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Feature: Dramatic Play

Feature: Dramatic Play

June 25, 2009 | By Staff

June 25, 2009 | By Staff
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The "future of games" is a large, if not insurmountable question, especially when considering the increasing diversification of styles within the medium. But in a new Gamasutra feature, Stephen Dinehart thinks ahead on game narratives by examining the evolution of dramatic narrative through the ages.

He explains his theory of dramatic play:

"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."

On the idea of "player as reader," he describes:

"Text, imagery, feedback, sound, and temporal sequences are read, perceived and judged. The game engine presents a narrative text to the player and says read me; understand what I am; and immerse yourself in the simulation.

Some are better readers or better players, but all the players read and absorb the experience. As the player progresses in his play these judgments about the events, experienced as a result of his actions, cause him to modify his play to produce desired results.

Reading allows the player to determine the next action needed to achieve a specific objective, or "object of desire". The story is needed by the player to convey the subjective meaning associated with the narrative read in the video game. A dramatic pattern that when assembled by the player creates a [player] story; a communication about the way things are within a particular system."


Dinehart connects these ideas to create a theory of interactive play:

"Dramatic play systems invite the player to co-create a plot through a world that is influenced, if not shaped, by their actions. In this role play, the question is begged of the player "what kind of character do you want to be?" Begetting the formation of a particular desire in the player, a desire to be. By actively pursuing that desire, the player becomes an active protagonist.

In taking action, trying to achieve that character, to be the person he desires, conflicts naturally emerge. As Robert McKee would have it, the "gap" opens up. That is the gap between what is in actuality, and the goal of achieving what is desired [McKee 1997].

It is in this basic human conflict of wanting we have drama. Drama is a serious play of human conflict. Interactive narrative creates more engaging game conflict. Conflict which plays on a players own desires to act and achieve; engaging the player in a participatory dramatic pattern that is focused on a concise themed communication."


You can now read the full Gamasutra feature on lessons contained within the evolution of narrative and how they can be applied to games (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).


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