narratology

All posts tagged narratology


I finished up Bioshock and it was quite a tour-de-force in game narrative, and deserves the kind of critique usually reserved for film and literature, even from the most ardent anti-“game-as-art” critics (read: Ebert). So I gave it a shot. Here is my effort at deconstructing the meaning of Bioshock.

Read it, would you kindly?

MAJOR SPOILERS

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By now, you may have seen this video demonstrating the new Will Wright One-week Wonder, Spore.

There is no doubt that this game is absolutely incredible. Procedurally generated life? Culture? What astounds me about this game is that he really broken down things into a hierarchy of agent and society. First we create organism by giving them weapons and parts. Then we create cities, who are really organisms whose weapons and parts are formed by the creatures we created. Then these cities become the world organism, who extend not an arm but a UFO into the rest of space. The analogy continues. It redefines how we understand "organism." This reaches back into the Latin and Greek root "organos" meaning a tool or instrument. We get to play with a system that uses sub-systems as instruments to an end.

So why do I hate Will Wright? Well, let me stir some vanity and quote a post I made in another forum:

"My theory is that Will Wright, fancying himself a creator of sandboxes that empower people to 'create their own narrative' has forgotten one important thing. Most people suck at creating their own narrative. This is why we hire writers, directors, game designers, and musicians. Extreme ludology can never wholly displace the nuances of expert narration."

That about sums it up. I don't hate him. But I made myself ask why I don't like his games, and that's the answer I got. I'm not interested in what narratives I can come up with within his system, I'm interested in narratives that don't yet have a system to be told with. I love limitations, just not self-serving ones. I prefer sonnets over prose. But looking at Spore, I can already see all the "gameplay" that can possibly happen, and there is no suspense that comes from being at the whim of, say, a great writer.

But that's my fault for watching the video I guess. If you plan to play Spore, rewind time and don't watch the video. If you rather glean some inspiration and move on with a realer life, stay on the coattails of the future with me.