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Posts Tagged ‘Interactive Storytelling

So… what did you do today in the virtual?

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zeldaAs I was playing Zelda: A Link to the Past today on my SNES emulator, something struck me: I had an in-game deja-vu. A feeling as if I had been there before. My mind quickly tried to scan all the options and I found out that I have really vivid memories of various computer games. These experiences are basically stories I could tell to my friends and family at a party. As cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner mentioned in his interesting essay Life as Narrative: all our experiences are in some way structured as narratives, and we remember and learn from these narratives in the future.

What would be an interesting idea is to gather stories from people who have been playing games. How do people tell about games? Often when we hear stories -or when I hear myself talking to others about in game events- I almost feel alienated from the world around me. The surreal words echoing in my head and making me realize the sometimes bizarre situations as I’m telling the story. Let me give it a try here about an experience I had in playing Zelda. This is not a walkthrough or anything like that. It’s just what I’ve been doing this morning from the top of my head.

‘Some old guy I finally found told me to get a pendant in a region east from the big lake. I came across many green and blue soldiers, especially the guys with the arrows were pretty difficult to defeat. I had a lot of trouble finding the entrance, but after roaming around Kakariko village and the mountains in the south, I found out by accident that I had to go through a very narrow, almost hidden, path. Then I came to a desert with some creepy crawlers, appearing and disappearing. I almost died there, but luckily I found a fairy that healed my just in time. After that I went to the desert castle to find the first of the three amulets.’

zldEtcetera. I could probably go on for hours and the memories are quite clear and vivid. I clearly remember some gameworlds like my own neighbourhood: Gothic I & II, Zelda, Splinter Cell, Chrono Trigger, Diablo, Baldur’s Gate and of course Morrowind. Because what got my thoughts started on this topic is a forum thread on stories from Morrowind. Although I don’t know any of these people, I know what experiences they are talking about. Their goals were the same but their memories are so different. What would a psychogeographic approach to computergames look like? Just pointlessly wandering around in Morrowind, not to reach any goals but to create stories of wandering around.

I know there are already quite some theories on game experiences, but what really caught my attention and interest were the stories told about games as if they are a part of the gamers’ daily life. So, what did you do today in the virtual?

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Written by newmw

June 7, 2007 at 8:49 pm

Façade: Interactive storytelling on a whole new level

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Façade is a one-act interactive drama according to it’s makers Michael Mateas and Andrew Stern, and what that is exactly? I can tell you it’s a whole new experience in computer gaming, if it can even be called gaming. It’s more like a digital play you are a part of, and above all it is something you have to try for yourself to see what I mean. You can get the free Façade game from the developer website InteractiveStory.net.

I’ll give you a short introduction, but I’m not spoiling anything that would ruin the fun of playing it the first time. When you begin the game you are invited by Trip and Grace to come over to their house for a cosy get together. The drama starts as soon as you get to their apartment where you are welcomed by the couple. It seems their marriage has some cracks and holes and they aren’t affraid to discuss ’em in front of you.

The interface is simple, you can walk around the appartment, interact with some of the objects and type almost anything (as long as it is related). Especially the communication in Façade is great, you can interrupt the couple, ask them about things, choose sides, etc. And all that in normal sentences, and in a way you would normally respond in a conversation yourself. It’s feels a lot more natural than your average RPG interface with only so few options.

For some more indepth information and very interesting reading from the makers, check out the press page at InteractiveStory.net for papers, articles and a lot more and their vision and motivation

This game also won the 2006 Grand Jury Prize at the Slamdance Independent Games Festival. And at the end of the play, you can also look at the stageplay you just created. Need I say more? Just as an example here is a small part of the (words-only) stageplay from my second time playing the drama. I’m ‘Ben’:

GRACE
Hi! How are you? Oh god it’s been such a long time! — (interrupted)
BEN
Hi grace

GRACE
H-mmm (happy smile sound)
BEN
How are you?
GRACE
Good! Yes! Very good. Some exciting things at work I’ll have to tell you about.
GRACE
So come on in, make yourself at home!
BEN
What happened at work?
TRIP
Oh yeah, let me tell you about work. I just brought in a new account – print ads for a line of bridal fashion.
(BEN sits on the couch.)