about me

recent thought / activity




    See the full list at LibraryThing




    social environments

    And then over here at Gamasutra, we have Chris Crawford, who wrote The Art of Computer Game Design back in 1984 but who for the last fourteen years has been out of the videogame biz and working instead on something called "Storytronics," a development platform for "interactive storytelling" (those of you trying to keep score at home may be dismayed to learn that Crawford's "interactive storytelling" is totally different from text-adventure-style "interactive fiction").

    Initially, when Crawford describes "interactive storytelling" as "a story you get to participate in as the protagonist" I start to seize up, preparing to go back on the same rant that I've been on twice already (one, two) . But then Crawford makes it a bit more interesting: "It's not at all like a regular story... You don't charge down a plot line towards the end, you meander through a social environment... The primary thing you do [in] interactive storytelling is talk to other people."

    "Meandering": that's sounding promisingly more "game-like" rather than "story-like," and starts making me wonder whether Crawford has in mind something like a massively multiplayer online game, which has both "game" and "talk" elements. But then he draws this distinguishing line: "Most online multiplayer games, functionally they operate as chat rooms with some structure behind them ... [T]here's a game interaction going on outside the chat room, but the two are pretty distant. So if you want to talk about social interaction, well hell, you're talking about a chat room. We don't need a game for that."

    Well, OK, except now I'm confused: it's become unclear to me how Crawford distinguishes "interactive storytelling" from a garden-variety chat room, or (more pointedly) from MOOs or MUDs, virtual spaces which enable the exact kind of socially-oriented environment-meandering that Crawford seems to be claiming as the province of interactive storytelling. And then we're once again up against the problem of (it seems to me, shortsightedly) trying to graft a narrative into these sorts of spaces, which are not inherently well-suited for producing narrative... getting a MUD to produce something that feels like "storytelling" hinges upon all the participants behaving more or less consistently in character, something that's extremely difficult for people who haven't been trained as actors, and that the average MUD-user may or may not have any interest in. I'm not the first person to point out that for every person who attempts to play, say, World of Warcaft in character, there are at least a dozen others who don't. (Some online games have gotten around this problem by stripping out the chat function and radically constraining the array of available character behaviors: see, for example, The Endless Forest, in which characters play deer.)

    I'm open to the idea that Crawford has something interesting up his sleeve, but for the life of me I can't discern what it might be. Maybe poking around the Storytron website will help...

    Labels: ,


    Wednesday, August 30, 2006
    2:56 PM


    Comments: Post a Comment



    2011 archive >>

    2010 >>

    2009 >>

    2008 >>

    2007 >>

    2006 >>

    2005 >>

    2004 >>

    2003 >>

    2002 >>

    rss (xml)