Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

10 August, 2006

A spirited defense of storytelling in games
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 2:35 AM

Last month there were a few excellent posts discussing the nature of stories in games. The conclusion reached by both was that stories are largely antithetical to games.

Stories, Structure, Abstraction and Games” by Tadhg Kelly.
Ze Story Snobs” by Daniel “Danc” Cook.

Two very well written and thought out essays. Yet, I think they came to the wrong conclusion in that games either don’t fit in game or cannot be a large part in games. And, luckily enough, I have a blog in which I can pontificate why they were wrong!

Why bother with storytelling?

So, let’s focus on some basics first. It’s obviously hard to put storytelling into games given the notable failures all around us, so why do so many people bother? Well, the main reason I can think of is commercial. Lots of people watch movies, read fiction books, and watch TV dramas. All these media have storytelling in them, and people obviously enjoy it. More people watch just about any TV drama on during prime time than will play any particular game of ours. So, there’s an audience out there that wants to enjoy a good story, and game developers (who like solving puzzles) are trying to figure out ways to draw them in.

I think that Danc is also correct in that some of it is wanna-be syndrome. People in the games industry look at other media with a bit of jealousy. They want to be recognized for their talent like Steven Speilburg or Stephen King are. So, you get people trying to write grand stories like they do and failing miserably.

I think it also has to do with the consideration of games as art. One of my personal favorite definitions of art is something that communicates emotion. Other media that are considered as “art” affect emotions primarily through storytelling. It’s easy to give a critical analysis of a movie because you can dig beyond the flashy special effects and big-name actors to evaluate the story behind it and how that affects the emotions of the viewer. You can’t necessarily do the same thing with a game, especially an abstract game like Tetris or Pac-Man. Critical analysis of gameplay is being developed in the halls of academia. So, the shortcut is to tell stories in our games so that the critics can evaluate that. Unfortunately, we tend to come up short in that category because the stories simply aren’t very good.

Let me focus on Tadhg Kelly’s arguments first. In essence, the argument is that the best stories are fragile and complicated whereas the best games are robust and simple. I think the reasoning is sound, but I think Tadhg draws the wrong conclusions. Let me explain.

Universal stories vs. personal stories

I think that for most storytelling-based entertainment, the assertion is mostly correct: the best stories are fragile and complicated beasts. I really enjoy digging into the complex political stories of George R. R. Martin’s wonderful series, A Song of Fire and Ice and think the stories would be diminished if they were simplified. However, I don’t think the stories are necessarily that fragile. [Warning: minor spoilers in the rest of this paragraph.] You could change a few of the details and still have a powerful story. In fact, this is what I love most about the stories: you think you know the “rules” and suddenly a main character dies, or some dead character is back, or some other detail changes the direction of the story. Yet, the change fits within the book: this is a world of deep political intrigue and magic, so it makes sense that “important” people would end up dead during a war or that someone might come back from the grave. So, I will argue that stories are more resilient than the original assertion gives credit.

(Spoiler-free summary: Making wholesale changes to the basic assumptions of a story can make the story much more interesting than otherwise, so stories aren’t necessarily as fragile as asserted.)

I also think that Tadhg Kelly lumps stories into what I would call “universal stories”. These are the stories, like what you find in movies and books, that almost everyone can read and understand. These are the stories that are enhanced by masterful storytelling and attention to complex details. Yet, there is another type of story that is overlooked here: what I call “personal stories”.

What is a “personal story”? It’s any story that matters to you personally. On the other hand, this story may not resonate with other people so well. I think the best example of this type of story is when you get home and tell your family or loved one: “Guess what happened to me!” Perhaps someone cut you off in traffic, or your homework really did get eaten by a dog, or your boss gave you a surprise award at work. To you, this story is fascinating. To people who care about you, they’ll listen to find out what has gotten you excited. To most other people, they might simply not care.

