More Views on Games, Narrative, and Character

People who were interested in Second Person but didn’t buy the hardcover copy may be interested to know that many of the articles are now being presented online over at electronic book review, as a continuation of the First Person thread. Since there’s a large amount of content here and it may not be immediately obvious which of these articles are IF-related, I’ve also added to the Second Person page over at ifwiki with links directly into the IF-specific stuff.

Along similar lines, Dennis Jerz has an interesting summary of Chris Crawford’s talk at Hypertext ’08.

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Plot, scene by scene

When I plan plot-heavy IF, I think of it in terms of a sequence of scenes. This doesn’t mean that the gameplay needs to be rigidly linear: scenes can occur in varying orders, or there can be plot branches, or scenes that can be skipped depending on player action. But I nonetheless do the organization in terms of scenes. A scene has a definite beginning and a definite end. It usually has to take place in a specific area of the game map (which may mean that the player triggers it by entering that area [as in City of Secrets] or that I move the player myself when the scene is scheduled to start). Following some writing advice I got long ago, I try to make most of the scenes end with some kind of clear hook. At the end of the scene, the player should ideally have a new take on what is happening, or a new problem to solve, or a new question about what is going to happen next. Exciting the player’s curiosity about something is especially powerful in getting the player to keep playing.

But the conventional writing advice tends to be insufficient when it comes to the types of scene that IF supports. I find that in interactive fiction my scenes tend to come in several styles, identifiable by the sort of interaction I expect from the player.

In rough order of intensity, they are

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The Reprover

The Reprover is a piece of digital art; or a lightly interactive comic book; or a French film whose pacing you control yourself; or a story written on the surface of a polyhedron. Or perhaps it is most accurate to call it a hypertext, but, if so, it is considerably more coherent and satisfying than most literary hypertexts I have encountered before.

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Narrative in Casual Gaming: Miss Management

For some time I’ve been arguing that the way forward for interactive storytelling is to heal the long-standing breach between narrative and puzzle, and make the interactive parts of a game reinforce and enhance the story. The player’s action should in some way help him better understand the characters, explore the constraints of the circumstance in which they find themselves, or intensify his feelings towards the participants and the outcome. (There are probably other possibilities too, but those are the obvious ones that present themselves.)

The casual game Miss Management accomplishes all that surprisingly well.

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