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Directed Project 2020 – Entry #4

So many things to write, so much urgency, so many fires.

Things I did:

Watched the GDC Talk “Kill the Hero, Save the (Narrative) World” by Hannah Nicklin. Very interesting, I mostly agree.

Still, many TV shows still use the Hero’s Journey as a framework even with an ensemble cast. To me conflict-oriented plots and sequential thinking (which are both in part very Western-centric, with too much focus on efficiency) are narrowing our options as storytellers (of any media). I need time to develop what I really mean by that and find more references. (The Politics of Myth by Ellwood could be interesting?)

– Scoping: To scope my project I thought very intensely about the definition of a character (in a story, in a game). I’m a character-centric type of writer — I’ve learned how to build strong plots, but sometimes choices are made not because they would make the most sense to the characters but because they would be the most appealing to the audience (and I don’t really like these assumptions).

In any case, I’ve reached a point with everything in the game being a character, and not making clear separations between identities besides their… desires.

So I started with this: 3 characters

– A teenager who needs help

– A confidant who wants to help

– An app used by both to communicate.

But then the more I thought about this, the more I started to shift things a bit. Now I have 3 ‘desires’ embodied by… roles?

– Entruster: A desire to confide something

– Confidant: A desire to receive confidences

– Mediator: A desire to facilitate things between other characters

In the end the 3 characters want to build trust between each other.

To me the shift in terms of vocabulary means a lot: These 3 ‘roles’ or desires are what I want to explore the most, because they’re not tied to specific entities. I want to have mechanics of interactions supporting those three desires no matter who is using them. It’s not usually how I design things, and it’s exciting.

It also led me to think the following:

– The mediator (the character carrying most of that role being the ‘app’) is a facilitator, so it needs to be trusted by both the Entruster and the Confidant

– The Entruster is very active — not naming them ‘Confider’ because it doesn’t feel enough, somehow. A lot of the job is on them.

Which makes me think that most non-playable characters in games really trust the playable character too easily. (Trust always happens like a switch in these game stories, which is weird. I rarely trust someone just because suddenly they killed enough rats at a precise time in my life. Well it could happen but it would be really contextual, right?)

– The confidant cannot access to the conversations outside the ones they have with the entruster and mediator. What it means in our case is that no, the player cannot read conversations without them involved, because it would be a breach of trust and would contradict all the aforementioned desires (I like to drop aforementioned from times to times, it feels fancy).

Also I had to deal with giants ants in my kitchen (well, the Canadian ones that are way too big to my own taste), a broken glass, a clogged toilet, and a mild electrocution while trying to clean everything. These cascading effects, I wonder how this could inspire anything for this game. (Well at least I’m now too tired to write more today)

Back to scoping: Plan is to have:

  • First conversation where the Confidant will have to share who they want to be and who’s the kind of person they want to interact with, with the Mediator. Choices made won’t impact what the Entruster will say at all, but it’s more like the Confidant defining their boundaries and providing context to a dialogue that could be read in many different ways.
  • From there, several conversations (most likely 3 or 4?) between the Confidant and the Entruster. I want to see if I can have a ‘in media res’ type of structure — I’m trying to think of a better concept than randomization (because randomization in a philosophical context is problematic). But in the end it won’t be a “tree” but a rhizome of conversations. I like constellations.
  • Maybe a closing conversation between the Confidant and the Mediator.

Well 4-5 conversations in total, how they exactly connect and in which ‘order’ (if we need one) they will unfold is still TBD.

Published in Narrative Design