March 29, 2004
I Want 'Holy Crap' Moments
At this year’s Game Developer’s Conference, Warren Spector, the guy behind the game Deus Ex and others, talked about video games and stories:
For Spector, open-endedness is not the be-all, end-all. As a story design widens out to a free-form system, he argues, the “emergent narrative” (story that’s partially created by the player, rather than completely designed by the developer) ends up with a relative lack of direction and emotional resonance. There are fewer exciting, “holy crap” moments, since the narrative can’t be designed as easily to flow towards those moments as effectively.
Now, you could make the argument that video games shouldn’t be in the business of telling stories at all — leave that to books and movies, right? From my point of view, at least, games shouldn’t just be fancy computerized novels. (Or, you know, if they are, I’ll just read the novel instead, thanks.)
But they should be a fancy computerized way of having fun, and it may be that, more often than not, experiencing a well-engineered story is more fun than exploring an open-ended world.
I’d like to hear somebody riff on this. Somebody who, say, defends open-ended video games. I’m looking at you, Matt Penniman!