Professor: Eddo Stern, email@example.com
TA: Mark Essen, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Office Hours: Game Lab, Tuesdays 12-2)
Darkenfloxx the Guilt Away is based on the short story Escape from Spiderhead. It is a strategic dice game in which players compete to be the first one to escape from spiderhead by overdosing on the misery-inducing drug called Darkenfloxx.
Rules can be found here.
READING RESPONSE 6–ALLMAN
1. Embedded Narrative elements are unchanging and static, equivocal to a movie or, more appropriately for games, a roughly linear narrative spanning a carnival ride (think the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland, for example). Emergent narrative comes directly out of player choice and the results thereof. An embedded narrative game would be something like Half-Life, wherein everything down to the combat encounters are preprogrammed, and even then the player only has so many effective strategies which in and of themselves make no impact on the narrative beyond “player character lives or dies.” A game with heavily emergent narratives, however, would be Minecraft. From the start it just creates a world, establishes the rules of that world, and says “go.” Nowhere does it tell the player what to do, so any stories that a player will have about that game will be entirely player-generated.
a. Without descriptors in their entirety a game would be functionally reduced to rock-paper-scissors, a skeleton of a game with no skin. Descriptors and the design philosophy behind them are utterly necessary to make a game interesting to anyone aside from those heavily invested in the creation of the game itself. Without any semblance of narrative or context, a game loses meaning.
b. When there are no narrative descriptors, you have simple gambling or strategy games. Checkers and backgammon may be mentally engaging for the challenge, but you certainly wouldn’t call them art.
c. Narrative descriptors give us context for actions that are and aren’t allowed in the game world. They allow us to construct the hypothetical world of the game and easier immerse ourselves in it. Descriptors link narrative with rules, creating a cohesive total.
3. Cutscenes take freedom away from the player, which is the antithesis of fast-paced, heavily contextualized gaming these days. External exposition just distracts from the non-narrative aspects of the game when contextual clues would have sufficed without killing immersion. I like the recent trends of allowing certain freedoms or controls during cutscenes, a la Mass Effect; they effectively hide exposition behind the veneer of more gameplay. It is an elegant solution.
READING RESPONSE 4:
1. The author argues that documentary games are an emerging genre, and are a new explorative take on the classic narrative/education hybrid of the documentary. There is a vagary pertaining to whether one can appropriately balance entertainment and stating a point of view, but primarily the emergence of documentary games is seen as a positive.
2. It is quite possible for a game to have a point of view and to be fun, but I feel like that requires dedication and sheer belief on the part of the designer. It is the designer’s responsibility to make the player think, and if the designer is just looking to proselytize or, alternatively, to just make a point, he won’t reach the healthy medium. Effective polemical games are far and few between.
3. I play mostly brain-dead action games, if I’m being brutally honest, but I have played Oiligarchy, which is against oil drilling, and Anti-Monopoly, which is a variant on monopoly that points out how monopolistic tendencies make the real estate market unfair for competitors.
4. Documentary games and documentary films, at least at first, have the same intention of changing or at least reinforcing the viewer’s opinions. However, while a documentary is not necessarily obliged to be “edutainment” because at its most bare-bones it can merely be a restatement of fact, games do have a responsibility to entertain and maintain attention. In my opinion if a game’s excuse for not being fun is “we were trying to make a point,” then it is not a successful game.
1) The diegetic part of a game are the elements of the plot that realte to the context of the game. In this example of medieval world of MMORPG’s it is al the easily identifiable aspects of medieval life that the players can easily identify with. The extra diegetic aspects of the game are those that are not explained buy the game developer but still are used to carry the plot forward or to conveniently explain a part of the story.
2) The paradox that is created is the fact some of the most advanced technology of the present day is used to create a pre industrial society for players to live in. Players are also equipped with superhuman abilities that would only be possible n the future.
3) Sanctioned artifact – a segment of the games narrative that breaks in chronology so that it can follow more characters.
Technological artifact – a part of the game that appears somewhat flawd because of technology, such as the horizion in world of warcraft being blurry.
Gameplayer artifact – an aspect of the game that arises simply out of player action that was not an intention of the designer, such as “tea bagging” in halo.
Metaphorically patched artifact – a part of the game that is not quite right but that the designers skins as part of the game, such as the horizon line in warcraft being called “fog”
4) Over the recent years modern set adventure games such as purple rain and Uncharted have been gaining popularity but the real of adventure games lies strongly in the realm of middle ages. I think this is because of the fact that it offers more of a fantasy type escape for the participants. It gives them a world that is completely unlike their own.
