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I’ll be talking about this: http://www.penny-arcade.com/patv/episode/mechanics-as-metaphor-part-1

Much has been said about storytelling in games, a topic I am particularly interested in. The above clip discusses games’ unique tool for telling stories: mechanics. While certain art forms interact with their viewers in their own ways, games do so in a very direct manner, giving them a tool for storytelling that no other expressive medium can match.

The basic idea is this: people tend to analyze the writing, and the writing alone, in games as the story. The writing is an important part of the story in games, but games are not books. In fact, they are not even movies, and we admit that movies convey much outside of the script. Games have writing and cinematic elements that must be taken into account, but they can also be filled with meaningful action.

The episode of Extra Credits I linked to above discusses a short flash game that you can find here: http://www.necessarygames.com/my-games/loneliness/flash. Without words, this little game allows for the exploration of several different narrative. The player can try to join groups of dots or ignore them and react accordingly when they abandon you. Different people play this game in very different ways, even though it is a very linear, very short, and very simple game. The episode Mechanics as Metaphor argues that there are different ways to play the protagonist; as one who is always trying to fit in, as a loner, or something in between, and each one allows the game to tell a different story.

Further, giving the player the power to control the narrative by embedding meaning in the mechanics allows games to hold a mirror to the gamer, giving him the opportunity to reflect and learn something about himself. When mechanics fail to be used as metaphor, we see more traditional, binary choices some games force on their players in atomic moments. In these instances, the decision making process feels unnatural and often destroys the suspension of disbelief which is often key to storytelling. On the other hand, when meaningful choices are woven into the game in its entirety, not just tacked on in an attempt to give the player some feeling of control, games can challenge people to introspect and learn important things about themselves in a way that few other means of storytelling can.

There’s a lot more to be said on this, and Extra Credits does a better job than I could hope to, so I encourage to not only watch the clip I posted above and its second part, but to explore a few more episodes if you’re interested in stuff like this.