Saturday, June 16, 2012

Regarding Stories About Games

Some games try to tell a story in the gameplay. Other games allow you to project your own story onto the game. I enjoy both kinds, but there really is something special about being given the tools to create your own narrative and constraints that provide built-in motivation. Strategy games tend to go for that feel as do "open world" games. I wish MMOs were going that direction, but they aren't. Role playing games, online and off, can go either way. Using someone else's creation and rules to tell your own stories is, I think, one of the facets that separate games from other forms of entertainment. It is also a big part of the social aspect. Tales from around the table abound even for board games.

The internet is fertile ground for finding the stories that emerge from such experiences. Heck, I even did one myself (poorly) a while back. You can also find gobs of Minecraft stories, tales from Dwarf Fortress, and X-COM after action reports. The list is long, and so are many of the stories. The distopian tale of a game of Civilization II that someone kept revisiting over the course of a decade blew up on reddit this week. Gamers passed around a save file, examining a simulated world of ecological disaster and eternal nuclear war that has striking parallels to the background presented in 1984. Naturally, the internet also promptly provided a way out of the seemingly intractable situation. I rather hope there's a real-life metaphor there somewhere.

These days, I'm squeezing in a little Diablo 3 when I can and not doing much else on the gaming front. That's about as far from a deep story-generating game as you can get. What can I say, acquiring a commuting lifestyle has taken a massive toll on my free time. But I do miss the games, especially the involved ones that I haven't really had time for since college. If there's one thing that we can learn from the Age of the Internet, it's that creation is good for the soul. And I believe that anything that gives people the tools to create, no matter how frivolously, is a good thing.

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