Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
Film teaches a thousand ways to use a screen. Framing and composi-
tion, scene construction, pacing, visual effects—we can learn all of this
from film. But film teaches us nothing of interactivity, choice, or present-
tense experience. It has nothing to say about giving players the feeling of
being wracked by a difficult decision. It is silent on how to handle a player
who decides to do something different from what the writer intended. It
has no concept to describe the players of The Sims writing real-life blogs
about the daily unscripted adventures of their simulated families. These
situations are totally outside the intellectual framework of film storytell-
ing. When we import methods wholesale from film, we risk blinding our-
selves from the greatest challenges and opportunities of game story.
Thankfully, turning away from film doesn't mean starting from
scratch. There are many older forms of participatory storytelling from
which we can draw inspiration, if we only look beyond the glowing screen.
I once took part in an interactive play called Sleep No More . It was
a version of Shakespeare's Macbeth , but instead of being performed on
a stage, it took place in a disused high school dressed up in a mixture
of 1920s vaudeville and Dali-esque surrealism. Performers roamed the
halls according to a script, meeting and interacting, sometimes acting
out soliloquies on their own, dancing, speaking, arguing, and fighting
through a story lasting two hours. The masked audience members were
free to follow and watch wherever they liked—but it was impossible to see
more than a fraction of the story at a time. Sometimes actors even pulled
us in to participate in scenes. That's interactive narrative.
And there are many other kinds of traditional interactive story. Perhaps
you've experienced an interactive history exhibit. A place is dressed up to
re-create a pioneer village or World War I trench, complete with actors in
costume playing the parts of the inhabitants. Visitors may ask questions,
explore the space, and perhaps become involved in goings-on.
If we look around, we find interactive narrative everywhere. Museums
and art galleries are interactive, nonlinear narratives where visitors explore
a story or an art movement in a semidirected, personal way. Ancient ruins
and urban graffiti tell stories. Even a crime scene could be considered a
sort of natural interactive narrative to the detective who works out what
happened—a story written in blood smears, shell casings, and shattered
And above it all, there are the stories of life. We have all lived sto-
ries that couldn't be replicated in passive media. We may recount them
in topics or in the spoken word, but they can never be re-experienced the
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