Storytelling via gameplay

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brandav
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Storytelling via gameplay

Postby brandav » Tue Mar 12, 2013 9:21 pm

A few years ago on here there was a discussion about what makes a Christian game (topic: Christian Games?). I was reading through it and noticed a comment about storytelling through gameplay that wasn't addressed. Here's part of the post (p.4 of the discussion):

Sparkworker wrote:About Games:
I've been looking at the whole indie scene for a bit... Jonathan Blow etc. (Gamasutra is a great resource btw) Anyway, Jonathan Blow did a talk on the dynamic meaning of a game versus the story meaning - Just look through his blog for the link to the mp3.

His point was that every action in a game, every consequence, carries a meaning to the player. Long story short (it's a good talk, the MIGS 08 one) we can tell the player things without story. Games aren't a linear medium - they're an interactive one. We can't tell a story and then have them collect rupies along the way to 'unlock the next chapter', because if we're doing that, we might as well make a movie. Games should let people actually interact with the world. (Now, I'm still living at home, and I have one messily done 2d game under my belt - I haven't seen if this is actually possible yet)

An example: Say we have a game set in Camelot. Arthur has got this gold, and he wants to protect it now. So you're a knight, and you defend the fort against theives. All fine and dandy (but now the theves can break into your house too, so you've got to be wary of that.) Then this merchant shows up, sells arthur an automated castle defence system, and you get fired. You then get rehired as a contractor to "Make sure it works". ANyway, it gets to this point where you're defending your own castle. Thing is, the merchant is always coming out with a new defense system. And the theives are getting more hi tech. Eventually, the new products are being sold at a faster and faster rate (the 20000 Laser cannon, only 6.99! Tomorrow, we'll be selling the XQ Laser for 9.99 - you'd better buy it because the 20000 is obselete now)... The player gets overwhelmed by the products, and eventually realizes it's all really dumb to keep buying them anyway.


That's a game about materialism, how everything in this world is temporary, how we need to set our eyes on what's eternal. That message is not told through a story, but through the gameplay (I haven't made this game, and I keep getting No's from God when I ask Him about it. I tucked it away in my idea book for later though)

Anyway. That's another avenue we have to get the gospel out to people. Through dynamic meaning.


I feel like this is untapped potential. How many Christian games utilize this approach? It seems like most games either use drawn out stories to deliver a Christian message (i.e., the generic RPG) or have arbitrary mechanics paired with Christian themes.
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Ph0N37Ic5
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Re: Storytelling via gameplay

Postby Ph0N37Ic5 » Wed Mar 13, 2013 1:38 am

I think a good way to think about game story is a more conversational form. The game presents options to the player and the player responds to the options, and the game responds with new options.

The options chosen would not necessarily be rewarded or punished right away, although some might. You could even have options that are punished right away and rewarded later or vice versa.

I don't think the big thing here is to force an overly set story onto the player, but more help the player to examine themselves; why they make the choices they do? What is worthwhile in life, what isn't?

A pastor here in Norway recently made a point that everyone has a story and the best way to reach them is to actively listen to their story. Try to pull it out of them, through encouragement, not condemning them for what they have done, but giving them hope and value.

In this is two ways of making a story in games, the first one is putting the player in a position where he/she can or must seek out and puzzle together the story of the people around them to be able to move on or finish the game. What side of the story the player believes would have an effect on the outcome of the game.

The other way is to make a game that revolves around the story of the player. This might be a bit of a challenge, but imagine playing a game revealing your specific value in the real world, or helping you to process real life issues.

This should normally be part of real world friendships, but currently there is a lot of people around that has no friendships that close. A computer would be less afraid of asking the tough questions. But one should of course be careful not to drive anyone to suicide, the game must give hope all the way.
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brandav
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Re: Storytelling via gameplay

Postby brandav » Wed Mar 13, 2013 8:02 pm

I probably should have entitled the topic "delivering meaning via game mechanics". A story is basically just a series of events. Every time a player does something in a game (completes a quest/mission or defeats a boss), an event has occurred and adds to the storyline. Going deeper, however, the significance of that event (or what that event means to the player) is what I really want to get at. Christian games are all about meaning, and if we can find a way to deliver meaning in more than one form, it increases the impact of the game. I want to explore that "dynamic meaning" Sparkworker was talking about in his post. How could we utilize game mechanics to achieve that second level of meaning? Luckily I found another topic addressing this very issue. It's several months old, but I just revived it. Here it is: Mechanics as Metaphor

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