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Dramatic Play

June 25, 2009 Article Start Page 1 of 4 Next
 

[In a wide-ranging article, former Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts narrative designer Stephen Dinehart looks at the future of game story by examining narrative theory through the ages.]

A New Paradigm

What is the future of video games? This is a large, if not insurmountable question, especially when considering the increasing diversification of styles within the medium. Indie, casual, core, mature -- the labels continue to proliferate, identifying specialized niches of styles, however real or unreal, within the larger medium.

Forming at present is a new niche, one that threatens to pull away from the classic play-centric design paradigm. It's forming in the cubicles over at Visceral, at BioWare, at Ubisoft and at 38 Studios.

Many studios are aiming with different titles and terms, but the goal is to transplant the player into the video game by all means of his visual and aural faculties -- into a believable drama where he is actor. This is dramatic play; interactive drama that utilizes interaction, rather than description, to tell a story.

Aristotle began the movement some 2300 years ago with his Poetics, dissecting plays into clear parts and functions [Aristotle 330 BCE]. Some 2000+ years later, Richard Wagner saw a dissolving of the fourth wall of theater, bringing the audience into the play as actors so that the stage art may breathe like life, and seemed to them to be as expansive as the real world [Wagner 1859].

Through the next 130 years various studies and pioneers would set out on a pursuit to hit that mark: happenings, video installations, virtual reality, just to name a few. Though the target was never reached and the pursuit itself seemed to fall into the land of the obscure, and intellectual, without much effect on the everyday life of the public and how they experience stories. With the dawn of popular video game culture, the pursuit has gained a refined focus.

Janet Murray described how it would feel in Wagner's world of immersive interactive story [Murray 1998], and most recently Michael Mateas with his creation Façade and the accompanying paper Interactive Drama, Art, and Artificial Intelligence set out a detailed approach to creating dramatic systems [Mateas 2002].

This seemingly obscure pursuit has leaked, via some osmosis, into contemporary AAA video game development, manifesting in such titles as Jade Empire, Dead Space, Far Cry 2, World of Warcraft and the author's own Company of Heroes.

These games seek to immerse the player in a dramatic role play, whereby they assume the role of character in a different time and place, and whose actions and presence having meaning in the world as designed.

Dramatic play is the new niche these games expound upon, a paradigm that is the focus of interactive narrative design, a craft that meets at the apex of ludology and narratology and conjoins the theories into functional video game development methodologies (see Figure 1).


Figure 1: Interactive Narrative Design

Ludology is the theory of play commonly used by contemporary game makers in the pursuit to understand and craft interactive systems. Play is defined as "movement within a system" [Salen, Zimmerman 2003].

Narratology is the theory of narratives, which is utilized by writers, critics, and academics, to understand the parts and functions of narrative texts, cultural artifacts that "tell a story" [Bal 1994]. Narrative is dramatic text that engages the reader in a pattern. Interactive narrative is a dramatic text that engages the player in a meaningful participatory pattern.


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Comments


Lino Conti
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Wow, never thought I would hear the likes of Aristotle and Wagner properly contextualized within the development of video games. A very informative, learned and scholarly read.

Jarmo Petajaaho
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Thanks for the thoughtcraft and the wordcraft of clearly defining tools for advancing the ideas and practise of interactive drama!

Glenn Storm
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This is a great collection of references, Stephen, and you've put them in a proper context for modern video game design. I'm tempted to simply link to this article, next time I want to convey the classical narrative concepts as applied to our medium.

Francisco Souki
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Stephen,



Always makes me happy to see more people in the industry quoting (and taking seriously) Aristotle's poetics, Janet Murray, Propp and more. It really is time video games started to dig deeper into storytelling, meaning and emotion. And some awesome work out there really makes one hopeful.



Now that you mention GDC Canada, Don Daglow's keynote there comes to mind, where he said something along of the lines of: we've been waiting a long time for video game graphics to achieve realism so we can create meaningful games; well we've got the graphics now, let's go for that meaning.



Cheers.

Dave Endresak
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Excellent article, Stephen.



I'd like to offer a counterpoint to Francisco's comment and Don Daglow's statement about realistic graphics enabling the creation of meaningful games. In my view, this philosophy is flawed and one of the most fundamental problems with Western game development versus East Asian efforts. Meaningful games, or stories in any media, do not need realistic graphics (or sound, or any other sensation). Phantasy Star I would not be more effective in conveying its messages if the graphic, sound, etc were "realistic" nor would classics such as Ys I & II. To offer an example from from children's stories (both book and animated adaptations), consider Dr. Seuss' "The Lorax." This story offers an incredibly simple yet powerful message about exploitation of the environment as well as the interconnections and interdependencies between all elements of existence. It would not be able to convey the messages any better if it were recreated using photorealistic visuals. In fact, I would argue that such a presentation would actually undermine the messages being conveyed because photorealism tends to create a lack of emotional empathy between whatever is being presented and the audience. Simple yet aesthetically appealing presentations have the advantage of creating deep emotional bonds with the audience and eliminating any distractions from technological wizardry, technical flaws in attempts to present "realistic" effects in a fictional work, etc. This type of approach has been largely ignored by Western development over the past 10-20 years and, in my view, only by regaining an appreciation for it and returning to it will Western developers be able to successfully convey important messages, or at least be able to convey them much more effectively than is presently being accomplished.

