Freedom of action

Trailhead: Tom Chatfield. "Ending an endless game: an interview with Julian Gough, author of Minecraft's epic finale". Boing Boing (2012-01-09).

TC: It always seems to me there are two approaches to stories in games. The first is where the story is a linear thing, albeit with many branches, and you trot along making decisions and progressing through a plot that has been scripted in advance. And the second is what I call environmental story-telling: where everything is simply there to be discovered, and rather than a plot progressing as you take actions, the real narrative occurs as you piece together how the world you're in came to be like this.

Most games have a mixture of these things. But I always worry that there is something fundamentally bogus about the first type of story-telling in a game, because it betrays the power of games as a medium: you're squandering the chance to build a truly exciting, coherent other world based on allowing a player freedom of action.

Again talking about Minecraft... sorry, I'll grow up tomorrow or next week or next life, I don't know.

I don't have much interest in the question "are games art?" They can be. I guess. I don't play many games. Or make much art. I'm not who you to give an answer.

The distinction in the quoted bit above is interesting though: a good game can allow the player to be free to make art. A linear model is just completing a task, like work. An open model gives some rules for how things work, but what you create, and when, and why, and how much, and on and on, is up to the player. What does it mean to win? To play?

I found the freedom hard to deal with. I aimed for a conventional metric: collect as many resources as possible. Then I gave that up because it was boring. Dig dig dig smelt smelt smelt repeat repeat repeat. Scale things and wait until some voices Congress from the (game) sky to say "yes, you win, you have so much stuff". Later it became more interesting to build things, and repair things, and train the villagers to do things, and other boring tasks that were... well, about making the (game) world better. There's no logic to it. No rationale. It's not even a real world obviously. That was simply the goal or ethic that emerged while playing.

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