5) Games lie this lack the bit of photo realism that makes tv or novels just a little more appealing to the consumer, I think this is something that games will always struggle with.
1) The concept of embedded verses emergent narrative is a difficult one to grasp in modern gaming culture. In the world of video games, which are pretty much the standard by which games are measured today the embedded narrative, which is the plot line the developer has laid out for you is so common that emergent narrative stands out quite a bit. Embedded narrative is perfectly personified by the Gears of War series where all you do is kill with little to no story around it, where on the opposite side of the spectrum is the Knight of the Old Republic series where there is a general plot but the outcome is completely dependant on your actions in the game you can end good bad or anywhere in between.
2) A) Narrative descriptors are what helps the player get invested into the game, without them the game quickly turns into something like a card game where no matter how fun it is players quickly tire of it. Having narrative helps the player to want to play the game all the way through and most likely play it multiple times.
B) When there are no narrative descriptors the game can quickly loose its appeal, to compensate there needs to be either lightning quick like rock paper scissors or poses some sort of strategy element that need no narrative, like chess.
C) This concept of narrative helps push forward the ideas of constitutive and operational rules. The narrative element gives game designers a chance to validate saying what the player can and cannot do at a given time.
3) Salen and Zimmerman are opposed to the inclusion of too many cut scenes saying that it can cause players to break from there immersion in the game. But I completely disagree, I feel that cut scenes help to push forward the narrative that makes the games so captivating. Perhaps the second or third time you watch the game the cut scenes can get in the way but the first time through the cut scenes help to develop the universe.
1) this article investigates the validity of games as a documentary which are meant to simulate real life events. These games are seen as falling somewhat short simply because as a game they fail to fully grab the player and transport them into the situation. However these games have the ability to address more than just one side of the event and that posses a distinct advantage, a condition that the article refers to as the ability to “run-code”.
2) Games that have a certain point of view within them have a very fine line to walk. These games can be truly excellent mediums for which to convey a message of social or political weight, these games can be engaging and educational. However more often than not games with a point of view can tend to be sluggish and poorly developed, then tend to not be very well rounded and therefore not overly engaging.
3) A game with an obvious point of view that actually succeeds is the “Call of Duty” franchise. The series which started as a World War II game has always carried an intensely nationalistic pro-American point of view has moved into futuristic warfare but still maintained the pro American point of view. This game is so successful because it does offer players the option playing other sides without them suffering any penalties so it is a well rounded game that still carries a strong point of view.
4) As they mention in the article the term documentary is used very loosely and has different applications for films and games. For films there is very set structure of what a documentary but in games the entertainment factor can pose a problem with the documentary aspect. There is still a definite link between the two however the documentary style is much stronger in film than in games and I feel that that will be reflected in future gaming trends.
In this week’s reading, there were two terms that were discussed, diegetic and extra diegetic. The term diegetic is used to describe the narrative elements that exist within the main game’s narrative. Some examples of diegetic elements would be the characters or the setting within the story. These will play as a narrative element. Extra diegetic, on the other hand, are the completely opposite elements. Extra diegetic are elements within that are in the narrative and are not explained at all like the characters or the settings. They just appear in the game.
A lot of the games today, especially the MMORPGs like World of Warcraft, have elements such as the central paradox of immersive narrative and computer technology. MMORPGs are heavily based on narratives to get the players actively involved in the game. Games like World of Warcraft is based on medieval fighting but is played on advanced computer technology. Within this medieval world played on advanced computers, glitches and other unexplained events occur.
A common “sanctioned artifact” would be when a player in a game like World of Warcraft is able to be resurrected by classes like Priests, Paladins, and Druids. A “technological artifact” would be when games and players experience lags and aren’t able to really explain why the lag was there or how it happened; it just happens. A familiar “gameplay artifact” would be terms like “food” or “meat” to describe someone that is either giving the other team experience points or someone who can take on a lot of damage.
A cultural argument to this question would be that Americans have really started to adapt and develop a liking for first person shooting games. When I first entered middle school, Counter Strike started to gain popularity to a group of video gaming individuals. However, a game that Americans love to play is first person shooting games and many of the “Greatest Hits” games are first person shooting games. Americans have developed a militaristic-like culture and therefore love playing first person shooting games.
A big difficulty in creating a game in the “romance” genre would be that a romance game would be boring. Although there are games that deal with “love” like “dating sims” games but those games, in my honest opinion, really do not have anything except maybe a mini storyline. A game based solely on romance seem to be a very boring idea and would not be a good game to play. If a romance game were to be good, I would think that there would need to be a very strong narrative that will compel and attract players to play this game.