Of course, there are some people that are good at telling this type of story. They know how to make a seemingly mundane screwup at a client dinner seem like a hilarious royal farce. So, it is possible to dress up these types of stories for other people to enjoy, but it takes a certain skill. Or, enough power over other people so that they have to laugh when you tell your story or they get passed over for the next promotion. Likewise, some people are so bad at telling stories that even getting caught in the middle of the most exciting shootout can seem like a bore when they tell it.

Unfortunately, I’m not heading to Gen Con this year. But, as anyone who has been there knows, the worst thing is getting stuck to someone who keeps going on and on about their level 26 Paladin/Monk/1st edition Bard and how they just defeated Tiamat, again, and now their DM has to figure out the collective noun for multiple Tiamats. (“A swarm of Tiamats”? “A horde of Tiamats”?) Obviously this person cares deeply about the character and the adventures, but you think it’s juvenile at best. Of course, you know that your 250 point Elder of the local Tremere Chantry would eat that character alive in a more mature and masterful game of political scheming, but Mr. “Flock of Tiamats” starts to snore as you’re getting to the good part of your latest LARP where you had made the Prince lose serious face at the largest Elysium in the city!

In both these cases each person has a story they care about. This more than a “fiction” as Tadhg Kelly refers to it; it becomes a story when you tell it at the very least. Just because most people find the story boring does not invalidate it: it is very meaningful to me and probably to the other people that participate in the game. Unfortunately, most people share Tadhg’s perception that universal stories are the important ones, and tend to overlook the personal stories.

This discussion may seem familiar to those that read online RPG developer blogs. It is, because this is exactly what many online RPG developers argue about players. Raph Koster and Dave Rickey are probably the most vocal in claiming that each individual’s story is important to them. (Of course, that leads them to the conclusion that user-based content is the way to go; they’re wrong, but that’s a whole other post.)

So, while Tadhg is correct that playing a computer game (or a paper RPG) isn’t going to create the next Schindler’s List, it can create stories that resonate with the individual or group. And, I think this is still valuable to us as game developers as long as we keep this distinction in mind.

Games aren’t simple

I’m also going to disagree with Tadhg when he says:

* But in order for them to become more robust, they must become simpler

I absolutely disagree with this. The recent fashion has been to simplify games in order to achieve “mainstream” appeal and better sales. Obviously overly complicated rules can hamper a game, but simplifying too much can hurt the game just as much. Tic-Tac-Toe is a very simple game with easy-to-follow rules. Yet, I think few serious game developers would go on record as trying to defend it as the most robust game, and therefore the best game. Yes, this is an absurd simplification, but it demonstrates the point. I think, as with most things, the truth lies in the middle: a great game is an elegant mix of simplicity and complexity. The old saw about “easy to learn, hard to master” applies here. And, while a good game is fun and people assume fun is easy, trying to create a great game that follows that old saw is anything but simple. And, before anyone tries to argue sales figures, don’t confuse popularity with quality.

So, even if we accept that stories have to have a complicated structure, I don’t think this means games are incompatible. It means that games have to adopt the structure of stories, or we need to adapt stories to the structure of games. Unfortunately, our collective experience with creating stories is much more established than our experience at creating games, so we tend to try to bolt story onto the game in inelegant ways. If we are truly going to do storytelling in games, we have to approach it from a new angle. More on that below.

Story snobbery

Danc’s post is a bit less confrontational. He questions the reasons why people want to include story, mostly concluding that people feel that story is a good idea so they want to develop games (or, in the case of players, want games developed) with a heavy emphasis on story. The one bit I will add to his conclusions is that the publishers aren’t entirely helpless or innocent here: most of them would love to capture a TV (or movie)-sized audience for their next game. Movies and TV are good at this story thing, so they think that might be the secret as well. Of course, all the wannabes agree with this assessment, and away we go!

Really, Danc is on the right path here. The whole game does not necessarily need to be about the story, and it can be added as one element of a game. It takes a good developer to learn how to add story to a game without it getting completely lost or, alternatively, overwhelming the whole game and making the gameplay seem irrelevant. The complaints about Square games becoming “Movies where you occasionally push buttons to move the dialog along” is a sign of perhaps a bit too much story. (And, yes, I know Square sells a metric fuckton of games. Once again let’s not confuse popularity with quality.)

