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Directed Project 2020 – Entry #10

10 entries already!

More ramblings: I did good progress on my current ink prototype. I made up my mind about a few things:

  • In a story, I rarely design characters as blank slates, no matter the medium. I’m very cautious about blank slates. Personal suspicion is that these characters are actually white slates. If you can project absolutely anything on them, it does say something about the world they’re living in, and the kind of status they have: having the absolute freedom of being anything you want without being judged or challenged. Yes, I wish this was even possible (to design a world and characters with absolute freedom without consequences on their growth and inner selves) but it is actually something that’s out of my realm, and also not the kind of story I want to tell here.
  • I’ve been stuck playing mostly Japanese games and watching either Japanese or Korean shows these days. There are vast differences between Japanese and Korean cultures, but I do see some common thing, that’s also something I’ve felt about my own culture (being of Vietnamese descent): Much more freedom in terms of tone shifts. It’s also something that reminds me of Shakespeare’s plays. Brit TV is also less stuck in ‘one genre, one tone, one story’ and is great at mixing pure drama and pure comedy. Because the tone of these stories can shift in a second or two, I don’t feel I need that much branching or crazy amounts of choices. I already have a feeling of ‘freedom’ because I can explore different stories which are so varied in terms of tones (I’m having a blast with Yakuza 0 because of this) It brings so much movement and dynamism to the whole narrative. I never feel stuck in a story. I’m never bored. I don’t even need more than this. And it brings so much depth. I wonder why American TV and game stories are so… mono-emotional. Maybe because the ones making them are so monolingual? Ha! (Yeah Brits, I think, are maybe a tad less monolingual than Americans, because of their close proximity to other European countries. Also many of their shows are coproductions with other countries, compared to US shows.)

So in my last prototype, everything has become wacky and silly, as I really wanted from the start. I’ve come to realize that silly tutorials in JRPGs for example, with wacky jokes and overly enthusiastic NPCs trying to sell you the game’s system are actually a great thing. Because these tutorials are not trying to lie or hide about how you’re dealing with a system of rules that is most likely not fair. I think as a player you’re both more encouraged to be playful with the game’s system (hence, challenge its rules, question everything) rather than just embracing it blindly (with some weird obsession about immersion in Western games, for example). Maybe non-Western games leave the player in a more rebellious (ethical) position regarding a system of rules.

So yeah, the eBuddy app will be overly enthusiastic. As a Confidant, you will have wacky options to express yourself, and I won’t even hide the fact that most of these choices don’t really matter. But in all that goofiness and wackiness I believe trust can occur, and more surprising effects that do not rely on the usual ‘drama’ — it’s not about conflict anymore, it’s about… twisting things.

Posted by Galejade in Narrative Design

Press X to feel accountable

Press F to pay respects. Press Triangle to reflect on my uncle. Press X to pause the killing for a while and feel something. A curious trend in games that try to bring some emotional depth between two fights.

These inputs feel particularly weird in violent games. (Or at least games that are keen on depicting physical violence and be trivial about it.) Violence can make you feel various things — in AAA violent games there’s a lot of emphasis about the fun of brutalizing any moving object in a game setting. Sometimes… Sometimes yeah there’s some discomfort, pain, even rage when the devs try to put some ‘humanity’ into these moving objects. Another strange trend that I won’t explain today, but will probably be explored at some point during my PhD. Today I want to take more time to ramble about when you have to press a button to feel something deeper in these violent games and how it feels to me.

I’m going to call these ‘Symbolic Inputs’ for now, for a lack of a better term. Symbolic because these inputs are not your usual gameplay inputs. Let’s say that a gameplay input requires some decisional process from the player (when to press it, where to press it, how to press it sometimes, while being able to anticipate what’s coming after if there’s a chain of inputs to perform) so they can progress the game (and story). But what I’m calling Symbolic Inputs do not require any decisional process. Most of times they are even optional.

And that’s quite fascinating right? Yeah I know you’re thinking about this post’s title. Press X to feel accountable. In these troubled times, I haven’t chosen that phrasing out of nowhere. Especially when you think about these games, the kind of people who may be leading their creative processes and decisions especially in terms of narrative design.