I think the one thing that separates games from writing, film, or television is the fact that players are able to interact with surroundings and influence the narrative. Writing, film, and television has a set narrative and viewers are not able to do anything but spectate whereas players in video games are able to influence, shape, and mold the storyline of the game and do what they please until they are satisfied.
- An embedded narrative is predetermined by the game designer in terms of the more passive content in a game. The character cannot control this content, and can only go with the flow. A good example of a game that consists of mostly embedded narratives are games from Nintendo’s Kirby series. The gameplay behind the games depends almost completely on the player, but the story and maps are set in a way to tell a story, which will be the same every time you play it. Most Kirby games require a player to play through a first world all the way through the other worlds until the end. On the other hand, an emergent narrative is completely governed by the decisions and interaction of the player playing a game. A good example of this is the Grand Theft Auto series, where although there is a regular plot behind each campaign, the player generally abuses the bread-and-butter of the game- stealing cars and running over whatever the heck they want.
- a. I think about narrative descriptors of a game as any form of advertisement or, of course, description of a game outside of the game itself. Elements like these keep players interested and motivated to continue playing a game. In my opinion, the biggest narrative descriptor of a game is the music played during a game. Just like animation, music is about 50% (in my opinion) of what makes a game interesting. Although this isn’t entirely true for games that cannot contain narrative descriptors like board games and card games, this is what makes a videogame much more interesting for me than playing a card or board game
b. Very simple and fast games that may require much skill but doesn’t really have a skin around them are usually games that contain some to no narrative descriptors. Rock-paper-scissors, chess, and hangman are some examples- all the games are very linear in terms of detail, although some like chess may be complex in terms of strategy.
c. Descriptors give these rules a meaning to exist. If the game didn’t contain any narrative descriptors, the game could be played freely and the game wouldn’t contain any specific constitutive and operational rules to correct a player; just a strategy.
3. Cutscenes can really motivate or distract a player from the actual game. Depending on the player, a cutscene will either deem irrelevant to the game or throw off a player from the game, or it can really drag the player into the storyline to motivate him/her to really reach the goal. To me, cutscenes act like the latter- I love games like the Professor Layton series, where the gameplay ONLY involves puzzles, yet the cutscenes really motivate me to play through the whole game.
As Salen and Zimmerman state in the book, the designer of the game predetermines the embedded narrative elements. They do not change and the player simply follows them. Emergent narrative elements on the other hand give the player choice and can have different outcomes as a result of a player’s decision. A game with emergent narratives would be the Sims. The sims actions are determined by what the player wants them to do. There are limitations however. A player can only give their sim a certain number of actions and commands. So the player ultimately designs his own narrative. A game with an embedded narrative structure would be Myst, which is a one-player video game in the first-person that takes the player on a journey. On the player’s journey he carries a book with him that the player makes reference too. He also encounters other characters along the way with books of their own how’s narratives are embedded in the game.
a. I think without some form of narrative descriptor a game would be pretty boring. Even the simplest things in game could be considered descriptors including the skin of the game. Card games have no descriptors and they are fun and perfectly playable, but are often times played quickly and without much effort. I think to keep someone involved in the game long enough and if you need them to make meaningful choices, you have to have interesting descriptors. The experience becomes more about finding out what happens on the journey more than winning.
b. I think when there are no narrative descriptors in a game the game play has to be either strategic (like chess) or quick (like black jack). Quick wins and losses are enough to keep people involved in a game or if your main goal is to beat one other person, that’s also enough to keep two people involved, but you run into difficultly I think the more players you try to add to a game with no narrative descriptors.
c. I think narrative descriptors are extremely important for both rules. Descriptors give the game meaning, so instead of a game designer saying, “you can’t enter here” (constitutive) or “that action isn’t allowed (operational) because those are what I decided the rules would be.“ Narrative descriptors give the designer a reason to say these things. If it doesn’t go along with the narrative of the game then the rules are more meaningful.
Cutscenes are harmful to more experienced gamers in that it can sometimes break their immersion within the game, as Salen and Zimmerman state they’ve had experience with tons of game narratives so they don’t need external descriptions and they just slow down and distract from the game. For new gamers, like myself, cutscenes are extremely helpful in guiding the player in rules and background of the story. The best games are the ones in which cutscenes are optional. They appear, but more experienced gamers have the option to skip them while newer players can take their time to read them.
Kill yourself before you cause any more suffering.
I don’t know if I want the final game design to be like this. I may just rework the entire thing.