Where I think Danc goes wrong is that he assumes that story can’t be an integral part of the game. He thinks it needs to be a subset of the game, something added in precious small amounts in order to keep the whole game from stinking of story. But, I think that this is true of the current level of storytelling sophistication in the industry, but it is not an absolute truth. Instead of being like blue cheese, I think that story might be more like ketchup. Some people, like me with french fries, can’t get enough of the stuff; you could douse some food in a bottle of ketchup and people would fish it out and eat it with a ketchup-splattering grin. Of course, tastes differ, so not everyone wants story saturating the game. Likewise, not every meal needs a lot of ketchup; putting ketchup on steak is a mortal sin where I grew up, likely to get you shunned by your peers. Similarly, Tetris doesn’t need a deep story to explain why the pieces or and to give you motivation for making lines. I definitely agree with Danc in that not every game must have story, just as every game doesn’t have to have 3D graphics, or have to have any of the other things we put as marketing bullet points on the back of the box.

God of Stories

Let me say that I can’t blame either of these fine game designers for their conclusions. If you look at what has been out there, you will see a lot of things that support the conclusions they’ve made.

Let’s take one of the most recent examples, God of War. This game focused considerable amount of time and effort in telling a quality story in the game. This game even does a much better job that most other games: You don’t feel like you’re watching a movie punctuated by very poorly choreographed fights. In fact, some of the story bits are put right into the gameplay itself. Yet, it still fell a bit short, not to mention it wasn’t a commercial success by most standards. (Although, it was enough of a critical success to get a sequel.)

What went wrong? Well, the first problem is that the story is inflexible. What if I don’t want to be an anti-social tattooed freak with a soft spot for women? Too fucking bad, that’s the role that was picked out for you. What if I want to avoid this very blatant trap? Nope, no good. The script calls for you to walk into the trap like a dumbass, so that’s what you’re going to do. What if I feel that it’s more appropriate for the “hero” to slip into Hades and suffer eternal punishment for his sins? Nope, sorry, that’s not what the game rewards. You’ll get a continue screen and told to keep fighting. It’s how the script was written!

So, yes, you see Tadhg’s complaint right here: the rigid story conflicts with the more fluid nature of an interactive game. One has to win out, and it’s the rigid story structure. Unfortunately, this means that some of your actions are immutable, something that is antithetical to a truly interactive game. But, this does not mean it’s the only possible outcome when you focus on story.

Now, before you think I hated God of War, let me admit that it did do something very right: the story was very good. If it has been a movie, I would have been entertained. This is a great change from the stereotypical, “You are a boy from a humble village and now you will save the world!” type stories you get in other games. I think the developers did a great job establishing the characters and making the whole thing very entertaining. But, the game was limited by the story and did not allow players to do things that would harm the story.

Telling the story right

So, now that I’ve criticized two people that have worked in the industry longer than I have and/or that have worked on bigger games than I have, what is the right way to handle story?

I think Lee Sheldon has said it best: you can’t simply discard to old ways, but you can’t be bound by them either. You have learn from the old ways of storytelling and then go beyond them.

So, what does this mean in practical terms? Well, we shouldn’t just discard centuries of development in the area of storytelling. There are some important lessons about structure, pacing, and content that people have come to expect. Trying to throw out all the rules means you’re going to tell a poor story, and this will just frustrate your player. A crappy story with great gameplay does not make a great game. Likewise, you can’t slavishly follow the rules of other media. Trying to put a rigid story structure into a game will just create a story that falls apart or a game that is too constrained by the story, and this also results in an unfun game. I think these outcomes are what Tadhg has seen in the past and he has come to the conclusion that these are the only possible outcomes.

The baby steps are to do what Danc alluded to in his blog entry: keep story as a small part of the whole. Add in story where it can enhance the central game, but don’t let gameplay become a slave to storytelling. Resist those urges brought in from other media to tell a brilliant story to try to win an award your game will never qualify for.