There are two things that feel odd to me about these Symbolic Inputs: the fact that they are often optional, and something less obvious about the Cartesian views of feeling VS thinking, the body and the mind etc. that come with them.

Let’s talk about the optional aspect first. There has been (and there will be) a lot of debates about challenge in games. Many games, especially violent games, have gameplay systems that are meritocratic. You have to earn your victory. You have to work hard for it. The more difficult a problem is, the more rewarding it is to solve it. What difficulty means is a vast topic, and I’m certainly not the best to talk about it — better check some of the amazing work from the disabled gamers out there if you can. All I’ll add is that difficulty is often tied to physical challenges (being quick, responsive, precise enough in the way you use inputs) and cognitive challenges (being strategic, able to chain reactions, find causalities, anticipate things within a specific time frame, etc.)

When you decide that being reflective on your emotional journey is optional, and not difficult at all — it’s not ‘hard’ to press X to feel something in these games — within a meritocratic system that rewards difficulty, well… It does say the complete opposite of what you may be trying to achieve. Paying your respects to someone’s death, thinking about your family, your mistakes, your past — of course it’s goofy to use a press X to express these complex emotional processes, in a game system that’s relying heavily on how quick and relevant and good you are at pressing X in other contexts. Basically you’re saying that it’s not hard, at all. To pay your respect to someone. It’s not physically, it’s not mentally, it’s not even emotionally hard. One may throw the word ludonarrative dissonance here, yeah, maybe. But to me it goes a bit deeper than that.

That brings me to the second thing I mentioned: Descartes. Yeah I’m French, so I have to see Descartes everywhere, but it’s a shortcut, I should even mention Plato’s Cave et al. It’s about how the body is a lie (like the cakes we’re seeing everywhere these days) and ideas are ‘truth’.  It is also so Christian, so Western (if I may) — to separate the body from the mind, and to consider the body (and its feelings) less relevant, important, or even less noble than the mind (which is rational, thinking). So many people out there have explained all this much better than me by the way, about how this relates to toxic masculinity, colonialism et al.   

Where am I going with this? I’m not exactly sure. But there is something… twisted about how we think about emotions in games, and how we hide everything behind the word ‘fun’. Mainly, the feeling of having fun… Damn I could write a whole thesis about what this exactly means and why it’s so oppressive at times. Maybe I will. But to go very quickly about what I’m thinking here, having fun in violent games is about power fantasies — you progress because you are more powerful, you are more powerful because you progress in the game. That loop is supposed to be “fun”.

Fun in games is on the noble side of the mind, it is either an intellectual joy or maybe the only feeling worth experiencing in them (and I believe this is such an ableist point of view by the way). But anyone who has experienced mourning, deep thoughts about the past, regrets — these complex mental processes are usually deemed as feelings. And feelings in our current Western world are often more on the body side of things than the intellectual, rational side of things (the mind).

Hence, there is nothing powerful about mourning someone or thinking about someone in the context of these game systems. There is nothing rewarding doing that. Even more so, taking the time to mourn or think may impede your progress — because they’re technically slowing your progression (and unless you have an infinite time to play, one could see this as ‘wasting time over something that does not give you anything’) Which, I believe, says a lot about the worldview these games are accidentally (or not) promoting.

PS: I’m leaving aside the “Press X to Jason” case in the end, I think it could use a separate thread of ramblings because it may be slightly different.

Posted by Galejade in Narrative Design

Directed Project 2020 – Entry #9

So here are my latest rough notes about the project!

I’m intentionally copy pasting here without touching them. It’s the kind of ‘notes to self’ I’m usually writing when I’m trying to flesh out a game’s design or any story, really.

 


ENTRUSTER:

NAME: Al

AGE: Teenager? (Why? To induce a greater sense of protection/responsibility for the player? Not sure it would even work)

WHY DO THEY NEED A EBUDDY:

Loneliness?

