What is a narrative? - Mercedes-Benz Forum

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post #1 of 3 (permalink) Old 05-20-2009, 08:51 PM Thread Starter
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What is a narrative?

About fifteen years ago a friend of mine & I mapped out an RPG of "Ender's Game." We struggled to devise an interesting game that would be true to Orson Scott Card's narrative but still be compelling in near real-time. My friend (a programmer par excellence) and I couldn't resolve the incongruity.

Here's an interesting perspective on the problem.



Endpaper - Fiction reaches a new level
Tim Martin finds the computer game a growing force in literature
By Tim Martin
Last Updated: 11:46AM BST 08 May 2009

T S Eliot wrote of Dante that “there seems really nothing to do but point to him and be silent”. How very wrong T S Eliot was. In perhaps the most bizarre literary cameo since Geoffrey Chaucer was shown singing along to Queen tunes in the 2001 film A Knight’s Tale, Florence’s most famous son will soon be crashing into your living room as the growling, cross-wielding hero of his very own video game. Yes, in 2010, as the frankly mad-looking trailer for Dante’s Inferno has it, you too will be able to “Go to Hell”.

Anyone expecting a faithful interactive representation of the Commedia’s sorrow and pity will be somewhat taken aback. Made by the developers of last year’s outer-space zombie shooter Dead Space, the game recasts Dante as a muscle-bound anti-hero, carving his way through the Nine Circles with a scythe and a cross to liberate his girlfriend from Lucifer.

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As he lies around, “punishing” or “absolving” the damned souls surrounding him, the disembodied voice of Virgil provides instructive quotations from the poem. The creators have even promised to recreate the topography of the Inferno, an uncannily good fit for the levels of a computer game. In short, it sounds like amazingly good fun.

Dante’s Inferno may not herald a new era in literary gaming, but connoisseurs of story could do worse than watch the area for developments. A recent survey of American teenagers revealed that 97 per cent of the consumers of the future now play video games.

What’s more, certain independent games are entering a phase – familiar to historians of jazz, comics and indeed 20th-century literature – of vigorous experimentation with techniques of narrative. (An evening with the frightening and baffling The Path, rather like an Angela Carter story siphoned through The Sims, will show you what I mean.) And with book sales falling, it may not be long before prose writers jump ship for a medium that offers some of the most exciting possibilities of the new century.

It’s happened before. Veterans of home computing in the Eighties and Nineties may recall knotting their brows over the game of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, written by Douglas Adams himself. Adams also wrote Bureaucracy, a game in which the paper-shuffling protagonist’s most pressing task is to avoid succumbing to a brain haemorrhage from stress. And the veteran sci-fi novelist Harlan Ellison delivered I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream, a game whose vision of eternal torture remains more shocking than most of its high-resolution descendants.

A vague interest in literary form has hovered for some time at the edges of contemporary gaming. Fans of H P Lovecraft jumped at the appearance a few years ago of a game based on his story The Call of Cthulhu, in which the player guided a detective through a town of boggling fish-men while trying to keep him from going insane. Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl, released in 2007, owed considerably more to the Strugatsky brothers’ seminal Roadside Picnic than it did to the Tarkovsky film it was supposedly based on. And Bioshock, an adventure set in a decaying art-deco city beneath the sea, won rapturous praise for its dramatisation of the more sinister aspects of Ayn Rand’s Objectivism.

But the most challenging questions posed by games strike at the roots of written narrative. Players used to follow a prearranged story, dragged in the wake of plot events triggered by specific actions within the game world, but the new generation of games flirts with a different model. Here, “low-level inputs” – the way the player interacts with non-essential characters, or the cumulative effect that his or her actions have in the world – are far more important. So the writer’s emphasis shifts from mise-en-scene to character interaction; from constructing grand set pieces to fleshing out a malleable and dynamic world.

Our experience of stories is, by and large, a lateral one, in which the writer commands every aspect of the world the reader inhabits as well as the process by which it reveals itself. Fine; it’s worked for centuries. But it’s hard to shake the feeling that gaming – which increasingly promises a narrative space for the player to make his own way, never having the same experience twice – is where at least some of the great writers of tomorrow will make their names. At which point, as with comics, everyone will get a terrible headache over trying to think of a new name for the medium.

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post #2 of 3 (permalink) Old 05-21-2009, 04:28 AM
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Dude, so first, you have Heathcliff frag all the zombie townies with the nail gun you find for him in the basement anteroom (slide the pallet of peat bogs to the LEFT!) of Thrushcross Grange as he crosses the Yorkshire Moors toward Wuthering Heights where Catherine is being held captive in the ninth dimension...

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post #3 of 3 (permalink) Old 05-21-2009, 04:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Digmenow View Post
Dude, so first, you have Heathcliff frag all the zombie townies with the nail gun you find for him in the basement anteroom (slide the pallet of peat bogs to the LEFT!) of Thrushcross Grange as he crosses the Yorkshire Moors toward Wuthering Heights where Catherine is being held captive in the ninth dimension...
I was actually born in west yorkshire and found this post hillarious E lad I'll have thee know that me sides still ache fromt laffing bit e rite


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Last edited by eric242340; 05-21-2009 at 04:54 AM.
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