Moving forward, let storytelling evolve in games. Taking a look at games, the biggest difference between it and other media is interactivity. Any time other media have tried to slap a bit of “interactivity” in, it has failed miserably. Look at the history of “interactive” movies, “interactive” television, or those appalling FMV atrocities that were called games but were really just heavily cut up movies. I think it’s self-evident that you can’t just slam interactivity and storytelling together and expect a good combination out of the result.

I think the best way in the near term to handle interactivity and storytelling is to focus the story in the one place it matters: in the mind of the player. In this age of focus on photorealistic 3D graphics, motion captured animation data, and orchestrated music scores, we tend to forget that the most expressive canvas is the player’s mind. We have impressed people with spectacle, giving everything in literal format. I think storytelling was a bit easier in the days of yore when you didn’t have to worry about high production values. Many old-timers still get a shiver when you mention dark areas and grues, even if the grues weren’t rendered in loving 3D with all the latest buzzwords. In fact, I think the grues are particularly scary because it was left up to the individual to define what a “grue” was, and most people assumed the worst. Other media have similar techniques (it’s called “blood in the gutters” in comic books) for telling the story without making everything explicit on the page (or on the screen).

What happens here? When you aren’t explicit about everything, the player’s mind starts filling in details. Just as in the comic book when one panel is the axe coming down for the swing and the next panel is a cityscape with a scream coming from nowhere, your mind fills in the most gruesome details that would be difficult (if not illegal depending on the year) to show on the page. This ties back to the concept of the “personal story” I mentioned above. Guess what those details that the players are filling in? Yep, that’s their personal story. That’s the bit about how they reacted to the perceived actions presented in the game. That’s what they bore their spouses with after the game is done. That’s what gets their fellow gameplayers excited about the game and wanting to try it out themselves.

I think this is one area where online RPGs are ahead of the pack. We can’t have a completely structured game since we have so many people interacting in unpredictable ways. It’s hard to get people “in the zone” of willing suspension of disbelief, so we put bits of story into the game and let people discover them and piece them together as they wish. We also give them opportunities to form their own stories within the context of the game: the exciting tale about how you were jumped by a monster while fighting another monster comes from having a very dynamic environment. The epic tale of how your guild raided a dungeon and by working together as a team you defeated the boss mob is something you don’t find in any other games other than traditional paper RPGs. Few other media allow this sort of expressive opportunity, and this is something to be taken advantage of. Unfortunately, these strides forward in online RPGs were borne out of necessity rather than from any cleverness on our part. ;)

Finally, I think designers that want to include story in their games need to learn how to tell stories. All too often we see stories in games that are nonsensical or just plain goofy, and not because the designer tried to cram a story into a game and they wouldn’t fit. Sometimes the story is just the work of an obvious novice. Learn how to tell a story in the traditional medias. Take up one of them as a hobby and really learn how to tell a good tale. Then, once you have gotten good at that years later, come back to games and look at it in a fresh perspective. Look at how you can better manage to include story as part of the game instead of making story dominate gameplay or simply bolting story onto a game. Trying to mimic another media without understanding the rules for storytelling will only result in really terrible stories.

What do you think? Are games and stories an impossible match? Or, do you agree with me that we may eventually get to the point where a game with a generous portion of story won’t completely suck as these two designers seem to think?







15 Comments »

  1. I come from the unique position of working on a game (in late pre-production, fishing for some project based funding, cross your fingers) that by design seeks to be an “interactive storyworld”, to use Chris Crawford’s term. Actually thats not a unique position, the unique position is that my UI doesn’t suck (Storytron) and my content demands don’t require massive funding for feature level content (Facade). I should note that the social engine’s dynamics are nested in a wider infrastructure of a guerilla war, so theres tactical, resource based, large-scale conflict in addition to the social/dramatic conflict, but thats another issue. In terms of terminology I don’t use storytelling as a verb, adjective or noun, because theres SO much baggage associated with it, as you point out. I prefer the term drama game. Three reasons. One, its compact, three sylabbles, rolls of tounge, like RPG or FPS or RTS or puzzle game and so on. Second, drama signifies something which is inherently dynamic and can be described in terms of systemic feedback loops or social unit manipulations, and it happens between characters not abstract structural elements of the traditional academic narrativist engine, which all have been dead ends. Third, and this one’s my favorite, its a game. That last point should be obvious, but you’d be amazed at how much baggage has been associated with examining other forms of “game”, Chris Crawford in particular has been obstinant about distancing himself from that term. Even if the player induces a goal they’re still pursueing one, and that includes subconscious memetic drives, the new motifs.