Ranger McCoy
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The Gold 45 Revolver Patent: SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR CREATING EXALTED VIDEO GAMES AND VIRTUAL REALITIES WHEREIN IDEAS HAVE CONSEQUENCES



http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=366448 "This is the greatest videogame patent I've ever read"



http://www.google.com/patents?id=aAuzAAAAEBAJ&printsec=abstract&z
oom=4&dq=exalted&as_psra=1&as_psra=1



http://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=3143589&
userid=0&perpage=40&pagenumber=1

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&safe=off&q=system+method+exalt
ed+video+games&aq=f&oq=&aqi=g%3Ap2



http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=366448 "This is the greatest videogame patent I've ever read"



Abstract:



A video game method and system for creating games where ideas have consequences, incorporating branching paths that correspond to a player's choices, wherein paths correspond to decisions founded upon ideals, resulting in exalted games with deeper soul and story, enhanced characters and meanings, and exalted gameplay. The classical hero's journey may be rendered, as the journey hinges on choices pivoting on classical ideals. Ideas that are rendered in word and deed will have consequences in the gameworld. Historical events such as The American Revolution may be brought to life, as players listen to famous speeches and choose sides. As great works of literature and dramatic art center around characters rendering ideals real, both internally and externally, in word and deed, in love and war, the present invention will afford video games that exalt the classical soul, as well as the great books, classics, and epic films--past, present, and future.

Claims:



1. A method for creating video games and virtual realities wherein ideas have consequences.



2. The method in claim 1 where said ideas are rooted in classical, epic precepts such as those found in the Great Books and Classics, and exalted at the pinnacles of Western culture and history.



3. The method in claim 1 where said ideas are manifested in the words the player or non-player characters, write, speak, read, disseminate, congregate about, fight for, and/or associate with.



4. The method in claim 1 where said ideas are manifested in the actions the player, non-player characters, and/or monsters act out.



5. The method in claim 1 where said ideas spread like viruses, by being spoken, written, or disseminated in some other manner, transforming characters who come in contact with said ideas into vampires, zombies, or other forms of monsters.



6. The method in claim 1 where said ideas spread like viruses, by being spoken, written, or disseminated in some other manner, transforming characters who come in contact with said ideas into vampires, zombies, or other forms of monsters, and where said vampires, zombies, and monsters may be saved or converted back to normal by coming in contact with ideas that oppose the ideas that made them vampires, zombies, and other forms of monsters.



7. The method in claim 1 where said ideas must be fought for via words and dialogue, before they have exalted consequences.



8. The method in claim 1 where said ideas must be fought for via deeds and actions, before they have exalted consequences.



9. The method in claim 1 where the player can fight for said ideas in word and deed, and witness the exalted consequences of those ideals, including liberty, freedom, and justice, when they succeed, and the dire consequences of tyranny, domination, and intimidation, when they fail to render exalted ideas, as ideas have consequences.



10. The method in claim 1 where the character can fight for said ideas such as marriage, the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and right to life in word and deed, and witness the exalted consequences of those ideals, including a stable and enduring society should they succeed, and a declining, bankrupt civilization, should they fail.



11. The method in claim 1 where the character can battle for said ideas that are based upon classical moral and economic principles of famous philosophers, prophets, poets, statesmen, and economists including Plato, Moses, Jesus, Gandhi Sun Tzu, Buda, Jefferson, Aristotle, F. A. Hayek, Martin Luther King Jr., Homer, Ludwig Von Mises, Adam Smith, and others, and witness the consequences of both their success and failure of their battle, as the consequences are rendered in the game's physical world.



12. The method in claim 1 where the character can battle for said ideas via both word and deed, using a combination of words and action, witnessing the consequences of their balance between word and deed, between reasoning and partaking in violence, thusly bringing to life epic classical works of film and literature wherein the hero must balance word and deed.



13. The method in claim 1 where fighting for said ideas in word and/or deed will have consequences regarding the operation of a weapon, which will operate at its full potential for the players and characters who are the most successful in serving ideals and ideas, and rendering them in word and deed.



14. The method in claim 1 wherein said ideas may be based upon Constitutional ideals and ideas underlying the American Founding, including the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, sound currency, the right to bear arms, the freedom of speech, the right of the artist, author, and inventor to own their creations and inventions; and wherein the player could fight for sound money in word and deed and witness the consequences of their successes and failures, including liberty, wealth creation, capitalism, freedom, private property, peace, and prosperity or rapid inflation, deflation, theft via the inflation tax, massive debt, empire, long lines, wealth transfer to the rich, depressions, corruption, and war.