Confinement? (Do you really want to make something about Covid? Can you even remember what your social interactions/day-to-day life used to be before Covid? Do you even understand teenagers these days with all their tik-tok and stuff? :D)

Are they living in the same world as ours? (Currently still mildly interested in exploring an ‘alternate reality’ type of world for them, the app being a bridge between 2 dimensions – the confidant’s and the entruster’s — where is the app coming from though? And what would be the political views of that alternate reality? What would be interested to explore here regarding my main theme — trust?)

Are they an outcast?

Romantic interest, one-sided?

TONE:

How lighthearted do I want it to be?

CONFIDANT:

Why would someone want to become a confidant?

Loneliness?

Savior syndrome?

Curiosity?

APP/MODERATORS:

Who would create such app and why?

=>Why am I even doing this?

Ways to create intimacy in interactive media? Ah the soul searching moment

Is the question of relevance even relevant?

So many questions

Explore new models for intimacy. Fluid, playful, joyful.

The joy of discovering someone. Of trying to help, of seeing them going on with their lives. The cheer, simple joy of connecting with someone.

Maybe the Entruster doesn’t have any ‘problem’ but just wants to share with someone.

Storytelling: Entruster enjoys telling about their lives. The Confidant enjoys imagining about someone’s life.

As a writer I’m interested in almost anyone’s life as long as I can have a hint that ‘there’s more’ — to discover, to understand, to decrypt, to explore.

The ‘there’s more’ is not really about a ‘problem’ or something to solve. It’s most of the times… some contrast, some hiccup, some discrepancy, something that’s not going as expected.

Someone says something but shows something different. Someone says something that’s contradicting the usual expectations.

It’s all I need, mostly, for the Confidant. A quirk of any kind that could lead to more.

In the context of trust, the app, etc. it could manifest in various ways:

– Maybe the Entruster doesn’t actually trust something or someone (the app? The confidant? Someone else in their life?)

– Maybe they seem too trustworthy but are not

I still have this twist of the entrusted asking for advice, with the confidant giving one, but then ending up doing the complete opposite, and most likely blaming the confidant for any potential failure.

Maybe less binary: At least they already know what they want to do, so the binary choice given to the Confidant is like more confirming one aspect of the full thing, but not the full thing.

Posted by Galejade in Narrative Design

Directed Project 2020 – Entry #8

I will just write a quick note today about my current writing block. Today was 38 degrees (celsius) outside, a mild 30 degrees inside thanks to my old AC, and I wasn’t capable to get anything ‘done’ as I wanted. I guess I’m in this phase of fighting against myself, or struggling against myself — there’s always such phase anytime I’m getting ‘closer’ to the gist of what I want to do — there’s a fleeing response at some point, I’m suddenly thinking about things like ‘but what if it’s just boring? What if I turned this into a sci-fi game instead? Oh I have this super cool idea for a different project now, too bad I need to complete this one first. Damn it’s too hot, I don’t want to work anymore, what am I doing, hello kitty cat let’s play, let’s do my laundry first, damn this sunburn’s killing me etc.’ Various mental and emotional and physical decoys preventing me from getting ‘there’. I’m now experienced enough to know what’s going on, that it’s gonna pass one way or another.

It is still hard to think outside the norms of ‘productivity’, even if in academia you would tend to think that you don’t need to be ‘that’ productive (because you’re not selling anything in theory). Also I’m still reading Discipline and Punish by Foucault and it’s really not helping me (in a way) to get ‘things done’ since I’m starting to have the ‘everything is a prison’ reflex about all that’s around me (including academia) and a growing sense of rebellion and rage.

Posted by Galejade in Narrative Design

Directed Project 2020 – Entry #7

In moments like these, it is tough to be part of both the game industry and academia.

It’s tiring. It’s harder to just brush things aside and keep going.

I’m trying to design a game about trust, while working in fields that are unsafe to so many people — including me.

There’s always a moment when we ask ourselves “is it really worth it?” in our professional lives. I’ve been grateful that there’s another voice in my head who hasn’t gone silent yet and has answered that it’s not about worth. It’s maybe more about meaning. Does it make sense to you to do it here and now? Most of times the answer has been positive, or after taking a break it went back to positive.

