Where is the story?

As grand an idea as it once seemed, the delivery of a truly meaningful impact from our choices still mostly feels like an unrealized dream.

Source: Tina Amini, Video game stories still don’t belong to you, Mashable.

This article caught my eye. I’m sure it had a tag-line along the lines of ‘your choices in games don’t matter’ when I saw it; I was incensed, certain I was going to read this article and disagree with its argument on the basis that it had misunderstood / overlooked that the story you tell in a game is not only about the narrative action that unfolds within the gameworld but also the impact of your choices on your broader experience which, in turn, may twist or shape how you then interpret the action of the game.

Turns out the article, in some ways, reaches a similar conclusion. It’s an interesting read (though I skipped much of it towards the end because I wanted to avoid the Prey spoilers – just in case).

The ambiguous edge

‘In a video game, having an impassible wall around the town makes it clear where the action is to take place, but hardly enhances the sense that this town exists in a real world. But if you remove the wall and let players roam the countryside as well, you create a situation where you must decide where to stop creating the world, since it cannot be infinite. A boundary must still be created. Perhaps a river? A mountain range? A chasm? Even when creating an immersive experience with an ambiguous “edge”, participants still need a way to know, for sure, where the experience truly ends.’

via Ten Things We’ve Learned About Immersive Design — Medium (Foma Labs).

This point about the need for an “edge” (however ambiguous) is really interesting to me. What happens when the audiences / participants redraw where that edge is?

One, fairly literal, example I can think of are players who find and “exploit” the environment of video games in order to play the game in unintended ways (e.g. by manoveuring themselves off of the playable map in order to bypass a difficult encounter – see: S.A.B.E.R 2 Warsat Cheese. Easy Warsat Capture).

However, in addition to, “pushing” those boundaries (or moving yourself beyond them temporarily) audiences/participants might also attempt to redraw the edge “inside” the designer intended edge.