Monday, December 06, 2004

Story Construction

Mirjam Eladhari and Craig Lindley are on a quest for the holy grail. Through the Virtual Game Worlds they seek for a theory which describes the construction of story, nothing less.

One point sounds familiar: how the creaters of games, the designers, are creators not of stories, but of narrative potential. I know I worded this argument years ago, but was that in one of the many sessions of discussion - argument - supervision with Espen, or did it actually make its way into the thesis? It does not really matter now, all it does is create a flashback to the past: the point when I tried to understand the mass of material I had gathered, and then position it.

A central idea of the presentation which I am delighted to see is how Eladhari underlines the creative process of playing: how a virtual world depends on the activities of the participants in order to unfold into many-faceted narrative environments in the same way as reality holds an endless amount of stories.

Most of all this session underlines my own creeping sensation of ageing: not only are the lights less bright, the print smaller and the stairs steeper than 10 years ago - I also no longer know what I read and wrote where or when. Disgusting feeling... but also reassuring. I have been able to let go of more than I thought.

[The updates here will be selfcentered - as my mind insists on tracking down where, when, what did I write about this. First link back into my own mind: narrative environment - a thought after typing out an interview with a player.

Yes, I do write about narrative environment in my thesis (large pdf), but the concept comes there from Janet Murray:

When the things we do bring tangible results, we experience the second characteristic delight of electronic environments - the sense of agency. Agency is the satisfying power to take meaningful action and see the results of our decisions and choices. We expect to feel agency on the computer when we double-click on a file and see it open before us or when we enter numbers in a spreadsheet and see the totals readjust. However, we do not usually expect to experience agency within a narrative environment. (Murray 1997:126)

I do however expand on it and discuss the difference between narrative environments and stories on page 20 and out from there. OK, that felt good. I did write about it, and my brain is not as petrified as I feared.]


Brian David Phillips said...

This is interesing in that the structure of gaming is becoming fluid to the point that outcomes can no longer be mapped nor can plot, only certain plot points within a vague narrative can be mapped. I do a lot with interactive drama (LARP, etc) and the very nature of the activity precludes the wholesale creation of story. If stories are cleverly and completely mapped out then the actual narrative of the play becomes unsatisfying. - Brian

Torill said...

Brian, that is my experience as well. Which is why I like the distinction between a narrative and an environment with the potential for creating narratives. The way I see it role-players prefer to tell the stories afterwards, not to enact them or even re-enact them. Frequently re-enactment is understood not as recreating an event, but as doing it over again the way it could have happened if...

Brian David Phillips said...

Right . . . re-enactment as static runthrough of pre-set events becomes drama, but not interactive drama which is what virtual worlds (both inside and outside of the computer platform really are). Theatre is valuable for many reasons, however the addition of the interactive element creates dynamics that require levels of action and change that go wayyyy beyond the limits of preset narrarative. Even the psuedo interactive elements of the choose-your-own adventure path of limited choices becomes unsatisfying. Players within virtual worlds need to have the impetus, the character, and the opportunity to truely free choice. Then it becomes MUCH more interesting.

- Brian and