Sunday, June 7, 2009

Creative Agenda - sometimes it makes sense

As I'm working on this re-up of Mask, I have once again had to realize that Story Now is much simpler, and easier to achieve, than I give myself credit for. Each time I go through this, I end up seeing things in a different way.
This time around, the realization has taken the form of: a set of rules is only a piece of realizing Story Now. It is only a vehicle that gets you to a place where you can get Story Now.
That covers the "am I designing it right?" bugaboo. Now for: am I playing it right?"

The answer is: if you have a Kicker and a deliberate, chosen "angle" on the Premise (whatever it may be; more on Premise below), then you're achieving Story Now. That's it. If you're shooting for something that addresses the theme(s) of the game/story/situation, you're doing it. That really is it.

If you're doing "pure Exploration", i.e. experiencing the game world for its own sake, that is The Dream, i.e. Simulationism. If you create, explore, and end specific storylines and plots specifically to check out what the setting can do, that's The Dream, right there.

Okay, Premise: this can be, and generally is, I think, as simple as "This is how things are. How do you feel about it?" It is most emphatically not "What are you going to do about it?" unless your feelings, your angle on the situation, are what spurs your actions.

I just saw Terminator: Salvation, and it is blissfully free of Premise. In the manner I generally associate with Disney movies, T:S has an extremely simple "lesson" tacked onto the action: "everybody gets/deserves a second chance." [note: this "lesson" is more a reflection on life voiced by the characters, more than something that ever, ever comes up in the plot in any way. In any way: dialogue is not plot, sayeth my old film teacher.] Honestly, the level of ... not badness, but rather straightforwardness here, it's almost like it's an art film that's come around to artiness the long way, 'round the back. The tableaux is explosions, machines, gunfire, and big, leather boots; we more or less see this over and over again, in differing scenarios and situations, with a plot to string it all together so thinly that it seems almost deliberately weak.

It's a bit like watching Secretary: the point is not to think about things so much as it is to look at things, to have a pleasing sensory experience, and enjoy doing that. This is a perfectly acceptable form of entertainment; let it not be called anything else/less. But it's not a "thinky" movie in the slightest; it doesn't ask us to ponder a situation, a moral dilemma or problem, whatsoever. It's not the subject matter that dictates thinky vs. looky; merely whether the characters are walking vessels of Exploration, or if they actually possess meaningful thoughts, feelings, contradictions, and struggles. I daresay that Secretary (or T:S, for that matter ^_^) could be the go-to film example of The Dream/Simulationism, just as I've pointed at The Dark Knight and said "Look! Story Now! On the big screen!"

Challenge/Gamism is probably not going to happen in a non-interactive medium, while I'm on the subject. But that's okay - most any board game, especially one of the less abstract ones like Hero Quest or something, is a sort of reference point for Gamism in another medium.


  1. Interesting article, I think you've just made me rethink whether to watch Terminator: Salvation.

    Real quick, I've tried e-mailing you back like, four times, and it seems your old e-mail really is dead. So, could you drop me a line with the new e-mail you use?

  2. Hey, man - I actually have been trying to send you emails here and there; have you been receiving them?
    Give it one more try, by the way - I had some wonkiness going on with my account, but now it's okay!