15. The method in claim 1 where the said ideas will be supported or opposed by in-game characters, and the player will have to choose how to interact with the said in-game characters, based on their ideas, including but not limited to whether or not to befriend them, agree with them, disagree with them, ignore them, recruit them, shoot them, save them, judge them, or forgive them.



16. The method in claim 1 where the said ideas are based upon the pivotal plot points of the great books and classics.



17. The method in claim 1 where said ideas spread like viruses, by being spoken, written, or disseminated in some other manner, transforming characters who come in contact with said ideas into vampires, zombies, or other forms of monsters; and when bad ideas have infected too many in-game characters, the consequences are dire, including the loss of life, liberty, happiness, freedom, and security.



18. The method in claim 1 wherein said ideas may be related to economics and monetary policy, and wherein the player could fight for sound money in words echoing the classical economists and deed and witness the consequences of their successes and failures, including liberty, freedom, peace and prosperity or rapid inflation, deflation, theft via the inflation tax, massive debt, empire, long lines, depressions, corruption, and war.



19. The method in claim 1 wherein moral ideas have moral consequences in the evolution of the gameworld.



20. The method in claim 1 where said ideas in the video game world are founded upon the natural ideas and ideals occurring at the plot points in great works of literature and film where a character must choose whether to serve an ideal or not serve an ideal, thusly rendering or not rendering ideals real by their actions, and influencing the greater outcome and state of the game world, as ideas have consequences.



21. The method in claim 1 where said ideas in the video game world are used to exalt the classic hero's journey, and where a player's success and progress at every stage or step or plot point of said hero's journey is defined by said player's service or disservice to said ideas and ideals, and where by said player's serving said ideas and classical ideals, said hero's journey advances towards ultimate victory and triumph, while by said character's failing to serve said ideas and classical ideals, progress in said hero's journey is retarded or reversed.

Glenn Storm
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Pardon my, "LOL, wut?", but this is either this most involved commentary on interactive narrative design or the most involved schizophrenic rant reviewed by the U.S. patent office. Not exactly on topic enough for me, but the resulting conversation on neogaf is an entertaining diversion. Thanks, Ranger!

Ranger McCoy
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Hello!



Thanks Glenn! The "Ideas have Consequences/Gold 45 Revolver" patent/post is *exactly* on topic!



Glad you enjoyed the http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=366448 thread!



This here thread pertains to Dramatic Play, Classical, Epic Story, and "[In a wide-ranging article, former Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts narrative designer Stephen Dinehart looks at the future of game story by examining narrative theory through the ages.]"



That is exactly the subject and theme of the "System and method for creating exalted video games and virtual realities wherein ideas have consequences" patent:

"This present invention will foster an exalted renaissance in video games that allows one to battle not for the monetary fruits of success, but for success itself--for the higher ideals whose implementation leads to higher consequences, as ideas have consequences--to battle for the soul in classical realms and worlds such as Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, and to stand for noble ideas in both word and deed, as noble ideas have noble consequences, when rendered via action in the gameworld and beyond. Such games will result in epic, exalted storytelling in the realm of games, serving the growing demand for epic, virtuous manhood and pristine, virtuous womanhood; and thus Aristotle's renaissance will be realized, as epic story exalts the soul." --http://www.faqs.org/patents/app/20090017886



More from the "System and method for creating exalted video games and virtual realities wherein ideas have consequences" patent:



"[0849]"When storytelling declines, the result is decadence," wrote Aristotle in his Poetics. He ranked the elements of drama in the order of importance, placing story and character first, and spectacle and music last. Today our art--our video games and films--oft celebrates these elements in their inverted order; while postmodern poets and novelists no longer bother endowing their works with characters and plots via which noble character is manifested. Oscar Wilde wrote "life imitates art," and our business leaders and politicians have followed suit in dismissing character and natural, individual rights, while growing soulless bureaucracies and ruling via spectacle and PR. This present invention will foster an exalted renaissance in video games that allows one to battle for the soul in classical realms and worlds such as Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, and to stand for noble ideas in both word and deed, as noble ideas have noble consequences, when rendered via action in the gameworld and beyond. Such games will result in epic, exalted storytelling in the realm of games; and thus Aristotle's renaissance will be realized, as epic story exalts the soul. " --http://www.faqs.org/patents/app/20090017886



The abstract and claims of the "Gold 45 Revolver" patent above are centred about concepts, ideas, and ideals the Great Books and Classics, and the patent itself refers to Aristotle's Poetics throughout.



Abstract:

"The classical hero's journey may be rendered, as the journey hinges on choices pivoting on classical ideals. Ideas that are rendered in word and deed will have consequences in the gameworld. Historical events such as The American Revolution may be brought to life, as players listen to famous speeches and choose sides. As great works of literature and dramatic art center around characters rendering ideals real, both internally and externally, in word and deed, in love and war, the present invention will afford video games that exalt the classical soul, as well as the great books, classics, and epic films--past, present, and future."