It’s still tiring.

A few hours later: I regained some motivation after watching a video that was randomly suggested on Youtube about Hard Worldbuilding VS Soft Worldbuilding. While I don’t agree with their wording, it made me think a lot about various things, including things related to academia and research creation.

Based on classes I had and various articles I read, there’s indeed a tension between research and creation in academia. To sum things very quickly:

  • Research = analytical, actionable data and knowledge
  • VS creation = outside academia, less reflective, with the intent of being sold or ‘enjoyed’ by an audience.

There’s still a lot of internal struggle as researchers devise ways to ‘legitimize’ creation as a way to produce (not create, maybe that’s the thing) knowledge in academia. 

It may be a far stretch from the worldbuilding video, but I thought of these things because the current format I’m using here, to post my notes about my research-creation project, is a ‘journal’ and vastly disorganized on purpose. I don’t think I’ve explained this before but as briefly mentioned by Miyazaki in the video, there’s an ‘unconscious’ way to create things. When you’re too conscious, even as a creator, you may feel like it’s limiting your creativity.

But I’m also challenging the ideas of conscious VS unconscious here. Especially the conscious = analytical = rational? = good = research/academia goals = controlled and actionable

VS unconscious = ‘more creative’ = feelings? = not so much desired for research/academia = less controlled but easier to sell though. (There’s mysticism about unconscious stuff)  

I’m just tired of binary ways to think about things in general even if I do understand the practicality and appeal of polarized thinking.

Anyway, I think in my case I want to blur everything  — are the notes I’m writing knowledge about creative writing and design? Creative writing about creative writing? Something else entirely? I’m just curious to see how it may shape things or not. I don’t want to control everything in the format of these entries, I’ve chosen a ‘free form’ type of texts on purpose though — I’m choosing consciously to write unconsciously about things. That’s why ‘écriture automatique’ (which partly comes from French surrealism I think) is also sort of paradoxical in its own way. To me it’s more like taking a step back from some codes, tropes, rules when doing something. There’s maybe more physicality to what we call ‘unconscious’ here: It’s more about a ‘gut feeling’, following some instincts that cannot be consciously predefined. But even so I’m like fully aware that I’m doing that, so am I doing it, really?

So yeah that’s why I hope to find more playfulness in both academia and the game industry. I was reading some quote from James Baldwin about how racism would end when white people would start to love themselves? Ah, found the exact quote:

White people in this country will have quite enough to do in learning how to accept and love themselves and each other, and when they have achieved this—which will not be tomorrow and may very well be never—the Negro problem will no longer exist, for it will no longer be needed.

From: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1962/11/17/letter-from-a-region-in-my-mind

Anyway, maybe academia wants so badly to be seen as ‘smart’ that it’s hurting others?

Maybe the game industry wants so badly to be seen as ‘fun’ that’s it’s hurting others? 

Posted by Galejade in Narrative Design

Shoes that don’t fit

Imagine that the only shoes available to you always hurt. No matter which pair you try on, they always make your feet bleed like hell. And everyone tells you it’s not because the shoes are wrong, it’s because your feet are weird. So you have to find a way to fit your feet in these shoes no matter what. There’s no other choice, you know? Because walking without shoes, you can’t really do that outside your home. Everyone wears shoes around you, and comfortable wearing them — what is wrong with you? There’s obviously something wrong with you. Or maybe everyone suffers and maybe you’re just too vocal about it. Toughen up! Keep it quiet. See? Now that you’re quiet, somehow it’s hurting less. The pain was in your head, you can control it. Even if you’re still bleeding.

After a while you realize you can only walk with shoes that hurt you. Because you have trained your whole body for so long to walk with that one single pair of shoes (and aren’t you lucky to be able to walk at all?) So you keep walking. Step after step, you devise countless strategies to maintain the pain at a tolerable level. And you become scared as hell to try any new pair — what if they are even worse than the ones you’re wearing? Still, sometimes you go a little crazy, you try some new shoes and — yeah, they hurt. But it’s normal, right? Shoes are supposed to hurt, right? Why would you complain about them now? They’re just shoes, no big deal. Everything is normal.

