Twine Escape Feedback Forum

Feedback Questions Version 2 - CLOSED => Do you think the game mechanics and the narrative/story work together? If yes -how do they work together? => Topic started by: Alighieri00 on July 23, 2018, 07:09:24 pm


Title: Thoughts
Post by: Alighieri00 on July 23, 2018, 07:09:24 pm
Heads up, this might be long because it is somewhat related to my studies as well and I'm still thinking through some of these implications.

Firstly, I would argue that the question "Do the game mechanics and narrative work together" is unnecessary, because it is impossible for it to be otherwise. Even Clint Hocking's (in)famous ludonarrative dissonance does not suggest that the mechanics and narrative of Bioshock don't work together at all, but rather, that they are working at odds with one another and sending mixed messages (which is in itself a message, though one could argue an unintentional one by the authors). So jumping to part two of your question, how do they work together?

The mechanics of most Twine games are very similar - players are given a small subset of options from which to choose, they select one, and then see what happens. One of the interesting consequences of this that I have observed is that many (most, probably) Twine games actually offer the player very little insight into exactly what will happen when they click on that link. For example, in your story, if the player simply chooses to wait and see what happens, the game ends. There is no way a player can know that ahead of time; I've found that many Twine games follow a similar trend. There is often very little indication of what will happen should a player make a decision.

I've also found that Twine games, because of the limited number of choices offered to a player on any given screen, often "lead" the player. For example, when I look under the bed in the girl's dormitory, I have the option to "pick up the box", "look out the window", or "return to the hallway." I doubt there are very many players who just ignore the box at this point and return to the window. So in this way, the player is being guided by the writing.

Finally, in your game in particular, the concept of a replay is actively encouraged. Not only are some of the endings so brief as to make the player think, "Well, I must have done something wrong", but you explicitly tell the players that there are nine endings and they are encouraged to find them all. This means that the second (or third or fourth or fifth) time I play the game, I arrive on a scene of what is essentially survival horror with prior knowledge. I can skip the pitfalls from before because I already know they are there, and the elements that were previously creepy are no longer scary. This reminds me of the film Edge of Tomorrow in which Tom Cruise's character respawns again and again in the same battle. Eventually he figures out the patterns and the battle is no longer terrifying or even deadly because he already knows exactly what to do. Your game, too, has this same quality.

So with these three ideas in mind (I'm sure there are more) - that the game is initially obtuse in relaying its consequences, it later becomes trivial because the pattern never changes (except for the 50/50 ending), and that the player is often guided towards objectives - the question then becomes how do these characteristics interact with the story? This is where things become much more subjective and interpretive. One could argue that the obtuseness of early explorations mirrors the confusion of the player character, or perhaps the unknowing that comes with being in a dangerous situation. It could be a reflection of the institute itself, which seems to be at once occupied and abandoned. It could be a literal interpretation of the darkness of the building, etc. The ability to replay the story again and again knowing what to expect speaks of a death-rebirth cycle, perhaps a suggestion that the player character is haunting this place and that they are never really free but will always wake up again. The guiding text could be a helpful or malicious entity that wants the player to achieve something or to fall into a trap. This also brings up questions of "meta" writing - is the author that helpful or malicious entity?

The point is that, yes, the mechanics and themes will always interact and it is those interactions that create the opportunity for interpretation, even in Interactive Fiction. To stop rambling and get to the meat: you posit that you are "looking at whether narrative game mechanics are present in interactive fiction- a text-based format that has been shown to have game-like qualities."  The answer is of course the one we don't what to hear. Yes, narrative game mechanics can be present in IF, but are not necessary. I could just as easily write a story where the links are simply "Turn to the next page." I think the interesting nexus here is where that overlap between literature and game happens. I've certainly read "playful" books, e.g., House of Leaves, many of Borges' works, or any "Choose Your Own Adventure" book. If books can be game-like and games can be book-like, then I think some exploration along this liminal space is where the argument that video games are literature is to be made.

Ok, I'll stop talking. Thanks for listening to my ramblings!

Edit: Oh, and one more thing (sorry)! I also noticed that your game casts judgment on the player's decisions - "Why would you do that?" when crushing the eyeball and "Are you sure you want to shoot an innocent child?". This evocation of guilt is one that Katherine Isbister suggests is unique to the format of video games. This would also make a great place to start probing the video games/literature nexus.