Claims:



1. A method for creating video games and virtual realities wherein ideas have consequences.



2. The method in claim 1 where said ideas are rooted in classical, epic precepts such as those found in the Great Books and Classics, and exalted at the pinnacles of Western culture and history.



Here is a claim that refers to Aristotle:



11. The method in claim 1 where the character can battle for said ideas that are based upon classical moral and economic principles of famous philosophers, prophets, poets, statesmen, and economists including Plato, Moses, Jesus, Gandhi Sun Tzu, Buda, Jefferson, Aristotle, F. A. Hayek, Martin Luther King Jr., Homer, Ludwig Von Mises, Adam Smith, and others, and witness the consequences of both their success and failure of their battle, as the consequences are rendered in the game's physical world.



From the main body:"

[0555]Apocryphal Quotes [0556]"The strongest reason for people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government."--Thomas Jefferson Papers, 334 (C. J. Boyd, Ed., 1950) [0557]"The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference--they deserve a place of honor with all that is good."--George Washington [0558]"Government is not reason. It is not eloquence. It is a force, like fire: a dangerous servant and a terrible master".--George Washington [0559]"Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."--John Adams



[0561]The present invention will also foster superior educational games. Education, from Homer on down, has ever been about morality and enlightenment. It is only in recent times, as the fiatocracy rose to power, that moral education was exiled and suppressed by those who wish to deconstruct the exalted Constitution, Bill of Rights and soul and replace them with dumbed-down banality; thusly enslaving all of entirety to the bottom line, where no longer do women strive to serve their faith, their children, their family, and the higher ideals; but only the gutted, dumbed-down bottom line trumpeted by their MBA boss/pimp, like the ones in GTA.



[0562]Video game creators are under no obligation to forever reside in Plato's cave. They are free to move beyond it and walk in the bright sun of the Great Books and Classics, learn from the masters who set eternity in words; and instill video games with that same classical soul. Of course they will be laughed at, stoned, and persecuted by the fiatocracy's fanboy media, but over time, they will prevail, and it is exactly this kind of story and osul that games need. When they have manned up and walked the walk--the Hero's Journey--in real life, perhaps then they shall be able to walk the Hero's Journey in creating games with deeper soul and story; and more exalted gameplay features.



[0563]Opportunities exist to create novel educational video games embodying classical ideals. The service of classic ideals will endow video games with far more realistic and meaningful worlds, greater emotional and spiritual immersion, epic storytelling, and more engaging gameplay; just as the service of classic ideals exalted The Iliad, The Odyssey, The Declaration of Independence, the American Founding, and the Constitution, as well as Shakespeare and the Bible. Embracing classical precepts will allow us to create a more exalted realm of games with classical soul. Expert opinion will violently oppose these new video games, as most fanboy game creators consider themselves superior directors to Sergio Leone and John Ford, superior artists to da Vinic and Michelangelo and William Blake, and superior writers to Shakespeare, Melville, Homer, and Jefferson."



There are tons of Aristotle references, including this one:



[0103]The remainder of the list of titles, spanning every aspect of the "rotten barrel" of cultural decline; from business, to marriage, to government, to entertainment, would consume the entire length of this paper. Aristotle said, "When storytelling declines, the result is decadence," and is it any wonder that when the classics are removed from education, the world is impoverished? Video games lack epic story and soul as films invert Aristotle's Poetics, placing spectacle first and character and plot last; and as Oscar Wilde reminds us, "life imitates art." Well, this present invention would place plot and character first, and spectacle last in video games, countering common fanboy opinion. The dumbing down knows no bounds, and the present invention would foster video games that allowed players to argue and reason with professors, in word and deed: [0104]Our society and our literature and our culture are being dumbed down, and the causes are very complex. I'm 73 years old. In a lifetime of teaching English, I've seen the study of literature debased. There's very little authentic study of the humanities remaining.--Harold Bloom, Dumbing Down American Readers, LA Times, Sep. 24, 2003



[1270]This video game allows the player to engage in an exalted form of Aristotle's Poetics--to render the world the way it ought to be. "History tells us as things are," Aristotle wrote, "while story tells us the way it ought to be," and thus games shall finally realize higher art and epic storytelling, as they allow the player to realize the world as it ought to be, based on a moral premise found within the classical, Judeo-Christian context--truth, beauty, and freedom."--http://www.faqs.org/patents/app/20090017886



Best,



Ranger

Ranger McCoy
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Hello Stephen! I pointed out the Neogaf thread in my first post. :) I think it's a bit unfair to merely label a new soulful technology as "schizo-spam."



But I do understand how the corporate game world works--"All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. " --Shopenhauer



The patent basically preceded your article by a couple of years, and goes far further in depth with regards to Aristotle's Poetics, Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey, Austrian Economics, the Great Books, classics, the Founding Fathers' and Sergio Leone's Homeric love of freedom and liberty, and the nature of epic storytelling; which is essentially founded upon the rendering of classical ideals real. Video games could use all this!



