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Re: A response to Walt

>For pragmatic
>purposes, I think that the definition that counts is the marketing
>definition -- what consumers end up thinking and expecting. Because consumer
>expectations for games are quite specific now, I think it best that we
>position interactive storytelling at a safe distance from that market.

I can certainly understand your desire to steer clear of all things "game" 
for positioning purposes. My point is that attempting to purge all game-like 
elements (especially, participant goals) from the interactive stories 
themselves could be a mistake, if those game-like elements turn out to be 
artistically justified. That would be like refusing to put wheels on a plane 
because people might mistake it for a bus. Participant goals appear to have 
such an artistic justification: motivation requires goals; conflict requires 
motivation; stories require conflict. I'd be happier if that chain of 
reasoning could be broken, which is why I've invited people to do so. If it 
proves to be sound reasoning, then it means that we cannot conceptually 
separate interactive storytelling from games as much as we might like to 
without compromising the quality of the interactive storytelling. If it turns 
out that's the reality, I'd rather learn to live with it. What we say on the 
outside of the box is another matter entirely.

>The issue you raise concerning conflict raises all sorts of interesting
>questions in my mind. It seems to me that conflict is an abstraction based
>on a character-centric view of storytelling, i.e., conflict exists only
>between two characters. What's confusing to me is that conflict can also
>be described as a plot element. Is conflict the right abstraction to chase?
>It certainly seems like a worthy one, but we'll need lots of supporting
>abstractions to make it work.

Conflict as something that can exist only between two characters is way on 
the narrow end of the spectrum of definitions of conflict used in literature. 
Most of my lit teachers and professors taught a broad definition of conflict 
encompassing enumerated subtypes ("man versus man," "man versus nature," "man 
versus society," "man versus himself," and so forth). The conventional view 
that conflict is fundamental to all stories requires a broad definition, so 
that e.g. "The Old Man and the Sea" can be shown to be not without conflict. 
(Or, more or less equivalently, we can expand the definition of "character" 
to include the sea, the fish, fate, human nature, etc.) The other approach is 
to stay with a narrow definition of conflict, with the understanding that not 
all stories revolve around such conflict. In this model, instead of 
enumerating categories of conflict we enumerate categories of stories, as the 
Damon Knight essay Laura referenced: "conflict stories" versus "decision 
stories" versus "discovery stories" versus "puzzle stories" and so forth.

I'm interested in abstracting conflict in interactive storytelling systems 
because I see that as a step toward generating and/or managing endings (for 
subplots as well as for whole stories). The minimun requirement, I believe, 
for giving a story an ending is that at least some of the conflicts in the 
story go away. That's why even a very poor ending ("Then they all got run 
over by a truck") is easy to distinguish from no ending at all.

>> Chris has described how messages can be conveyed through process alone. 
>> concept, I believe, has to be refined further. Rules (components of 
>> can represent messages about how the world works, but so far we only
>> understand how to do this in a literalistic way.
>I just can't follow your reasoning here.

This was a brief summary of a longer article, and even in the full-length 
version this point isn't easy to explain. I'll post it soon (as Kyle 
requested), but don't get your hopes up that it will make any more sense.

>Your definition of game strikes me as overly broad; a lawsuit fits your
>definition of game. 

A lawsuit doesn't fit the definition, unless the parties involved care more 
about determining whether they're able to accomplish a win than about who 
gets the money or the public vindication of the tort (that is, the direct 
consequences of winning). When that is indeed the case, as I believe it 
occasionally is in lawsuits, then calling it a game seems justifiable. 
(Tragically, it could be a game for one litigant but not the other.) Part 3 
of the definition is actually a very restrictive condition that excludes many 
pursuits often described as games: war games for training purposes, stock 
market investing, pro sports when the player cares primarily about the money, 
sports played mainly for exercise, salesmanship, espionage, diplomacy, etc. 
The definition is annoyingly subjective: bad enough that it depends on the 
participant's motivation, but on top of that we have to weigh the relative 
strength of different motivations that may coexist. But since it appears 
intuitively that the exact same activity (e.g. hunting) can be a game for 
some people and circumstances but not others, an objective definition doesn't 
seem possible.

>However, I don't think we need to argue this matter
>to make headway on the more important interactive storytelling issues.

Agreed. I won't argue for my definition against other definitions. But I do 
want to make sure I've phrased my definition in an understandable way; hence, 
the attempt at clarification.

- Walt