Game Development Reference
emerge from that game. By setting up Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood 's me-
chanics in a specific way, its designers determined which kinds of stories
it is capable of generating. In this way, they indirectly authored the emer-
gent stories it generates, even if they didn't script individual events.
We can also consider emergent narrative as a technology for generat-
ing stories because it creates original content. The designer authors the
boundaries and tendencies of the game mechanics, but it's the interplay
among mechanics, player choices, and chance that determines the actual
plot of each emergent story. This can be a very elegant way of creating
stories, because it offloads the work of authorship from the designer to the
game systems and players. And it can generate stories forever.
While the first view emphasizes the control the designer has, the
second emphasizes the control the designer doesn't have. They're two as-
pects of the same thing.
Look closely enough, and the concept of emergent story is just another
way of describing generated experiences.
The idea of emergent story only has value as a way of making us think
differently. When we consider a mechanics-generated experience, we ask:
Is it accessible? Is the interface clear? Is it deep? But when we consider
the same experience as an emergent story, we ask: Is the characterization
interesting? Is the climax unpredictable but inevitable? Is the exposition
smooth and invisible? Does it use the classic three-act structure, or does it
take some other shape? Thinking through emergent story lets us deploy a
huge story-thinking tool set that we might otherwise miss while analyzing
dynamically generated game situations. But in both cases, we're analyz-
ing essentially the same thing: a series of events generated during play.
Calling it a story is just a way of describing it by relating it to traditional
There are things that only emergent stories can do because only
emergent stories can break the barrier between fiction and reality.
A player who perfects a new skill in chess and uses it to beat his older
brother for the first time has experienced a story, but that story takes place
outside the bounds of a game or fiction. When he tells this story to his
friends, he may mention the clever moves that brought him victory, but
the main thread of the story is his evolving relationship with his brother.
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