I of course welcome all criticism! If you have specific issues with the text, or the foundational ideas underlying the patent, I would gladly address them! Please do share! Civil discussion would be of use to all. But mere namecalling doesn't really get us anywhere, nor do anyone any good.



I know I am an outsider in the corporatized, conservative field of game design; but the industry needs new ideas! I would love to discuss them in a civil manner. :)



Thanks! Many in the rising generation are hoping to soon be able to play more exalted games with depth, exalted drama, deep character, and a more realsitic sense of love and honor than is found in GTA/Bioshock/Mass Effect--many are longing for novel games wherein ideas have consequences, such as those outlined in the patent. By negelecting such technologies, EA et al. are leaving literally billions on the table.



http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?s=eb8fb3d7615427b68060
b8e162ffcf9e&t=366448

http://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=3143589&
userid=0&perpage=40&pagenumber=1



I just got this email: "yeah wish I could post it at neogaf! That forum is notoriously elite when it comes to letting people register to write anything (and this is coming from a #*$(X@ developer!) So I will post it in 5 yrs when they approve me, basically...



Agreed, videogames are still very much in their infancy as a medium of expression, yet helped by the fact they are such big business (and have been growing for a couple of decades) they certainly are culturally quite relevant (of course, so is porn..) Overall it's still altogether quite shallow "which games can bear the closest resemblance to reality, and most accurately let you act out simulated murder fantasies?" - of course there's a still a fair market in the different types of more experimental games, and they'll always be there, but they won't mature for awhile yet - in lieu of the ones that wil just make money.



Like film, and even photography before that - it will come! It just needs to be more subversive.."



forum.teamxbox.com/showthread.php?t=623861

"Video Game Idea of the Century!" --Garp

"This would be the most abstract game ever. I'd play it." --Dutch

"That game would be so different that it would have to be good. I'd definitely play it!" --Z A C K

"I'd play it." --Bleeding Black



www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=366448

"This is the greatest videogame patent I've ever read." --EmCeeGramr

"I think this guy has golden humour." --Foxspirit

"Do a Google search on Dr. Elliot McGucken, the dude who filed for the patent. It will blow your mind." --Zealous D.

"That's awesome." --Tentacle

"Is this a patent or the insane ratings of mad man?" --speculawyer



"McGucken’s philosophical core seems to support a mix of (sometimes contradicting) ethical and metaphysical systems, favoring our Founding Fathers, Abraham Lincoln, Jesus Christ, Ron Paul, Ayn Rand, Homer, Socrates, and anyone who can take a magic golden .45 to the head of a Marxist Undead and pull the trigger. What’s scary, for me, is that this might be exactly what gamers want." www.onelastcontinue.com/9136/vampire-zombie-communist-hookers-patent-it/



"From Patent # US 2009/0017886 A1: “If the player heeds the higher ideals and seeks the higher path they will be rewarded not with money and jacked cars, but with their soul.” What? More after the jump. If you’ve read my editorials, you know that I’ve been pushing games towards a more serious path. An intense potential for creating and cultivating emotions and ideas in the players exists in games that is unique among artistic mediums and valuable for it. Dr. Elliot McGucken, a man dedicated to bringing sight to the blind and honoring Joseph Campbell, believes so to. And the way he’s realized this belief is through this patent [via EmCeeGramr on NeoGaf] that makes my stomach churn." --Austin Walker, One Last Continue



I hope we can establish a dialogue on all this!



Best,



Ranger McCoy :)

Kevin Corti
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Erm...dare I suggest that this is actually part of the pre-release attention-grabbing efforts for some weird ARG?

Ranger McCoy
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Thanks Stephen!



Yes--the overall intent really is a new breed of gaming that I think there is a huge market for. :) I really enjoyed your article as it is calling the gaming community to a similar adventure.



To keep things briefer here, I am setting up a new blog: http://libertariangames.blogspot.com . I also registered libertariangames.com yesterday--I was surprised it was still available! It seems there would be a huge market for creating video games in which one could fight for liberty, freedom, and the Constitution! After awhile there are only so many cars one can jack--only so many Locusts one can chainsaw--bzzzzzzztz! bzzzzzzt!--before the soul longs for a bit of Cicero and Homer--for Moses and Mises.



I am glad the patent inspired laughter--by making it entertaining I hoped that it might reach a greater audience, than, say, Nintendo's insanity patent.



I never sought to patent any of my artificial retina technology; as it was to help the blind. And more than reaping any monetary gain from the "Gold 45 Revolver" video game patent, I would simply love to walk into Best Buy and buy a game wherein the monsters and hookers weren't defined by their appearance alone, but by their souls; for in reality, what did the monsters look like in WWII? It was their ideas which made them monsters; and imagine if GTA introduced a couple hookers (Beatrices/Penelopes) with hearts of gold, who held the true key to the world's exaltation. Imagine if the Locust Horde in Gears of War was not only defined by its ghoulish appearance, but by their ideas! That means that now and then you would be able to talk to a Locust, find out he also had a secret appreciation for Thomas Jefferson/Ron Paul, and bring him over to your side! You wouldn't just have to shoot them all the time; but, in fact, the only way to win the game would be to find enough Locusts to join your side--to recurit them by inspiring them, just as Linconln's words inspired the abolitionist Johnny Ranger McCoy in The Legend of McCoy Mountain!



