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A New Kind Of Fiction

I don't play MMORGs. There are a lot of reasons why I don't, but there's one main one. Story. If I'm going to spend time in a persistent (game) world, for my time to be meaningful, my actions must have the potential of having long term (maybe years long), political ramifications.

If I'm to take part in a battle, I want to know that that battle will shape the political landscape for the future. If I accept a contract to assassinate someone, I want to know that even if I don't understand how, by my choice of killing or not killing, I'm shaping the future of our shared reality. Narrative is what gives actions meaning, and there is no meaning in most MMORGs at the moment.

My freedom should be constrained only by narrative necessity.

With all due respect to those who are trying to create it, computers are no good at this. We would need a narrative engine that could integrate the actions of thousands, model the behaviors of individuals and nations, and at the same time, knew what made a compelling story and what didn't. I would love to work on such a thing, but I think we're decades off the technology to create it.

There is only one solution, I think. We need humans. Humans that can plot the broad outline of a story, and fill in the detail on a day by day basis. Humans that can improvise and create a new, and still interesting story when the actions of the players scupper the original plan. Humans that can play the parts of kings and courtiers, monsters and villagers. Humans that can create tales of fall and redemption, betrayal and friendship, sacrifice and reward.

To have a virtual world where players would be prepared to give themselves up for a cause or for each other. Where some people would join, just to watch, and others would become the main characters in a storyline enmeshed with all other characters growing by the day. A place where the smallest actions of a young thief can affect the ruler of the empire.

What I need is you. A team of people who can create interesting storylines for the players under their responsibility, and to work together to create flexible storyline plans that span continents, empires, millions of players and years of time.

What I have at the moment is nothing, but if I find people who believe in and are enthusiastic for the concept, I think the rest will come easily. Since the story is king, the technology isn't as important as with other MMORGs, and there are off the shelf kits that could get us a long way down the road to the technology we need. What is needed chiefly at this stage is the enthusiasm of talented people. If you are enthusiastic, get other people you know enthused too, and comment here.

Is anyone with me?

I've also posted this to my blog.

I tend to agree with you.

I tend to agree with you. I've spent some time playing games like Guild Wars, but I grow bored with them very quickly. I've been much more intrigued by the sort of role-playing going on in places like LiveJournal, where it's common practice to create fictional profiles for characters and then use them to make posts for that character's interactions with other characters.

Of course, the games over on LJ aren't nearly on the scale you're talking about, and they're text-based rather than video. But they do put a strong emphasis on storytelling and are extremely collaborative.

sim's picture

Echoes of The Diamond Age, &tc

This reminds me of the interactives in Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age which required actors, narrators, and writers to provide the verisimilitude the Vicky's needed for their play.

I'm also mindful of Scott McCloud (Understanding Comics) and his ideas about interactive comics which sound an awful lot like computer games.

My experience with interactive narratives is limited to old-school RPGs and varieties of improvisational theatre. I appreciate your call for volunteers, but I need to see something more fleshed out.

=S=

the big game

Interesting idea. It could be said that you're looking for players willing to give themselves up for the cause of writing the game. But then, beating my head against a puzzle for hours, then days, before giving up in disgust isn't much fun. I'm not much of a gamer (I'd still rather play classic Asteriods than almost anything else), but I could get into something like this.

Writing one's way out of a problem, or dead end? Cool! Though I suppose that might be considered cheating. ; )

And to paraphrase Joss Wheedon, I can imagine worlds far more interesting than anything I've heard about Second Life.

Authors and Characters Collaborating

Interesting idea. It could be said that you're looking for players willing to give themselves up for the cause of writing the game. But then, beating my head against a puzzle for hours, then days, before giving up in disgust isn't much fun. I'm not much of a gamer (I'd still rather play classic Asteriods than almost anything else), but I could get into something like this.

I think of it as an evolution of heroic fiction rather than a game - the bards that told the stories of the Odyssey or Beowulf, knew the broad sweep of their story, but improvised other bits as they went along based on the reactions of their audience. But it would be a game as well for some people. A sort of participatory fiction, where the central characters and the authors collaborated to create the story.

Writing one's way out of a problem, or dead end? Cool! Though I suppose that might be considered cheating. ; )

I envisage more of a divide between the people devoted to the writing and the people who are playing it as if it were a game, but perhaps it might be more fun to make the divide flexible. I'm not sure. There certainly should never be the possibility of getting 'stuck' in the traditional sense, because the linear storyline that computers force on us is one of the big things that I want to escape. If you can't solve a puzzle, the story will continue, but it'll be a different story, perhaps involving something entirely different, or perhaps turning into a quest to find a wise man to help you with the puzzle if you want.

And to paraphrase Joss Wheedon, I can imagine worlds far more interesting than anything I've heard about Second Life.

100%

oh sure

I'd definitely be more interested in writing it than playing it.