William Shakespeare, Game Designer

What if William Shakespeare had been a game designer?
Shakespeare Gaming

Wall Street Journal: You mentioned Shakespeare as one of your interests during your MFA [in theater directing]. What do you think he would have been like as a game designer?

Jonathan Knight: Shakespeare would have been on the forefront. He was an innovator and not just a great story-teller. Arguably, he’s more of a medium innovator. He borrowed heavily. “Hamlet” is a complete rip-off of a story on the prince of Denmark. Some people think he lifted it from a work that actually came between the two stories.

He was such a master at harnessing the new. For him, the new medium was open air theater on the south side of the Thames. He solidified a big portion of the English language with his plays much like Dante did with Italian vernacular.

James Knight interview @ The Wall Street Journal

Knight is executive producer of the upcoming videogame Dante’s Inferno, developed by Visceral Games and published by Electronic Arts.]

Interview by Jamin Brophy-Warren.

I’m reminded of Mark Twain, also a master of harnessing the new.

TypewriterTwain was fascinated, for example, by the typewriter; and he was the first author, or among the first, to submit manuscripts in typed, double-spaced format (as opposed to hand-scrawled in pencil, or worse yet pen).

Based on a True Story

Paul Spinrad has posted some interesting observations about storytelling, simulations, and reality — concepts which are directly relevant to game design:

[S]torytelling, like language itself, is a compression scheme — ideally, you leave out everything that doesn’t matter or doesn’t in some way contribute to the whole. If you’re decompressing the story — reading, listening to, or watching it — the first thing you need to know is, is this true? You need to know where to put it in your head, whether to incorporate it into the model you use to navigate the real world, or whether it should go into the “not true” bin. Our survival depends on this distinction.

Meanwhile, on the storyteller’s side, there are many reasons to blur true and not-true — particularly, I think, if a story is being told for profit or to maintain of power relationships. Stories interpreted as real demand more attention and more likely to influence people’s actions than fictional stories.

Paul Spinrad @ Boing Boing

“I think the ‘based one a true story’ line puts the audience in a sort of voyeur mode, the same place our brains go as we slow down and rubber-neck out of our car windows as we drive by accidents. Wanting, hoping, desiring a glimpse of a bloody body or gore spilled out on the pavement.”
cmyk @ Boing Boing

Gamers imposing permanence on their decisions

“There’s been a lot of interest in Far Cry 2 recently surrounding some gamers’ attempts to impose permanence on all their decisions. Is that a valid way of making story meaningful? Does it clash with game structures like reloading?”

To summarise, if you guys aren’t aware, I was having a discussion online about the reliance on traditional narrative techniques, trying to impose notions of irreversibility and stuff like that on players in order to make their actions more meaningful. And I was saying I don’t think we should do that, I think we should actually embrace the idea that games are reversible and malleable and fragmented and parallel and all of these sorts of things that other media aren’t ….

Death Of The Author @ edge-online.com

Via L.B Jeffries: The Merits of Linear Narrative @ popmatters

Rushkoff on creating an alternate reality game


Douglas Rushkoff talks about his participation in the making of Exoriare:

I’ve written and even taught a whole lot about interactive narrative over the years, but rarely have the chance to play with this stuff. So last year, when a Canadian games company rang to see if I’d be interested in collaborating with them on developing stories for a giant, multi-dimensional gaming universe, I jumped. It was like I was being given the chance to live out Jack Kirby’s dream of world-building with Robert Anton Wilson’s vision of multiple and overlapping perspectives.

The early results are finally making it online as the preview of a graphic novel, which spills out into the trailhead of at least one Alternate Reality Game, and also comprises the back story of the coming videogame series. This is a big big universe – a giant war for the future of humanity, of course – with maybe one overall timeline but many different pathways through the material. So people might follow my characters through a series of graphic novels, and learn something about them that they can then use in the games, or an artifact they find in the game might help them decode something in the comics. And even the ARG that people are beginning to play right now – through which they are “finding the others,” and forging coalitions with other gamers in their own parts of the world to solve certain challenges – is a set-up for the bigger game, where these larger groups will be responsible for various aspects of the coming war.

The object of the game right now is for the players to build the “Darknet,” an alternative network through which a global resistance can operate, and people can begin to piece together why NASA scientists are being rounded up and what the hell happened over the skies in Los Angeles.

Douglas Rushkoff @ Boing Boing

From the Boing Boing comments section:

“Looks absolutely brilliant. I see that Telefilm Canada is on board. Interesting. I never knew they dealt with video game production.”

Wisher, Theurgist, Fatalist

Wisher, Theurgist, Fatalist is an interesting (and free!) new storytelling RPG from Jenna Moran …

Fatalists are those who know the secrets of the world. They are scholars. They are prophets. They are experts — founts of knowledge and confidence.

The role of the fatalist on this journey is cruel. It is something of a purpose that they must educate the wishers, warn them, and share with them the secret truths of the dreaming kingdom. But this is not why they seek the Jewel.

To win an unambiguous victory in this game, you need one fatalist to survive and agree to become the firmament of the world; and more, the wisher must willingly sacrifice that fatalist in the world’s creation. The person who becomes the firmament of the world is torn apart, unraveled, laid bare down to the bones of their soul and made into the structure of all reality. It is their lore and their knowledge and the order with which they approach their lives that become the order and basis for the world itself.

Any character can become this structure; it’s not limited to fatalists. But it is the fatalists’ belief that only someone such as a fatalist can do it well. And if it is not done, and done well, then the world shall remain in some part fantasy; in some part dream; in some part lie — as the doomful sages of the world suggest it is already.
Wisher, Theurgist, Fatalist: a game by Jenna Moran

Wisher, Theurgist, Fatalist (PDF)

Home: Hitherby Dragons

Via Nick Novitski @ That Bright Instrument