Game Spaces

I did my class facilitation on the game theories article, but I didn't really get a chace to say everything I wanted to about my thoughts on it, so I will expand on the ideas we touched on in class here.

In the article by Henry Jenkins, he says that "game consoles should be regarded as machines for generating compelling spaces... and that the core narratives behind many games center around the struggle to explore, map, and master contested spaces" (page 122). I think Jenkins hits on a very good point here in saying that game creators are not so much storytellers as "narrative architects". When people create games, the authors have no absolute control over the way the player goes about playing the game. Of course there are rules and boundaries to attend to, but the path of the game is open. I believe that much of the story of a game is how the game is played. This could be influenced by the skill of the player, or by something as simple as whether the player decides to go left or right at the fork in the virtual road. Even though the player will ultimately reach the same cutscenes and dialog, I believe that every player has his/her own story, formed by the individual actions and decisions of the player. Obviously some games work better in this respect than others. In World of Warcraft, for instance, the story is most definitely your own. There is very little direction; the world just exists and you are free to explore it and interact with the other players. In games like Zelda, however, there is a set goal and purpose in the game, yet you still have control over your actions and I believe that this makes the game your own story. It might be a shared story between the player and the creator, but the player has a role nevertheless.

For me, this is the main quality of games that separates them from other forms of media. While reading a book, your imagination is free to roam around, but every time you reach page 596, Dumbledore is going to die. There is nothing you can do about it. In a game, some things you still have no control over, but there are parts where you can control the story. I believe that this is part of the reason that the transition from movies to video games is relatively smooth, but when games get turned into movies, they do not usually end up doing very well. In her article, Celia Pearce says that "the number one reason [for this] is that the function of character in each medium is diametrically opposed" (page 152). When a movie is turned into a game, you gain the ability to become certain characters- in essence you get to take part in the story. However, when games turn into movies, you lose that freedom. Instead of directing the story, now you have to sit back and watch the story progress on its own. Thus the move to a game is an increase in freedom, while moving from a game to a film is a decrease in freedom. And especially in America, people tend to like their freedom.