Wakey! Wakey! We had an encounter!

There has always been an interest in narrative, as a source of a meaningful and motivational interaction, but so has also the interest finding life on Mars.  But what if the Martians are already here, trying to get attention? This was a little situation we experienced two years ago when making a serious approach towards the game industry to explain, give advice and delivers a method that could aid the creation of interactive narrative. When finding evidence of narrative interest abroad, we even left our countries and crossed the Atlantic (note that most of us are from Sweden). So why did they not recognise us?

This was a time when the buzzword “fun” permeated the game developing and if there was someone that should be fun it was definitely the people who claimed to know storytelling. Having the gift of gab was a huge advantage in order to make everything said to appear as a page-turner (key-presser). But we were not Scheherazade in the Arabian Nights. Instead, we brought algorithms and talked about narrative as bricks of information to be cognitively systemized, arranged and controlled with the media-specific attributes. We also had stomach telling people they did not fully understand the potential of the narrative. As everyone knows a good story by heart it was like telling people they did not know how to tie their shoelaces. One could say we were walking around completely naked without any armour, as we did not even have an eligible AAA-title to endorse our assertions. If we had the chance of getting thousands of nights we got ten seconds. We retreated in anticipation of a new encounter.

But so it happened in Stockholm. A well-formulated public advertisement for a Narrative director was published by one of the major game studios. The description breathed that someone had been thinking, someone had been missing something and needed someone. Why this sudden insight? We would say it was the narrative itself that claimed its right to be taken care of in fairness to its brothers and sisters. It was the unruly narrative that could no longer stand functioning as varnish or putty to the other components and wanted to bring answers to pacing, learning curves, AI, directing players, motivation, emotions, gameplay, etc.

The good news simply kissed our sleeping blog. What we did will remain on this blog as a time document, a quote, to what we proudly tried to achieve two years ago. Today we like to see more serious approaches to narrative technique in the creation of interactive media. As the academic world, as well as the traditional IT industry, ogle at the game industry we hope the new movements might influence creation of academic programs seriously attending to the topic, as well as the development of dynamic interactive systems that comes with the new platforms (right now gamification is the buzzword as it has nothing to do with narrative).

We have learned that there is a time for everything. We at CIN are always willing to help anyone to avoid a detour to the pharmacy buying aspirins when dealing with narrative and interactivity. As a founder of CIN, and encouraged by the encounter, I will start a blog that will be a more hands-on blog about narrative technique independent from cultural influences. Participation is greatly encouraged, especially from you that share a passion to see a progress and strengthening of the narrative in the future development of interactive media.

Be back soon with information about the installation of a Narrative Construction (which is now up and running).

Katarina Gyllenbäck

I hate zombies!

I think we all can agree with the truism that a film is a film, and a game is a game. But, when it comes to making a film out of a game, or vice versa, it seems like people tend to forget about the differences between the media.

Resident Evil – afterlife” is the latest example of a game made into a film. The story is about a woman (played by Milla Jovovich) who has to evacuate humans so they won’t get infected by a virus, and turned into zombies. The problem with Resident Evil is that the director wants to please two different kinds of audiences – gamers and movie lovers – making him create something in-between.

Continue reading I hate zombies!

How to use a fork and knife when developing games

Fork and knife are really good companions. The fork grabs a steak, and holds on to it, while the knife cuts through. Without the fork the knife would only make the steak move around on the plate and lots of time would be wasted. And without the knife there would only be a fork in the stake status quo.

The same applies to narrative and game mechanics when designing a video game. Like a fork, the narrative grabs the player in order for the mechanics to do its job. But if you create game mechanics and afterwards try to create a narrative that will fit these mechanics, then you will face problems. Continue reading How to use a fork and knife when developing games

Don’t show me, involve me!

Within film there is an expression among scriptwriters saying: ”Don’t tell, show”. This means that you should avoid telling what a character is feeling; instead you should find ways to express it by showing the feelings, not to make the audience disassociate with the film. Within video games there are no such advices, but it certainly would need to develop its own version of this expression.

Continue reading Don’t show me, involve me!

Varför måste jag ta över när allt går åt helvete?

Jag spelade ”Mass Effect 2”. Det är ett rymdepos som jämförts med George Lucas Stjärnornas krig. Men det är nog fel av mig att säga att jag ”spelat” “Mass Effect 2”. Vad jag gjorde var att ”spela” inledningen fem gånger eftersom jag inte hittade cockpit för att göra en uppdatering av en journal. Varför jag i herrans namn ville göra en uppdatering av en journal mitt i ett exploderande inferno med döda kroppar liggandes på golvet, och där larmet gick och en högtalar röst ropade ”mayday, mayday”, har jag inte en aning om. Det påminde mig lite om Max Payne – en noir-klassiker inom spel – där Max, som är detektiv, kommer till ett magasin där skurkarna håller till. Han ringer efter backup (polis) som säger att de är snart är på plats. Jag som spelare hade gärna väntat på backup men se, det vill inte Max. Han ville gå in i magasinet och säger lite kaxigt i polisradion att han ”går in”. Va, tänker jag, är du inte klok Max? Men det var inte det värsta. När han väl bestämt att han skulle gå in i magasinet så ”lämnar” han mig. Det är JAG som spelare som måste ta ansvar för hans beslut. Båda fallen slutar med att jag kastrerar hjältarna genom att fånigt stå och bli nedskjuten i ett magasin eller vimsigt springa runt i ett eldhav där folk dör för jag inte hittar cockpit.

Continue reading Varför måste jag ta över när allt går åt helvete?

“Fun factor” – glassigt värre!

Jag vet inte hur många gånger jag stått och stirrat ner i en kyldisk en varm sommardag med längtan efter glass, utan att hitta en favorit, och nästa gång jag gått dit har jag tänkt ”inte den, inte den, och inte den…”. Exakt samma känsla har jag när jag köper spel.

Tänk dig att du är designer som ska göra ett spel där det finns lika många åsikter som det finns glassorter i en kyldisk kring vad som är ett roligt spel? Arbetar man dessutom utifrån begreppet att ett spel ska ha en ”fun factor” så förstår man att detta innebär problem. Vad är roligt? Vi bestämmer målgrupp, säger någon. Ja, en målgrupp! Det underlättar saken……inte så mycket. Vi har barn, vuxna, tjejer och killar, familjer, vana och ovana, och vem ska man ta bort? Continue reading “Fun factor” – glassigt värre!