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    narrative vs architecture

    Earlier this month, I griped a bit about the impulse to make [video]games better narratives. The gist of my gripe, for those of you just tuning in, more or less revolves around the point that some of the features that make videogames entertaining as play don't generally make for compelling narrative, and attempts to constrain the play-element to enhance the narrative element seem to be understanding the point of playing a game almost exactly backwards.

    I can't take credit for inventing this argument: it's basically a recap of some of James Paul Gee's ideas about "probing" in videogames, ideas which I was exposed to through Steven Johnson's book Everything Bad Is Good For You, which I read this summer. So it didn't come as too much of a surprise when Steven Johnson said the following in the "Literacy in the Age of Video Games" roundtable in the September issue of Harper's:

    "[O]ne of the problems we have in understanding games is that we see them as being driven by their narratives. In fact, I think the narratives tend to be a vestigial part of games that has been carried over from earlier forms. When people play games, they aren't playing them for the story. They aren't playing them for a narrative arc of any kind. In fact, if you're looking for an analogy, I would say that game design is closer to architecture than it is to novel writing. The designers do create certain resistances to certain types of behavior and encourage other types of behavior within the space, but first and foremost, they're creating a space that can be explored and occupied in multiple ways."

    That puts it pretty well, I think...

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    Thursday, August 24, 2006
    6:20 PM


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