The gaming industry has an issue with its depiction of women, and I am shocked and saddened that EA is condemming Beatrice to hell. I would consider giving them my domain dantesinfernogame.com for free if they liberated Beatrice from hell and returned her to Paradisio. The whole, entire crux of Dante's Inferno is that Beatrice is an incorruptible, exalted angel; and that she saves Dante via inspiration. The Inferno was the first epic work of literature that exalted women to the pinnacles of pristine idealism, and it is sad that EA chose not to leverage this classic, epic, original feature. I hope that there might be time for them to return Beatrice to Paradisio before the release of the game, as the ideal of the incorruptible woman is a beautiful, most inspirational thing! Indeed, it is worth walking through hell for! But, if they begin with Beatrice in hell, perhaps they could call the game EA's Inferno, and trademark that with their corporate war chest, as it certainly isn't Dante's anymore. Alas, money never has, and never will, by true art of the heart, nor epic poetry; which is left to the Melvilles, Van Goghs, and Homers. Dante--the lone poet and *scholar* (not the buff warrior)--penned the Inferno in exile, and to this day, Florence wants his bones back.



If EA reached out to those seeking not just fanboy entertainment, but depth, profundity, exaltation, and enlightenment; they would massively exalt their own bottom line; while also accomplishing far greater things.



That's just one, small example, but vast, exalted opportunies exist to take gaming to the next level; to exalt the Unreal Engine with classical ideals and idealism--with epic story.



Imagine walking around a town in Colonial America, listening to various speeches in the taverns. It was your job to form a fellowhsip to ride forth with Paul Revere. And it was up to you to choose the best men, judging by their ideas. In the taverns you could come across the words of Paine, Franklin, Washington, Jefferson, and Adams! Then, of course, you could also have the war; but imagine how much more fun it would be fighting with your felllowship for freedom! And only if you chose the right men--based on their ideas and character--would you prevail!



Filing patents is a way to record and establish one's ideas; as I have noticed that a funny thing happens to ideas out in Hollywood. :) I have always been driven more by the thrill of innovation, invention, and creation; in the spirit of service, than by making huge sums of money, though that is cool too! Odysseus reminds us that we all have these bellies we must fill. As can be seen from the various forum discussions/buzz, there are definitely novel aspects of the game types I am proposing, and someone went ahead and built one!

http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=366448&page=2

Though I would suggest a better soundtrack: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SH2DNAB0Qo



You mention Wagner in your article--why not set Dante's nine levels to Beethoven's nine symphonies? Imagine encountering the three-headed Satan as Beethoven's ninth thundered!



Here is another patent (2005-2006) of mine which is not quite as entertaining, but which suggests this:

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/y2007/0087798.html



"Soundtrack: As Beethoven wrote nine symphonies and the Inferno has nine levels, Beethoven's symphonies will accompany Dante during his descent through Hell. Imagine battling Satan to Beethoven's ninth. ADDITIONAL PREFERRED EMBODIMENT: GREAT BOOKS GAMES. The present invention can bring the Great Books and literature, such as the Bible, to life via the Moral Level Meter™ and the Beatrice Game Engine™ disclosed in the present invention. All the stories in the Great Books and classics are founded upon a moral premise and exalted morality. Thus the present invention, with its methods for introducing morality into the realm video games, is necessary to bring the soul and spirit of such classics to life as video games. Vast educational and commercial opportunities abound in the embodiment of present invention in the context of the Great Books."



What EA is doing to Dante's Inferno reminds me of what Hollywood did to The Iliad in Troy--they robbed it of its soul and turned it into a costume party; which is why Troy fell far short of 300 and Braveheart. Here is John Milius's take on what Hollywood did to Troy: (John Milius) subsided for a moment and then resumed, somewhat mysteriously at first. "Homer," he pronounced. "Homer. Can you believe what those assholes did to him with that film Troy? Completely embarrassing. Me and my kid, we wanted to take a DVD of the thing, tie it by a cable to our car's bumper, and drag it up and down Hollywood boulevard." He fell silent for a moment. "Hollywood . . . The only thing I can think of remotely as horrible as war; there are stories, things I have seen in that town that, believe me, I would never tell anyone."--Valkyries Over Iraq, The Trouble with War Movies, by Lawrnece Weshler, interviewing John Milius in November 2005 Harpers Magazine, academy-award nominated writer of Apocalypse Now, Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry, Magnum Force, and Electronic Arts' video game Medal of Honor."



Well, I have probably gone on too long once more--so much to say!

http://libertariangames.blogspot.com

Ranger McCoy
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Hello Stephen!