As you walk, you meet people who don’t have the slightest idea of what it feels like not to wear shoes that don’t fit them perfectly at all time. So it makes you wonder. Maybe you could halt and have a better look at their shoes? But when you ask these people for help, some will brush you off — shoes are just shoes — and keep walking. Others will notice the difference and praise how brave you are to keep wearing your shoes even if they hurt you, how resilient — and keep walking. There are also the ones who will tell you that you’re slowing everyone with your questions, and will ask you to keep walking. Finally there are those who will yell at you if you insist, who will tell you to get your bloody hands off their precious shoes and run away. Bloody hands, yes, literally — you know, because of the blood from your own feet?

Usually the ones who already experience some discomfort with their shoes will take more time to see if there might be something wrong with yours. In these moments, you feel exposed (‘No, forget it! They’re just like yours, see?’) and relieved (‘I’m not crazy, there’s something odd here.’) Also worth noting that you love walking barefoot, but even to this day you can only do so in places that feel like home. This is also another thing: The only modes you know are either varying degrees of pain while walking with shoes around people, or healing yourself walking barefoot in safe spaces without any hazard that could hurt you. Unless, you know, some people take advantage of you after being welcomed into your home, then trample your toes and blame your feet for being the problem.

Then you wonder what it feels like. To be able to walk in various places without even wondering if you had shoes on or not because you feel comfortable with or without them.

—-

To go out in the world, and endure constant pain because of marginalization.

Walking with shoes that don’t fit.

I am grateful for the little breaks some people have taken along the way to be angry. To ask themselves why the shoes were made that way and what we could do about them.

Despite having better tools to deal with the pain, or more pairs to wear, most of them still don’t fit.

Posted by Galejade in Détours Sans Issue (Écriture)

Directed Project 2020 – Entry #6

I finally took the time to start a little something with Inky!

Inky Screenshot

I haven’t got very far.

The game’s entry point is a ‘tutorial’. It’s a conversation between the ‘app moderators’ (eBuddy, referring themselves as ‘we’) and the ‘Confidant’ (who just got hired and will be paired with someone right after that first conversation).

It’s showing the choice structure for the whole game:

  • ‘SEND MESSAGE’: Reveals a couple of sub-choices.
  • ‘REMAIN SILENT’: It lets the other part of the conversation say more and react to such silence.

The intent is to try to mimic how we deal with text messages usually… First decision is to say something or wait. Then choose what to say. But when you choose to say something you’re already half-way. And again, I’m obsessed with timing so what you say is less relevant than when you say it.

Like there was an earlier version of the conversation I wrote that went as follows:

  • The app prompts the Confidant to say ‘Hi!’ to confirm that the app is working.
  • The Confidant can remain silent more than once. After several ‘remain silent’ the Moderators would say something like ‘You’re messing with us aren’t you?’
  • The Confidant can still send a message to say ‘Hello! I can’t wait to know more!’ after and the Moderators would answer right away ‘Aren’t you the chatty type?’

So the Aren’t you the chatty type? works in all contexts as a direct answer to the long Hello! but if the Confidant remained silent before and had the ‘Messing with us’ answer, then the Aren’t you the chatty type? becomes ironical.

In the end I removed the ‘You’re messing with us aren’t you?’ because I wondered if the Moderators should be a tad more neutral in tone… but as I’m writing this journal, yeah, in fact I’m bringing back that line. It gives more flavor to the Moderators. And why not after all?

I’ve created 3 different ‘trustState’ at the moment — things I’ll use to create mini-variants in the text. I vaguely thought of assigning different adjectives to the different characters in the story, but in the end, these trustState are always contextual and conversational. They’re more tied to a situation than being a specific attribute to a character, so I think it’s fine to switch between them as things go. I’ll probably track other states for other things (based on characters’ memories of previous answers) but we’ll see. I’m not even sure I need that. That’s the fun part of writing to me — a same sentence can have so many different meanings depending on what was said before (like the Aren’t you the chatty type) and most of the time I don’t even need to emphasize that — the players will make these links themselves. The challenge is to write things that are elusive enough to be interpreted in different ways, while not writing something too obscure or vague that would lead to various misunderstandings.

