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Subject: Story in Games rss

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Jon
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While pondering the many types of games I play, I have tried to figure out what draws me to some and why others just seem to fall flat.

I have heard a few games criticized because they end "just when things get interesting." A lament in other games is that once you finally gain access to some game element, the game ends and you "never get to use it."

In English Literature classes across America, high school students are taught the importance of a story's arc. Shakespeare's plays are studied in terms of introduction, build up, climax, and resolution.

Some games, Cribbage for example, almost completely lack any of these elements. Until you need some specific number of points to win or avoid being skunked, the choices you make during the first or 10th hand are almost always the same. There is no reason to concede position for some other gain - the concept of a gambit is completely absent.

These games appear to violate the desire to put events into the classic story mold. Not to say that a game needs a tight theme or narratives. If I enjoy a game's mechanics and their implications, I do not care if it models pre-Industrial farms, futuristic colonists, German parliamentary elections, or nothing at all.

The recently was reaffirmed for me after learning Outpost by way of The Scepter of Zavandor.

Outpost ends when a player has at least 75 points. Outpost has three distinct "Eras" in which cards of increasing cost and point value become available. The final Era's cards are worth considerable points, and depending on the number of players, the purchase of 2 or 3 should be enough to end the game. These cards also provide the most income in the game. It is not unusual for a player to only utilize this income once or twice in a game. As soon as you can purchase one, you should seek to end the game so that no one else can run past you, so prolonging the game just to use these cards is probably not a good idea.

A prime example of an anticlimactic experience - you have finally purchased the cool toy, but you don't get to play with it.

In Scepter, a descendant game of Outpost, the end of the game triggers when at least 5 of 7 "Sentinels" have been purchased. Sentinels are strictly money for points sinks - no benefit is derived from them. There is no condition on buying them (other than being able to meet the minimum bid in an auction). Here, the purpose is to buy these expensive, but not constructive, items to end and win the game. The entire purpose of building your economy is to buy these cards. No letdown - you have used your cool stuff to buy things that help you actually win.

For me, it feels like Scepter has more of a resolution than Outpost because I don't feel "cheated" of a potentially cool game element's usage. In this narrow sense, Scepter is better designed.

Now, I am not saying that a game must adhere to this concept to be good or enjoyable - not all literature does. Short stories do not include all of these elements nor do many one act plays. Since wrestling with this concept, I have spent some time consoling myself that my favorite game - Backgammon - does not conform. Blindly adhering to a formula might exclude chances for brilliance - ask Eugene Ionesco, Samuel Beckett or Stanislaw Lem.
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Brook Gentlestream
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In many games, the players themselves seek resolution by discussing what just happened in the game, talking about how the game could have gone differently, and congratulating each other on providing a challenge.

You can't tell me, "Damn it, I just needed one more turn to beat you!" doesn't lead to a satisfying resolution.
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Jon
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lordrahvin wrote:
You can't tell me, "Damn it, I just needed one more turn to beat you!" doesn't lead to a satisfying resolution.


I guess I am referring to internal game situations as opposed to external ones.
 
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