Delayed Responsibility

I Shouldn't Be Gaming Right Now… But I Am!

Plotting, Emergent Narratives, and ‘Story Spaces,’ Part 2

Posted by deckard47 on July 2, 2009

Yes, the exciting second installment of my Game Set Watch Plot-centric series is now ready to be read. If the idea of a person (another person) talking about Plot in games sounds boring, you should leave. And go read it! To whet your appetite but not (to mix up expressions) slake your thirst, here is a bit from the article:

Narrative can’t help but have an internally coherent organizational logic (called “plot”). The important things about this logic are that it a) unfolds in time for a reader, that is, has a beginning, middle, and end, b) that the experience of reading is one of reading—of discovery and deciphering rather than production and self-creation, and c), that because of this, narratives appear for readers as pre-existing objects, things separate from a reader that demand to be seen and interpreted.

This last point is critical: narratives happen to readers, and speak of an intelligent, exterior design to readers. This is true even when we tell stories to ourselves (the principle on which psychoanalysis works)—we encounter a structure of meaning, or plot, outside ourselves, and re-narrate it to ourselves.

Narrative always comes first, and unless we’re very clear about what we mean by “story spaces” or “tools for making narrative,” it’s unclear how we might provide readers with tools, rather than pre-existing narratives, out of which they themselves will produce narratives, ex nihilo.

Narrative is, to borrow an academic jargon, always there already. It’s naïve to imagine for the sake of polemic that video games, just because they’re new media, are exempt from these rules about narrative, which are something like rules for human psychology. As Peter Brooks argues, we’re just wired this way. We see narratives everywhere, and when we as authors (or, yes, video game designers) produce meaningful artifacts, whatever we call them, we can’t help but encode meaning in them that a reader is going to decipher.

Sexy, right? Almost as sexy as le Jake. So go check it out over at GSW, and leave a comment, so I can shakily respond. It’ll be fun, or something.


One Response to “Plotting, Emergent Narratives, and ‘Story Spaces,’ Part 2”

  1. Brendan said

    I’m so glad there is a part two because i have been very slack with my reading in recent weeks and needed a reminded like this to go back and finally read part one. 🙂

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