Friday, 15 March 2013

The Problem with Gamebooks Trilogy - Part 2

How are gamebooks broken?

In Part 1: Gamebooks are Broken I claimed games and books don't mix well. This post is going to attempt to explain the key incompatibilities between game and book.

Why are videogames such a useful comparison?
I use videogames as a primary focus for comparison, because they, more than any other medium, have attempted to address the narrative/interactivity divide.

In their infancy, limited by processing power, videogames were pure interactivity, Pong and Pacman ruled. Narrative was not an option. As the quality of audio/visual delivery grew, so did the aspirations of the game industry. Initially they borrowed heavily from film's storytelling toolkit, as immature mediums often do (like inceptive television broadcasts were merely radio with pictures). Players where now being asked to stop playing and start watching, and so the 'cut scene' was born.

But now more industry voices are joining the argument that games are not the place for traditional narrative. Nintendo's revered videogame innovator, Shigeru Miyamoto, advocates that game designers should forget characters and focus on experiences. Some are claiming narrative heavy adventure games deserved to die.  With the emergence of the indie game scene, a new breed of inventive developers are taking a fresh apporach. For example, The Journey enables players to enjoy an emergent narrative and The Unfinished Swan processes a fragmentary narrative, both a departure from traditional linear storytelling. Unfortunately the mainstream industry hasn't given up on clumsily spoon-feeding us story in attempt to make us 'feel' for their avatars, as the new Tomb Raider attests.

For me, games and linear narrative media are fundamentally different... and here's why:

Thursday, 7 March 2013

The Problem with Gamebooks Trilogy - Part 1

Gamebooks are broken

The Mysterious Path project intends to revisit the gamebooks (CYOAs) of the 80's, to reinvigorate the format, to drag the experience into the touch screen age and try and make it relevant again. And lately it feels it's getting harder to drag. It's reluctant to join the 21st century. It's working against me.

An early Mysterious Path wireframe concept. A game comic thing.

I think I always knew something wasn't right, that something was holding me back from diving head first into the project... but I wasn't sure what it was (something other than lack of time and talent!)

I started with naive optimism on the possibilities of digital gamebooks.

Later came the angst ridden paralysis where game and narrative modes refused to gel.

Now it feels like the gamebook could be a fatally flawed construct, better left in the museum.

The projects honeymoon period is concluding and I am asking questions that are casting shadows over the direction of Mysterious Path. I know I'm not exactly inventing a new entertainment paradigm, and should just lighten up a bit, but as any meaningful next steps will require significant effort, and possibly expense, it would be nice to have some validation or robust logic to back up any design hypothesis.

So it's time to kick the tyres.

Friday, 1 March 2013


Fan art for Tweet RPG, Starfall Rebith. Comic cover.
It's a vote based RPG on twitter give it a try.
Starfall Rebirth is the live adventure... follow it here.