Justin Keever | Aug 29, 2014
Videogames are all, by their very nature, multiform narratives. That is; all games, by nature of requiring player participation, allow for the exploration of possible outcomes of widely varying actions. The implications of these multiform narratives are often inconsequential: the outcome of taking two steps to the left is having taken two steps to the left. Thus emerges, in most people, the desire for consequence, for the exploration of a possibility space to have some easily tangible meaning in relation to some perceived goal. From these desires the prevailing structures of most mainstream videogames arises: movement is given a tactical gravitas, a means of avoiding obstacles or otherwise responding to challenges, and clear narrative choices are offered to the player, with the promise of some palpable effect on the broad strokes of the game’s plot, particularly the conclusion. While the supposed necessity of “challenge” in games is irksome to me, the latter manifestation of the multiform narrative in mainstream game design, or at least in what the mainstream player appears to want from their videogames, is the most frustrating trend in the modern videogame discourse. Somehow, possessing multitudes of varied end-states has become the be-all and end-all of videogame narrative: videogame discourse’s absurd war on the author manifests itself in this desire for there to be an impossible number of conclusions to game stories, as though a game doesn’t earn its gameness until 300 people can all have different plot outcomes. It’s an attitude that lends itself to a reductive, anti-analysis view of game narrative, where one can safely abandon any thematic/allegoric considerations of a game’s story in favor of tossing around meaningless terms like “illusion of choice” and pretending that you’re having a worthwhile conversation.