Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Choice-management in the aid of building tension

At present, the word "tension" is almost exclusively considered negative.  The quest of the modern man is to reduce tension, or stress, which are known causes of disease and emotional distress.  The desired state is one of complete relaxation.

However, in the artistic world, we find that many descriptions of good works imply tension: taut, solid, robust.  Likewise, many descriptions of poor works imply the opposite: loose, unfocused, flat.  It seems that while we prefer our bodies to be relaxed, we prefer our books, movies, music, and games full of tension1.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The unimportance of writing

The idea of a writer as a “crafter of narrative” is an idea that is entrenched, understandable, and I think very misleading in our discussion of video games.

In most creative endeavors, when we talk about writers we are talking about storytellers.  They write the scripts and the books that have a beginning, middle, and end; with a protagonist and antagonist; an inciting incident and a climax—all the things a good narrative ought to have.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Comment round-up #1, 15 May 2010

One of the great things about blogs is that they allow people to voice their opinion of an idea in the exact same place where the idea is first given expression.  I've been very happy with the conversations I've had in the comments section of the posts, but I get the feeling that a lot of these gold nuggets are passed by because they occur in older posts and I imagine few of my readers obsessively check all of my old posts to see if any new comments have been written.  I figured it'd be worthwhile to an first Interactive Illuminatus comment round-up, where I collect my favorite discussions so far and put them up to give people a chance to review what's been said since they last read the post.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The importance of writing

It was recently announced that God of War writer Marianne Krawczyk will be lending her talents to the upcoming game Shank.  I thought the God of War games were above-average in the video game narrative department and Shank looks like a well-done update to one of my favorite games, Metal Slug.  However, instead of making me anticipate the game even more, the news has left me perplexed.  Why?  Because this game was announced last year and has already been previewed by game reviewers.  The game is done and now it's time to get a writer on board.  As a writer, this strikes me as odd.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Luck: the spoonful of sugar

Mainly due to my increased conscious thinking about game theory, I've started playing more chess these days, mainly against the computer as chess enthusiasts are few and far-between.  The reason for this is fairly straightforward to me, now that I've been playing the game more.

Chess is not fun.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

"All the play's a game...": Narrative as a game

Writers in the narrative formats--be it novels, screenplays, etc.--often borrow terms from games to describe dynamics in the narrative.  There is talk of "setting the stakes," "set-ups and pay-offs," "playing out his hand" or "her ace-in-the-hole."  Classic self-referential lines include, "Now it's my turn" and "Game over, man."  Certainly, writers borrow terms from wherever they find utility, frequently using such concepts as disparate as Newtonian physics and strings of thread, as well.  My intent here is not to argue that all narratives are based on games, or vice versa, but rather to explicate the two's relationship in hopes that it will surface lessons for both crafters of narratives and crafters of games.