    So there, I hope I managed to put a lid on this issue in single paragraph. 8)

    Also, can I take you up on your prior networking offer? I could use all the contacts I can get on the indie buisiness side of things. You were right Brain, you were right!

    Comment by Patrick — 10 August, 2006 @ 4:24 AM

  2. I like your distinction about personal stories. With UO, one thing I found interesting was writing fan fiction about my comrades experiences in game. These stories are, obviously, a huge bore to anyone not involved. But to those involved it adds imeasurably to what would otherwise be interpreted as “yet another dungeon crawl”

    Comment by Brask Mumei — 10 August, 2006 @ 6:49 AM

  3. Great article. I also very much liked your comments on personal stories.

    Shared player story (the stories players add to the game through play) is an important superset of personal story.

    Most often, personal story is only of interest to small groups (“that mission last night was awesome, everyone pulled their weight”). Sometimes, personal story becomes something of interest to a much larger group. Example include well known crafters in games with player driven economies; in-game events organized by players; large group activities like the founding and operation of a successful guild or player city.

    Personally, I see two kinds of story in MMO’s. Theme and player story.

    Theme is what developers put in. It really shouldn’t attempt to tell the specifics of a story. Rather, I think, its purpose is to provide a common thread around which player story can develop (the galatic civil war in SWG, as an example).

    For me, it’s the personal (and player story) that’s the really interesting stuff.

    I’d like to see more opportunities for players to express and share their contribution to story. You’ve expressed doubt about the value of player generated content. Can I assume you’re referring big-C content (player crafted dungeons and the like?).

    The kind of player generated content that interests me is small-C content. Simply, opportunities to change the persistent world by playing the game (without necessarily changing the mechanics or static content of the game).

    Examples might include:
    - A Guild v Guild game with the opportunity to ‘sign’ binding non-aggression pacts between guilds (pacts that can be broken under certain circumstances).
    - A PvP game that allowed players to take out murder-for-hire contracts on other players.
    - An economic game that allowed contract provision of goods between players with automatic implementation of default clauses (fail to deliver on your contract, ownership of your house and contents is given over to the other player).
    - A item control game where players compete to control valuable unique persistent items (a game of raiding among players).

    While none of these features are story-related in their own right. None of these features are really about player created content (in the sense of models or missions). But each of these could facilitate the development of entertaining personal story.

    Perhaps Guild KillerNoobs negotiates a non-agression pact with Guild GankOrDie, only to have GankOrDie break the pact at bad time.

    The best of these personal stories will make the rounds in chat to become widely recognized player story … entertaining to a wider group (more so, if the MMO includes features to record the use of these features … in-game gazettes or town criers, for example).

    You wrote: “that leads them to the conclusion that user-based content is the way to go; they’re wrong, but that’s a whole other post.” I look forward to reading that post!

    Comment by Tuebit — 10 August, 2006 @ 8:25 AM

  4. Whose Story Is It, Anyway?

    [...] Psychochild has a really great article summarizing his thoughts (and comments on other articles) about story in games. Read it! Among other things, he discusses ‘personal story’: stories of interest to small groups or individuals that develop out of play. I personally believe that personal story is far more interesting that developer-made story. The opportunity to participate in player story is a strong motivator to play (and pay for) MMO’s. I also believe that good personal stories can grow to become entertaining to a wider audience. [...]

    Pingback by WorldIV — 10 August, 2006 @ 8:36 AM

  5. A lovely discussion of the story meme that appears to have reared its ugly head on various blogs. :-)

    I too find personal stories to be an important aspect of game design. However, I find that such stories are created in the player’s head not in the game’s explicit content. The player interprets their actions and the cues that they gather from the game and synthesizes them into a personal story.

