In recent years I’ve been increasingly fascinated with games, and the subsequent stories that have gone with them, specifically games that have managed to integrate certain aspects of gameplay so thoroughly with story as to make it almost impossible while playing to tell them apart. For instance, in the Assassin’s Creed franchise the gameplay mechanics of stealth and acrobatics are molded into the driving story that motivates your playable character. Likewise, in many of the Splinter Cell franchise games, the idea of stea
lth action mechanics is integral to the story and to how a player relates to the gaming experience.
As this observation hits home with more and more games, I look around the gaming world and wonder if it is ready for a type of game that is not as heavily dependent on intense action, but still maintains the level of story involvement and ga
me mechanic integration that I discussed above.
In this vein I’ve been rolling around an idea for a game based on the atmosphere and look-and-feel of Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch A Thief. I think what I’ve been trying to create in my head is a game and an accompanying story that communicates the same kind of on screen presence as Hitchcock’s direction, the same kind of magnetism th
at Cary Grant and Grace Kelly and countless other great performers exude. I’m not quite sure what to call it, but the goal of this project in my mind is to attempt to transfer some of that to an interactive format.
Rough Story Outline:
At this point I only have the smallest inkling of the story as a whole. It focuses on an elderly master thief, a man of a different generation than his apprentice or ‘protege’, attempting to both impart his knowledge of his craft, albeit a mostly illegal craft, while also passing on his worldview. This leaves the story wide open to explore personalized choice in the gameplay and at the same time make the evolving story more tailored to the individual gamer. The main idea is to allow the player freedom of imagination within the game-space, regardless of gender, age, race etc. On the other hand I may have been reading too much of Jane McGonigal’s Reality is Broken of late, and lack the professional jargon to adequately flesh out my idea.
Game Mechanic Thoughts:
If I had to pitch this idea proposal, I would say that the game mechanics would ideally focus on areas of stealth and low level action already touched upon in several titles in the past few years. However, if it were possible I would take the idea further and attempt to create a level of gameplay in which the different types of movement that a playable character could take advantage of was integral to gameplay. If I had to put a name to it I might somewhat confidently state that ideally it would have a Myst-like feeling of gameplay, but with a more involving playable storyline. A game that drew the gamer in with the minutia of the game mechanics and story.
Thoughts on Reading & Possible Game Applications
After attempting to complete The Book of Sand I found myself intrigued by not only the story, but by the execution of the interactive experience. Not only has Maximus Clarke made an accessible interface for an out of print text, but he has successfully made the interactive experience into an intriguing game. I gather from his introduction that that was the end goal all along, but I had my doubts in the beginning about whether or not it would be as engaging as a good story driven Playstation game.
This kind of choose-your-own-adventure format is not exactly new, but gripping examples are few and far between. The Book of Sand’s format has convinced me that story can ultimately drive gaming and draw the gamer into the experience, as well as vice versa. Even something as simple as trying to figure out the ‘correct’ order of the pages, which is in essence spiritually similar to puzzles and problem solving used in conventional platforming games, has added an element of competition to a wonderful story.
In a broader context, this example of new and old media compatibly fusing is in my opinion in direct contradiction to the current mainstream market approach to game development. While technological evolution (e.g. new game engines, graphics etc) is a necessary and sometimes crucial aspect of the industry, it is not true that the old cannot be reinterpreted into a new applicable format. Also, the industries mainstream affiliation with franchise games (and their associated story components) such as Call of Duty and other ‘empty’ games should not in my opinion be taken as gospel. There is a market and an audience for games with new ways of integrating story into game structure, from the smallest level design to the end cutscene.
Applications to Above Game Idea:
I would like to incorporate this concept into the game framework I have begun to sketch above, where the story is shaped by the causal aftereffects of each choice the gamer makes, allowing the story to be shaped in an almost direct feedback loop from the gamers controller to the interactive experience.