Yes--Lao Tzu "He who speaks does not know and he who knows does not speak." :) Benjamin Franklin's thirteenth, and most important precept was: "Humility: Imitate Socrates & Jesus." Over in the Something Awful Forums I just answered a question from Goatstein--"hey bro could you explain what kid rock and socrates have in common? "



I answered: "both socrates and kid rock share the same humble philosophy:

kid rock: "only god knows why."

--http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwBOFi_E48A

socrates: "the only thing i know is i know nothing."



Yes--humilioty has ever been the way to approach art--Melville's "ungraspable phantom of life."



Stephen--from your words above and cool articles I have seen far more than I have from EA/Visceral/the general industry. :) Should they rock/exalt the classical ideals in upcoming games, I hope they salute your work!



I think you should take great credit in furthering the mission for deeper, more exalted games! I think that one of the problems of the games industry is that it is overly corporate-oriented, which naturally discounts the primal (and essential) contributions of individuals, *especially* in the realm of art. After all, it is Dante's Inferno--it is Homer's Odyssey--it is Shakespeare's Hamlet, Beethoven's Ninth, Einstein's Relativity, and Socrates' Apology. The individual is of primal importance in all art--in all enduring literature, music, philosophy (it is Aritsotle's Poetics), and film; but today, it oft seems the individual is subjugated by the fiatocracy's corporate-state groupthink regimes, who condemn Beatrice to hell. ;)



But too, as the game technology adavances and engines are commoditized, more and more the distinguising factor in games and franchises are goint to be art, plot, character, and story. As the corporate approach kills the poetic spirit of the art and condemns Beatrice to hell, opportunities will arise for artistic entrepreneurs to establish new brands and franchises which endow gaming technology with simple techniques that allow the player to fight for classical, epic ideals--for love and honor. Yes--Melville's "ungraspable phantom of life" yet swims free.



The music, film, and literary business have ever been defined from the outside--from far beyond. Rap and hiphop came from far, far beyond the major labels, as did Nirvana and grunge--both multi-billion-dollar industries. Joseph Campbell penned The Hero With a Thousand Faces for $750 over a period of five years--and the book went on to inspire the Star Wars and Matrix franchises. J.R.R. Tolkien labored for decades out of pure love for literature. And so it is that the corporation's greatest asset at the end of the day are not its MBAs nor brass, but indie artists and poets, who trump even the VC. For money, at the end of the day, is a commodity. Innovation and the heoric will to create epic art are not.



Yes--there is a time and place for all; but right now the games industry seems a bit conservative and top-heavy--a bit too reliant on the fading fanboy fallacies. I see this expressed all over the place:



http://www.gamepolitics.com/2009/03/30/journalist-game-biz-grow



"[Chaplin] reports at NPR among other venues. She says this puts her in the role of a “translator,” trying to tell the mainstream why gaming even matters. This also means explaining a lot of big-name games that feature zombies, and aliens, and girls in metal bikinis wielding axes. And while she’s heard the excuses - it’s “a very new medium” - she’s way past accepting them.



Like Wendy slapping around the lost boys, Chaplin patiently but firmly laid down the line. “It is you guys as game designers who are mired deeply in ‘guy culture,’” Chaplin said. The problem isn’t the medium: “You are a bunch of stunted adolescents.” Games avoid any of the things that separate men from boys: responsibility, introspection, intimacy, and intellectual discovery. And “when you’re talking about culture-makers, this is a problem.”"" --http://www.gamepolitics.com/2009/03/30/journalist-game-biz-grow



Yes--it is time for the games industry to man up and create exalted art; to lead with the spirit of epic literature, as did the most successful films, novels, and even art (The Sistine Chapel).



"When I was a fanboy, I spake as a fanboy, I understood as a fanboy, I thought as a fanboy: but when I became a man, I put away fanboyish things." --Corinthians 13:11, KJV



Best,



Ranger :)

http://libertariangames.blogspot.com/

Jonathan Hughes
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The narremes concept sounds very similar to what Chris Crawford is up to with Storytron.

Ranger McCoy
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Re: How much would it be worth to Bethesda/EA/38 Studios/Visceral/Bioware/Ubisoft?



How much would it be worth to put the following on a game box? "It is the dawn of the American Revolution, and it is up to you to build the fellowship that will lead freedom's battle. From tavern to tavern you must walk the streets of Boston, listening in on conversations and recruiting those speaking of liberty's epic ideals. Redcoats and King George's spies abound, and when you hear the words of Washington, Jefferson, Paine, Madison, Jay, and Hamilton, you must engage them by speaking of liberty's ideals yourself; or lose tehir trust. Throughout you must select the best words to rally and inspire the troops through the fierce war for freedom. Ideas have consequences and word must be matched with deed, as freedom's fate falls upon your shoulders. "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. --Thomas Jefferson""



I argue that such a novel approach to gaming--not only incorporating the words of the actual Founding Fathers--but rendering their consequences (or the dire consequences of their absence)--would be worth hundreds of millions, if not billions.