It’s also what’s implied and intended with the list of ‘people’s types’: At some point the Confidant is prompt to list all the types of people they’re comfortable to talk to, especially in terms of sexual orientations. I don’t plant to track any of these types at all to alter who the Confidant will be talking to, because the Confidant should not be able to choose who they’re talking to (it’s not the point of the app). At this point, the prompt is more about a self-statement, self-reflection for the Confidant. From the Moderators’ perspective, it’s just a list of the people who trust the app enough to use it, and the Confidant should be made aware of that. But the Entruster (the person who the Confidant will be talking to) has their own identity and nothing from the Confidant’s input will change that.

Posted by Galejade in Narrative Design

Directed Project 2020 – Entry #5

‘I should have never told you that.’

Imagine a game where A says something like this to B. You may make various assumptions here:

  • Most likely A is not the playable character unless it’s a cutscene. It’s not something that will be a consequence of the player’s conscious choice. (I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game where you can consciously choose to say something then consciously choose to have remorse for it. Unless maybe you replay a game and make that call, knowing all the consequences beforehand.)
  • If A is a non-playable character, then oftentimes it means that the player has ‘unlocked’ some critical information (which is deemed as ‘positive’). They forced a character to reveal information about something.

But if I’m transposing this in a different context, when I’m talking to a friend and they end up saying that to me, I’ll most likely not feel like I ‘unlocked some information that could be useful to progress in my life’. I’ll just feel bad because I somehow forced them to do something they didn’t want to do for various reasons. I will most likely try to know what these reasons are. Same goes if I end up saying that to someone.

Which brings me to something that’s been bothering me – and the more I read about The Last of Us II or other games like GTA V for example… The kind of games that uses violence to supposedly bring depth to its storyline. The graphical violence, while disturbing, is not what’s bugging me. It’s more how non-playable characters are used as tools to make the player feel something.

And this is something I’ve felt a lot in real life with… privileged people (for a lack of a better term, I don’t like the word ‘privilege’). How some of them are using others as ‘springboards’ to feel something (anything, really). They believe it’s empathy, but in fact it’s always about them. They only see what they need to see in someone to feel something about themselves. They are not trying to empathize with the person who’s in front of them. The closest comparison I can make is… They act like vampires, sucking someone’s emotions to make them their own. Maybe we can call it emotional appropriation.

I don’t say I’ve never done the same in my life, on the contrary. ‘Projection’ is a first step toward empathy. But if you stop there, it will become toxic. Because when you’re projecting so much of yourself on someone, you are forced to silence all the other aspects that do not fit your needs.

I can name many movies and books which are at least trying to challenge these power dynamics, but I’m not sure I know any game doing it? Maybe because game design is so player-centric that you have no choice but to treat non-playable characters as tools. Not saying that making clear cuts between ‘protagonists and supporting characters’ (that kind of hierarchy) doesn’t bring the same thing in other narrative media. But at least you can see characters being remorseful in many stories. Somehow in games any sense of remorse often feels ‘fake’ unless there’s death involved…

In the case of my game, there’s no way any trust can emerge from such power dynamics. My real struggle is that most of the tools we’re used to use in games are numbers – quantifying things with ‘thresholds’ to be met or not. We can mitigate this by being overly sophisticated with the types of data we’re tracking and the combinations we can make, but somehow it feels… like trying to draw a circle with squares. I do see how Ink (narrative scripting language developed by Inkle) has a lot of potential because it really emphasizes the combinatory aspect of writing (the language makes it really easy to nest a text into a text and alter it to a point when you can ‘customize’ a lot what the player will read depending on their actions). But is it really enough?

Time to play with Ink/Inky a bit more!

