My old Yale Comp Sci Dept buddy Jordan Mechner has an interesting article about what went into designing PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME
, the hit Ubisoft videogame.
Rule #2: Story is not king.
And if reading this doesn't make you want to play Mechner's difficult-to-find, but unbelievably engaging opus "The Last Express" - well, you're not like me.
I'm gonna have to dig up my CDs and give it another spin.
Being a gamer, I've seen how different stories work within video games.
Most often, a story in a video game work best in play vs. watch, as like other media has show vs. tell. While often necessary to put in cut scenes (some with some limited playability, like in Resident Evil 4), too much time without any action keeps the players out of the game, and out of the story.
The best example of playing through a game's story is the Half Life series, where there are no cut scenes. You play all the time, seeing things unfold and going through things however you like to. The commentaries for the Half Life 2: Episode 1 and 2 is actually pretty enlightening on how those games tell the story.
The rule about story not being king reminds me of MacLuhan's distinction between a medium, it's message, and it's content.
The message of the medium is that set of things you definitely get from the medium - like the cuts between images and the time-based motion of a story in film, or the gameplay in a computer game.
The content is whatever sits inside. You could call it the story, but it's not really the whole story; any good narrative is built in relation to, and dependent on, the message of the medium it inhabits.
It makes me wonder where webisodes sit. The message of the Internet is the hyperlinks, the option to read a bit here and then somewhere else, and even to combine things from various areas at once (listen to music on one site while reading something from another). In which case by this theory good webisode stories should go allow people to go off on piles of tangents in multiple directions, and combine video streams to make different meanings available. It's very hard to see where linear storytelling should fit in within the supposed new world order, and yet for centuries linear storytelling has been almost synonymous with 'stories' in general . . ..
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