“I believe the adventure game genre will never die any more than any type of storytelling would ever die.” – Roberta Williams, co-founder of Sierra-On-Line & creator of “King’s Quest”
I wrote something yesterday that I quickly need to amend! The sentence was: “Keep giving me a good story.”
While it’s true, the experience I’m looking for is more akin to a “SemiTale”. Basically leading the audience part of the way. Coincidentally the latin word “semitalis” means “footpath”!
What got me thinking about it was something came along that changed the video game industry. Say it with me: “Minecraft”!
There have been clones but the combination of “choose your own adventure” meets open world, meets Lego as a genre hasn’t come into its own yet. We’re starting to see some games like “Landmark” popping up but no game has really broken through as a competitor.
The power of “Minecraft” is that there is no story as such. If you choose the creative mode you just build cool stuff. If you choose the adventure mode you’ll wake up in an unfamiliar environment, you’ll need food & shelter, you’ll fight monsters, hopefully you survive & thrive and cap it off by slaying a dragon. What happens in between those phases is entirely up to you. And the creepers.
That’s what not only the video game industry but all creatives should take away from this. Yes, do craft the story but the more room you give the player to impact the world and the story the better. By all means, please give us limitations. But if we find ways of circumventing the games “rules”, don’t punish us for doing so. The only thing it does is to stifle our creativity.
We see examples of this pop up every now and again. Somebody finds an exploit in the game or mods it and the developers patch it, which they of course should be free to do! But what’s not often said is: “Thank you, we love that you’re finding creative ways of using our product!”. The message is usually something like: “People shouldn’t be playing like that or manipulating our product!”.
Well, tough titty. It’s going to happen and you might not always like the results, but shaming and punishing people isn’t the answer. Trying to understand why these people do what they do will serve you better.
As long as nobody is unduly profiting or hurting anyone by your work being “broken” or “remixed” there shouldn’t be an issue. We need to understand that when our craft is put out there, it’s going to go impact people’s lives. How it impacts them isn’t up to us to decide. We can only control our output until it reaches their hands.
That’s why I think that a “SemiTale” is something worth exploring regardless of what we do. It invites the audience to participate in the telling of the story on a whole other level. It helps us develop the type of community where ideas aren’t as dictated and fixed as they’ve been in the past. It’s far more democratic.
We’ve been doing this more or less conciously for a long time now. So, what if we picked it up and actually tried to understand it more fully and use it as a tool rather than seeing it as happenstance?
If we look at the stories we tell ourselves they are far more powerful than any story anyone can tell us. Leaving some room for us to insert our own feelings, thoughts and experiences into the mix will make it all
Whatever stories that we tell ourselves, those are the stories that usually become true.