Posted by Galejade in Narrative Design

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.

Posted by Galejade in Narrative Design

Directed Project 2020 – Entry #3

The following are mostly random notes that are somewhat part of my creative process. 

Being creative under stressful times is hard.

Stress is a spectrum, there’s never a real zero (as all other feelings I may be experiencing) but it doesn’t cancel other feelings. Various parameters (gender, racial issues, social status, global context etc.) influence stress.

It’s tough to find meaning in the ‘mundane’ when there’s a distorted sense of scale. Things happen in the world at large, yet my current agency is on the ‘small’ thing — a small project, a small job, a small world. It’s the dissonance between the two that’s causing some stress, I suppose.

That dissonance is partly ‘fabricated’ — deeming something big or small, it’s largely influenced by social constructs and norms. Binary thinking. Success/failure, meritocracy. Mundane/Important. The necessity to see contrast to be able to see anything at all. Relying a lot (too much?) on visual thinking, which has become more and more static — trapped in power dynamics beyond our control. We’ve been filtering, layering, transmitting, conditioning our visual space(s). Our auditory space is slightly less controlled at the moment (I think — selfies are photos. We have more and more video and sound but things are still ‘collages’.)

We’ve been both flattened and expanded by the many virtual tools surrounding us. I guess our sense of space, sound, and time is evolving unconsciously. I’m trying not to judge — to avoid a good-vs-bad thinking. It’s so hard though.

Maybe there’s something about collages — how to replicate the complexities of our bodies in a physical environment, we’ve turned toward collages. Pieces on top of pieces (filters on top of filters) like a French mille-feuilles, hoping that the whole bulk will produce a semblance of realness. At least mimic some of its depth. But it’s all about perception, right?

I don’t think this text is very readable, but moving on. 😀

Going back to the Directed Project. I’ll be reading/thinking/browsing the book referred in this article on First Person Scholar: A Multimodal Approach to Video Games and the Player by Weimin Toh.

I’m intrigued by the ‘semiotics’ approach and the breakdown between the various ‘ludonarrative dissonances’ (or resonances, or contrasts) that we could read and detail a bit more in games.

I’m personally interested in the themes around intimacy and playable characters in games. There’s a sense of intimacy in games that’s different from other media (I think?) Current suspicion is that many games systems and mechanics are creating virtual worlds where intimacy is almost always jeopardized. As a marginalized person (of some sort) I’m thinking a lot about boundaries and how intimacy is always under attack VS privileged people do not need so many differences between intimate/public or social spaces. (Hence our social media, where everything is blurred because it’s tailored toward people who are not overtly threatened in their intimacy on a day-to-day basis.) I have seen how the more privileges I’ve gained the more comfortable I have become in social/public environments and also at ease with my sense of self (and notice how I would become more white in some contexts not only as a way to survive, but because nothing else was encouraged in these environments).

Intimate moments in games are often done by accident. I guess games that rely less on overt violence (but even Animal Crossing can be a violent game — see all the people trying to get rid of their ugly neighbors, among many other things) give a better room for intimate moments… but even so. I can name so many books where I felt truly intimate moments with the character, with my sense of self. It’s so different in games because of the systemic thinking that’s almost its core. Not that there is no systemic thinking in writing or literature, but possibly because it had more time to evolve, is more accessible than most media, its ability to question itself constantly and turn something on its head is a bit more obvious. In the end, can we really design systems that are not oppressive? That’s one of my questions.

Going back (or further?) on my project: Building a sense of intimacy between characters (playable or not) is one of my goals. When you build a fictional world there’s always a lot of back-and-forth between ‘the world the characters are living in’ and ‘the characters’ needs’ and how they could echo, interact with each other. I’ve written a lot of stories about outsiders — a world VS character type of conflict is always easy to write, to sell, feels familiar to me, has a lot of potential for things evolving from both the world and the character. When intimacy was involved, there was still that sort of dynamic — 2 characters trying to build some intimacy despite the world around them threatening that intimacy. I wonder if I can do things differently or not this time.

Posted by Galejade in Narrative Design