And wouldn't that be an awesome game??? Imagine meeting Jefferson and Hamilton, finally defined by their greater aspects--their souls, characters, and words--and actualy recruiting Washington to command the forces, based upon his words!



"A slender acquaintance with the world must convince every man that actions, not words, are the true criterion of the attachment of friends." --George Washington

"Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness." --George Washington

"Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company." --George Washington



Yes--of course we could give all the revolutionary soldiers BFGs and Lancer Chainsaws to satiate the fanboys; but the big draw of the game would be its depth and profundity! And imagine that in one of the Taverns is a hooker with a heart of gold. Hire her and kill her, as is exalted in GTA, and the world is lost. Talk to her, and "lady liberty" will tell you where you can find Thomas Paine.



Video games are a crowded art, and many argue there has been little innovation in the past several years (or decades), especially when it comes to depth, meaningful drama, and storytelling. Of course all the PR departments stamp "depth, character, meaningful drama, and epic storytelling!" on the boxes, just as they stamp "Dante's Inferno" on the game which places Beatrice in the diametric opposite locale that Dante did, and nothing really ever changes as the fiatocracy declines.



A small innovation in a field of "crowded art" can go a long, long ways. For instance, applying the patent's same technology to the traditional Vampire/Zombie game would result in the following enhanced gaming experience:



The "Gold 45 Revolver" mod of Left for Dead would be described with (seriously--the buzz alone on this would be worth millions to EA/Bethesda/Bioware/Visceral/Ubisoft/38studios):



Set in a modern day survival-horror universe, the co-operative gameplay of Left 4 Dead (L4D) casts four "Survivors/freedom fighters" in an epic struggle against hordes of swarming zombies/communists and terrifying "Marx Infected" mutants. A new and highly virulent strain of the Marxist virus emerges and spreads through the human population with frightening speed via words, both spoken and written. The pandemic's victims become grotesquely disfigured, violent psychopaths, attacking the uninfected on sight by handing them pamphlets and espousing Marxist philosophies while trying to bite/harm them. As one of the "lucky" few apparently immune to the sickness, as you have been reading F.A. Hayek, Ludwig Von Mises, and Thomas Jefferson, you, unfortunately, are trapped in a city crawling with thousands of the bloodthirsty Infected. Alone, you're dead. But together with a handful of fellow survivors, who you can identify and recruit via dialogue trees incorporating Hayek/Jefferson/the Constitution wherein you also assess the NPC's responses, you might just form a fellowship and fight your way to safety. Players can play as a Survivor or as one of four types of Boss/Marxist Infected, each of whom possess a unique mutant ability, such as a 50-foot tongue lasso, tenure at an ivy league university, an MBA, or a giant belly full of explosive methane gas. The gameplay of L4D is set across four massive campaigns. The zombie population of each mission is choreographed by an AI Director that monitors the human players' actions and creates a unique and dramatic experience for them on the fly. Zombies may be transformed back into humans by quoting Hayek/Jefferson/et al. to them; but the further they have devolved--the more collectivist literature they have imbibed and the more MBA groupthink classes they have taken--the harder it is to save them. Early on in the game, some Vampire/Zombies may appear to be normal humans, and the only way to find out would be to quote Hayek to them and see if they respond with Lenin or Mises. Some of them can be reformed via dialogue, but for others, they can only be reformed by death. And in the end--only those players who have done their best to reform the Vampires/Zombies in word and deed--only those who have acted morally throughout the game, can truly wield the Gold 45 Revolver and realize its true power as it shoots Zeus's Lightning while leveling the zombie masters and their hordes. Should you fail to reach and exalt your peers with classical ideals, the world will end as a zombie communist tyranny--"for the greater good of all.""



Imagine how many millions would want to play such novel game types wherein *ideas had consequences*, and soul, character, and honor mattered! Litertaure including 1984, Animal Farm, A Brave New World, V is for Vendetta, The Matrix, Twilight, Atlas Shrugged, Dracula, and 300 could all be brought to life on a more profound level!

Adam Sims
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It's good to see that this goal is back in designers sights, and they're actively working towards it.

Ruthaniel van-den-Naar
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Two quick notes:

New age of Games - i thing so we have some good examples how start our path.. Vampire Bloodlines (good diaglog branch system, few different characters), Far Cry 2 (sandbox world, dynamic story), Oblivion (open word, with lots of quest and independent fractions)

Facade - i studied this game, but i realy dont believe in player input per terminal (keyboard), maybe voice recognisation can save as.

I working on own system, hope better..



Wagner - very good componist, but bad philosopher and stupid rasist, in his Age were bigger philosophers as Nietsche- in late years his opponent.

Chad Wagner
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Is it just me, or does "Ranger McCoy" sound just like "Eliza?" I have strong images of a Googlebot running through the internet cross posting responses to other people -- and actually holding a real patent! How lovely. It's like Neuromancer come stiltingly to life as Frankenstein.



Would you like a tissue?


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