    It is an intriguing process. If you go with the idea that much (though by no means all) of the pleasure in games is about exploring and grokking a complex system, these personal stories make a lot of sense. They are one powerful method of interpreting and making sense of the player’s experience. They also are a method of conveying lessons about that experience to others. If we are defined as learning creatures, then we must also admit that we are social learning creatures that instinctually share our knowledge with others around us.

    So imagine that players have a strong desire to generate stories from their game experiences. Synthesizing a coherent tale gives them a sense of pleasurable understanding. However, not all players are good at generating stories. For these people, you need to help them out and point them in the direction of a tale that they can soak up and retell.

    I know some people who are quite happy describing the story of their latest chess game. They tell tales rich in drama, devious tactics and human intrigue. Others see an abstract game with an series of logical moves. As game designers, we have a variety of tools at our disposal to facilitate the player’s story creation.
    - We can call the pieces “elves” and instantly link them to a complex web of associating nodes in the player’s memory.
    - We can paint the board green and evoke a warm summer day on a grassy field.
    - We can name the characters and give them back stories and motivations. If all else fails, we can bring out the plot god and for the player through a series of set pieces that help them understand the complex game space as a set of smaller digestible problems. (call this level design if you must. :-)

    If we do our jobs right, most players will leave the game with stories to tell. We will have facilitated their learning process and subsequently their personal story generation process. Traditional linear story elements are one tool that helps game designers provide feedback and learning opportunities to their players. It is worth noting that there is an entire universe of equally powerful tools that game designers should also use wisely and with passion. :-)

    take care
    Danc.

    Comment by Danc — 10 August, 2006 @ 9:18 AM

  6. danc wrote: “I too find personal stories to be an important aspect of game design. However, I find that such stories are created in the player’s head not in the game’s explicit content.”

    Can you see methods (beyond ignored background / bio text) to allow players to share these stories they create in their heads in the game world (or perhaps even allow other players to participate in the stories)?

    Comment by Tuebit — 10 August, 2006 @ 9:42 AM

  7. Moving personal stories into games is a tricky business. A story is a digested experience that has already occured. A game is a problem space that provides experiences for the players to digest. You can give players tools to make more content for the game, but it is questionable if they are sharing their own player story or if they are simply facilitating another player’s experience.

    The best examples I can think of involving the sharing of player stories tend to happen outside of the main game. For instance:
    - Cosplay
    - Gamer BS sessions “Remember when”,
    - Fan fiction
    - The ‘photo blogging’ of The Sims
    - Online comics that relive in game scenarios. (Is there a name for an online comic that uses a game engine to render its scenes? If Machinima is machine + cinema, would machine + comic = machinomic? machimic? machomic?)
    - machinima

    You could build this traditional media recording techniques into a game engine to facilitate player story telling. This can help build the community by providing common lore for the players. Like that Leeroy fellow in WoW whose charged in and ruin the raid. Across several million WoW players, that player story has provided a common tale, a shared experience that brings them together.

    take care
    Danc.

    Comment by Danc — 10 August, 2006 @ 12:21 PM

  8. It’s impossible to rule it one way or another. A game might have become a great game because it is driven by a great story. Putting the same gameplay in another persons hands with a rubbish story might ruin it though. Could you imagine Halo without the storyline? Really fun gameplay, but no real sense of world, and by extension no real care about what’s happening.

    In my research I come back to the idea of ‘place’ a lot, or ‘a space with meaning or purpose.’ I wonder if the concept is translatable to gaming. Give a person a story, why are they fighting this battle, how did they get here, what is the point, and the space of the gameplay becomes a place. It takes on a meaning that somehow enriches the experience of taking part. I think thats why you can’t say that story isn’t compatible with gaming. Without story, the experience is greatly diminished and becomes a lesser thing. A game is more than the way it plays.

