Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Rough draft for final

This is what i have done so far. Any comments would be appreciated. I'm not finished with my second or third game description or my conclusion(s) yet but I hope everyone finds this to be interesting.

Throughout this class we have learned about various technologies through the use of narrative. We have also learned about narrative through technology. But in my opinion, the most interesting aspect of the course was what we learned about the interactivity and narrative in games. Now, I don’t mean board games, I mean computer and video games. These games range in a variety of categories but in particularly first person shooters (FPS), action/adventure, and PC games. What I would like to talk about are the issues of interactivity and narrative during game play and even online gaming. During this study I chose three games to use as my “tests.” The first game we are all familiar with from class, Zork. The second game chosen to examine was Assassin’s Creed. And the final game I chose was from the hit trilogy of Halo games, Halo 3.

Now before I begin discussing what research was done and the results of my research, let us take a look at what the terms narrative and interactive mean. Narrative means “a representation of an event or series of events; a recreation, re-enactment, etc” (Adam Johns Lecture). Interactive means, “1: mutually or reciprocally active 2: involving the actions or input of a user ; especially : of, relating to, or being a two-way electronic communication system (as a telephone, cable television, or a computer) that involves a user's orders (as for information or merchandise) or responses (as to a poll)” (Merriam-Webster Online). I would like us to focus on the second meaning of interactive when we discuss interactivity later. Now you might be asking yourself what either of those words has to with video games. Allow me to explain it you using verbal and visible examples, as well as using my research findings.

In order to explain what these terms have to do with video games, we will begin first while looking at Zork. This is the main photo for Zork found on numerous websites:


Now it isn’t very self-explanatory but let’s examine the photo for a moment. It’s very plain, just a bunch of text and gives you a feeling of wonder and perhaps confusion with the phrase at the top. But let’s not look too into it; I just wanted to show you the main photo so you knew what game I was referencing. A photo that we need to examine is the following photo of how the game actually looks. This photo is from the first version of Zork as soon as we begin the game.

Now does this look like your typical video game? I do not know of any video games that look anything like this. Then again this game is only available on computers. But examine this photo closely and you will see that game is not a game at all but an interactive narrative. Interactive narrative? Yes an interactive narrative. This is a narrative that gives us complete interactivity but it does have restrictions. There are preset commands and answers to things. There are preset occurrences during the game that happen at predetermined times. Everything is set-up in a way that we have to choose which way to go and what to do. But we don’t exactly have complete control do we? And can we even see where or what we are doing? No we do not.

Now I’m not saying that it isn’t possible to have complete control, but we will discuss that more in depth later. Let’s continue on with our lack of ability of sight in Zork. All we see is text we have no visible evidence of where we are going or what we are doing except a narrative in front of us. This didn’t go over to well with me being a pretty devoted gamer. I can’t explain how annoyed I was by this game and the lack of interactivity I felt due to the lack of being able to see what I was doing. Just reading text of what was happening was not working. I could not paint a mental picture of this being real. But I was not the only one who had trouble.

In order to be unbiased, I incorporated the help of a close friend for my project. His job was to play each game for a one hour period then write down what he thought about three specific categories: interactivity, narrative and game play. I made him suffer through Zork first, since I had to play it for this class, I figured I would be nice and let him have fun after. After playing the game for the hour he wrote down a few things on the interactivity of the game that stood out to me. He felt that the game lacked entertainment and excitement. He called it boring. He was not to thrilled about being able to only do certain things as well. He felt that the commands were not realistic enough and by that he meant he was getting angry with the game not recognizing words that it had previously included in a prompt.

Now while he was doing this I watched him from another room and he was literally red in the face and ready to break my computer. That’s when I decided he had suffered enough and I let him write his frustrations down. First he wrote about the narrative of the game. His feelings on this subject are not too far from his feelings on interactivity. He felt very confused by the narrative and by what it was he was doing and what he read. He also felt that there was no story involved. He said that while he was typing in the commands he felt that game went no where even though he moved through 4 rooms by simply going the same direction. He just did not feel the narrative and interactivity were linked and that really hurts the game as a whole. When writing about the game play he felt that there wasn’t any. He said that it was a pointless game and there was no need to play it. Well for this experiment there was a big reason to play it. And that reason was to compare the interactivity and narrative of the game to that of modern video games. So let’s move forward to our next game, Assassin’s Creed.

Assassin’s Creed was published by Ubisoft and released on all gaming platforms. “The setting is 1191 AD. The Third Crusade is tearing the Holy Land apart. You, Altair, intend to stop the hostilities by suppressing both sides of the conflict. You are an Assassin, a warrior shrouded in secrecy and feared for your ruthlessness. Your actions can throw your immediate environment into chaos, and your existence will shape events during this pivotal moment in history.”(IGN.com) Now, this game is your standard action/adventure game where you have control of the character and you see the character throughout the game. The object is to go around and prevent 10 men from gaining access to a special relic that would let them control the world. To put it frankly you go around and basically kill these men. Each city has different tasks you must complete in order for you to gain access to the assassination. You do not have to these in any specific order.

I watched my friend play this game and he decided not to follow any mission plans. This is what I love about this game. You have total interactivity with the game. You don’t have to do anything that you don’t want to. You can just walk around and kill the guards or even the pedestrians which is what my friend did. Now if you want to beat the game you have to assassinate each main boss. But all the objectives that are listed are optional. You do not have to go around and save every citizen, or pick pocket every bad guy or even interrogate a priest by beating him up. What I want to show you first is the official trailer to the game itself so you have an idea of what is going on.


1 comment:

Adam Johns said...

In the second paragraph, you say that you've chosen three games to be your tests. Tests of what? What argument are you making? What idea are you pursuing? There needs to be a reason for your choices. Similarly, we have no idea *why* you are introducing the terms narrative and interactivity. What are you *doing*?

Your discussion of Zork doesn't seem useful - you're introducing it in vague terms, even though everyone in the class has played it, and has had a more thorough introduction to it. What are you trying to do here?

I'm interested in your idea of getting your friend's reactions. I'm not sure *why* you're doing it, mind you, or what point you're trying to make, but it's a potentially interesting idea. From the start, though, it gets scattered. I'm not sure how the fact that he didn't *like* Zork relates to the question of whether it's interactive, for instance - that seems like two separate issues.

"And that reason was to compare the interactivity and narrative of the game to that of modern video games." Ok - at this moment, your strategy gets a little clearer. If this is your goal, though, you needed to make this clear in the first paragraph; most of what you have would have become unnecessary.

As an aside - do you think it's entirely legitimate to run a comparison based on the reactions of people who know how to play something like Assasin's Creed, but who *don't* know how to play Zork?

"watched my friend play this game and he decided not to follow any mission plans" -- Now you're on to something interesting. Is this what *you* understand as interactivity - the ability to do a range of unplanned activities? If so, you could have introduced things better.

Overall: You need to clarify your argument first and foremost. Clearly it has something to do with narrative & technology; I suspect it has something to do with "unplanned narratives", maybe, along the lines of what you'd encounter in Assassin's creed? If so, you might explore in more detail both why you find this important and whether this is a possibility in the likes of Zork or not...