Monday, 29 April 2013

The Problem with Gambooks Trilogy - Part 4

Fixing gamebook characters

This post is an overflow from Part 3: Can Gamebooks be fixed? You really should read that first. Better still start from Part 1: Gamebooks are broken. If none of this makes sense don't say I didn't warn you.

The protagonist and characterisation

Gamebook authors have commonly chosen one of two options regarding protagonist characterisation:

1. To anonymise the main character, creating an empty vessel which enables the reader to project their own persona on to the hero, or

2. To give the main character an identity (with backstory, belief system, strengths, weaknesses, etc...)  in an attempt to create a hero more rooted in the events of the story world.

Both these approaches have flaws.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Weapons Master

The Weapons Master fears nothing.

Well, maybe he's a little scared of his wife. She has forced him into retirement before he loses any more essential body parts. He can now be found teaching in the relative safety of the Dungeoneers Boot Camp.

His job is to take the soft, wide-eyed recruits and turn them into hardened, dungeon-ready delvers. He takes this role very seriously and doesn't suffer fools gladly. He knows failure to properly prepare his students will result in their premature, often inglorious death. This is something he reminds them of frequently, often along with a relevant anecdote about how he acquired one of his many battle scars.

To relax he likes nothing better than to stroke his furry snake.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

The Problem with Gamebooks Trilogy - Part 3

Can gamebooks be fixed?

So it’s been a while since I completed parts 1 & 2 of the Problem with Gamebooks. This is partly because I have taken some time to reflect on the thought provoking comments the posts have received, but also because it’s been hard to write. The way forward isn’t clearly signposted, and it's complicated. My current ideas are a bit nebulous but I will continue to evolve and share my thinking.

Before I start…
Gamebooks in the classic mould have their merits. Maybe they aren’t broke and don’t need fixing, but the realm of interactive fiction has so much unexplored territory it would be a shame if a few of us didn’t wander off in new directions.

IMPORTANT: The concepts described here will not have universal appeal or application. They have been developed with Mysterious Path (my project) in mind. I have not written a panacea for all the perceived ills of the gamebook (sorry, maybe next time). I hope you find my elucidations interesting nonetheless.

If you can’t be bothered to read part 1 & 2 here’s a quick summary of my current position:

1. Protagonist characterisation is compromised if someone else (i.e. the reader) is in control of the characters actions and thought process.

2. True agency is impossible using a predefined decision tree system.

3. Game elements dilute the narrative experience.

Like a Spock, I have suppressed the emotional argument in favour of a more objective, logical view of the format.

So here it is. It’s a Gamebook Jim, but not as we know it…