    Comment by Jpoku — 10 August, 2006 @ 1:53 PM

  9. Doh, pressed enter too early!

    I really like the personal story idea. I think your right in that they are extremely relevant. I find those stories especially apply to the multiplayer space or real world games. “Remember when we played… and then you fell off that cliff hahaha.”

    Also some games are only games because of a story. Fahrenheit seems a great example. The gameplay just moves the story on, it makes it dynamic, it brings you in.

    Of course games like fahrenheit also use dynamic decision and consequence storylines, which is an even greater beast.

    Comment by Jpoku — 10 August, 2006 @ 1:58 PM

  10. Psychochild wrote: “For me, it’s like encouraging people to BS about past RPG sessions in a tabletop (pen and paper) RPG.”

    Isn’t that half the fun of RPG sessions, or any social activity for that matter … the artful and progressively exagerated retelling afterwards?

    I appreciate the point that many player stories are truly of personal interest only. But there are many that aren’t. Clan rivalry. Guild successes. And as Danc pointed out there are examples of global lore (Leeeeeerooooy …). I also appreciate that there are many differing levels of storying telling.

    Storytelling need not be a narrative or multimedia clip (where bad story telling can be especially grating). Simple ingame items like a plaque or statues can also be ways of integrating player story into online games. Example: In SWG I was appreciated for my civic contributions to a player city by having a statue erected in town. Any player who happened by would see the statue and its brief message and perhaps wonder at the background (or not). For those who were in the know, the statue kept the memory.

    It’s really no different that the decoration permitted in private (or semi-private) spaces in some MMO’s. SWG’s crafting system allowed items to have custom names … which became a way to associate a message with an ingame object. How much more potential would there be if designers explicitly supported this kind of activity with better tools (perhaps extended messages that can be retrieved).

    I’m sure all stories wouldn’t be consistent. I’m not sure that matters. There’s lots of things that aren’t consistent in MMO’s (for example, the fact that nearly every player of a given game sooner or later kills all the same boss mobs).

    Developers can also do things to encourage the development of plot, by implementing systems that allow for conflict (or co-operation) to be reflected in game. In PvE games, pacts of non-aggression that have a presense (and perhaps ruleset) in game. Or features that permit player marriage.

    These features promote rich player story and a stronger community, imo. And features like this could be taken further. Much further.

    Comment by Tuebit — 10 August, 2006 @ 4:40 PM

  11. Full of Sound and Fury

    [...] First off, Brian “Psychochild” Green spoke up in defense of Story (link). It’s a well written post with some choice nuggets to reflect upon. [...]

    Pingback by Man Bytes Blog: A Frenzy of Lexicological Optimism — 13 August, 2006 @ 3:49 AM

  12. Linkdrop Soup

    [...] Psychochild’s Blog» A spirited defense of storytelling in games [...]

    Pingback by MMOG Nation — 18 August, 2006 @ 6:15 PM

  13. Story in MMORPGs

    [...] A few other links on story in games: – Psychochild wrote A spirited defense of storytelling in games. – Particle Blog responded to Psychochild with Stories Etc Redux. [...]

    Pingback by WorldIV — 13 September, 2006 @ 8:03 AM

  14. Weekend Design Challenge: Story in games

    [...] this isn’t the place to discuss whether storytelling is possible or desirable in games. There is another thread for that. Even if you’re against story in games, put that aside and do some thinking about what it [...]

    Pingback by Psychochild’s Blog — 28 May, 2007 @ 12:57 AM

  15. The Freedom to do… Nothing?

    [...] that message. Now, if you want to discuss storytelling in games, there are people who have done a far better job than I ever could, so I won’t dig too deeply into it, but I do think this is true: You can [...]

    Pingback by Random Battle — 23 June, 2007 @ 9:19 AM

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I value your comment and think the discussions are the best part of this blog. However, there's this scourge called comment spam, so I choose to moderate comments rather than giving filthy spammers any advantage.

If this is your first comment, it will be held for moderation and therefore will not show up immediately. I will approve your comment when I can, usually within a day. Comments should eventually be approved if not spam. If your comment doesn't show up and it wasn't spam, send me an email as the spam catchers might have caught it by accident.

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