happen in the game systems.
Close Combat does not simulate soldiers bonding over shared loss. Medieval
doesn't really track human courage or familial affection. But the human
mind sees stories anyway, given the slightest of suggestions. A label here,
a name there, and the story blooms in the imagination. It's a very elegant
method because the player's mind does almost all the work.
Words in a novel can create images in the mind more powerful than any
photograph because they only suggest an image, leaving the mind to fill in
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