Monday 10 June 2013

The Problem With Gamebooks Trilogy - Part 5

Fixing Gamebook Plots

In the previous post in this series I suggested a potential solution to some of the relational issues between reader and character in interactive fiction.  But fixing characters is only half a solution. The other half requires us to address another gamebook problem area, plot.

I will avoid talking about plot in terms of creative writing, there are far better sources for that. Rather I will focus on how the gamebook's strict branching tree format needs to evolve to facilitate better interactive storytelling.

Gamebooks plots are a string of set-pieces.

Simple gamebook plots are often a sequence of interconnected set-pieces. The player moves from scene to scene, the designers assuming that ‘kill the wizard’  or ‘progress through the map’ is a robust enough premise to glue the narrative together.

Although fun, these simplistic romps lack genuine causality. They defy the definition of plot: a causal sequence of events that make up a story. As E.M. Forster explains instead of "The king died and then the queen died" it's better to create a causal relationship between the two events, for example "The king died and then the queen died of grief." Events need to unfold in a logical chain, to create narrative momentum, and pull the reader along with them.