games (ludology) Games are a rule-based system that enables interaction, game play, that is directed to an outcome, a win condition. This discussion, relating game theory, ludology, to narrative theory and narrative film is not intended to be analogous: to compare film and games and state that they are like or unlike each other as a generalised comparison. It is intended to compare the functionality and form of game narrative in relation to film narrative, a comparison of two different systems and forms of narrative.
Play in itself is an unstructured activity with no directed purpose and game play is a structured, rule bound activity. An event is a singular action, and a story is a set of events, actions linked in a purposeful temporal sequence. Both games and stories present purposeful temporal sequences of events but they do not use the same methodology for this construction of these purposeful and meaningful actions and this difference can illustrate how film narrative functions.
Realism in Games: A comparison between chequers and chess, illustrates how a rule-based system constructs realism. Chequers is a game where two players move pieces with the win condition being one player having at least one of their pieces remaining on the game board after having removed all of the other players. The pieces in the game are not constructed as figures, they do not represent people or living entities: the game of chequers has a realism only in the sense that terms like opponent and capture can be used for their actions. This is the level of realism in chequers. In chess the pieces are named as figures that are matched to actual historical roles and a monarchical social hierarchy: king, queen, bishop, knight, and to match these differences in status each type of figure has specific game rules to govern their actions. The rules in chess set a win/lose condition for one particular piece, the king: it is manoeuvred during the game so that it cannot be removed from the board by the opponent, and when this ability, for the king to escape being taken, is no longer possible the game is lost. The realism in chess is created by the social roles ascribed to the figures and by the hierarchy presented by the movement rules, and by the win/lose condition. There is a realism attaching to the game of chess that is not present in chequers, but crucially neither set of game rules are in themselves representational.
Chess and chequers are spatial-games using the movement of pieces on a flat plane with rules of movement and exchange as their game play action, and to programme a computer to perform these functions realist concepts such a play, opponent, capture, king, queen, bishop, monarchy, nobility, the divine right of kings, are redundant and functionless to the game of chess. There is no connection between lived reality and the in game rules. Some games have figures, such as chess, snakes and ladders and Monopoly, and some games do not use any figure, only pieces, such as in chequers, backgammon, go, Connect Four. With or without figures these are spatial systems: they can all operate as a game without any representational aspect.
The realism of a game is a function of mimesis: the cognitive ability to interpret objects and images as representations of the world and as having actions that are comparable in representation to actual life. This linkage can lead to an assumption that a game is like life, but the game rules are in themselves not representational. The practice of understanding a game as being more than it is can be exampled when chess is sometimes discussed as an intellectual game, but it actually has no abstract, conceptual component, there are no intellectual ideas in the game rules: one can consider how the opponents play each other, how they conceive strategy and tactics, but this is not part of the game, but of the people who play chess and how they think about the game: a computer that plays chess does not, will not have intellectual ideas about chess, it processes options for movement and exchange.
Games have explicit and implicit rules, in the set rules for play, in the actions, procedures and mechanics that control play: moving pieces, operating a controller, and also in the game’s physical environment, the board, the pitch, the course, and in computer games the representation of these features, the board, pitch, course occurs in images which can have realistic environments: 2D, 3D or VR representations. Here, there needs to be a caution that a game or a story is not inherent in a realist representation, there needs to be action: in a game a set of rules for action and for a story a purposeful sequence of temporal events. When a game has a realistic environment this does make the game rules seem more realistic, but as before, the game can be played so that there is no representational element, and game rules have no inherent realism. VR has this as a particular issue for understanding the medium: being in a VR environment offers a temporary reality, it has a narrativity, it is a temporal experience, and this can be stated as a form of narrative, but it's a very specific form: it’s like the narrative of being in fun fair ride which is unlike the narration of a story in a film narrative, or a story told through speech: being somewhere and experiencing events is not a form of narration: playing a VR game, or riding on a ferris wheel is not storytelling, but a story can be told about this experience.
In stories their action and environment are not put in place by stated and formal rules of play but by lived experience and through the learned and developed understandings of the conventions of narrative form and the ascetics of realism. A game breaks down if the rules are unknown, it cannot be played and is no longer a game, and the realism of a story is lost if its actions or the environment is incoherent: there are stories in the form of naturalism where events are predicted to stay within the boundaries of lived experience in order to be accepted as realistic and there are narrative forms where there is fantasy and a realism that is outside of lived experience, but both of these are still accepted as a form of realism because of mimesis and story convention. The forms of stories can be compared in function to games in that there is a highly constructed game/story environment, but a story functions through the representation of action and mimesis not a system of set rules.
Games as Narrative: A game becomes a narrative through play: the game starts and these play events are interconnected in a purposeful temporal sequence: it is possible to state what has happened in a game and to consider what may happen based on past events and the circumstances created by these events. This feature of games is identified as emergent narrative and is distinct from the fixed, set, narrative that is offered by a film drama or documentary. A recording of a game being played can be can reproduced as a film and this will have temporal narrative and this is a form of narrative film. The recording of a game’s play, will have a narrative structure, and this will be the structure of the game, with features such as rounds, halves, periods, levels, challenges, and this game structure won’t match the structure of film drama with acts, and scenes. The recording of a computer game is labelled a play through, and this is specific narrative form: a form of documentary.
Whatever the play action or the rules of the game if it has no win condition, then there is no purposeful action. In chequers with no win/lose condition pieces might or might not move to take each other and at some point this would end and this would be a sequence of events, like a dance or like music, but this moving about would not be a game and could not present a meaningful connected narrative without a win/lose conditions. In chess the pieces might all move in their different ways, but if there is no win/lose condition in relation to the king, there would be no particular significance to any particular piece and no reason for any move. There are anti-narratives in film and also anti-games: games that are unplayable and have no win outcome, but these will be presented as forms that deconstruct established forms.
Win conditions, set as rules give a game an overarching connective purpose. In contrast a story provides a purpose to action, not through fixed rules, but based on the mimetic representation of the narrative and the intention that this conveys: the characters in the story want to do something or the character is acted upon and reacts. Stories are purposeful and what is important to both stories and games is that this purpose can be understood. If the rules of a game are not understood: why hit the ball, why are there five buttons on the game controller each with a different colour, if this is not explained then, the action of the game is meaningless. If the actions of a film narrative are unconnected and unmotivated there is no story. Both games and stories need to have methods and technique for stating, representing purpose: rules for gameplay and intention for character and plot. In film and drama this intention of characters is linked to how we perceive and understand intention and purpose in life, but a story needs to be have methods of narration for linking actions to intentions in order to represent interiority in ways that the audience can construct into a story. While film narratives are perceived as realistic, intention has to be made explicit in comparison to real life: through meaningful action that connects events, through exposition, stating intention, through decision and reaction that motivates actions.
In Narrative Fiction (Rimmon-Kenan, 2002) discusses how narratology looses the concept of character in story and that the way that structural narratology accounts for character and characterisation is somewhat unsatisfactory. The primary reason for this is that narratology in studying form and function aim’s to set game-like rules, story functions to construct narrative, but what indicates character in a game requires the reader as a component to do this: in chess a knight defends a king, so that a knight is a protective character, but this comprehension is not within the rules of the game: the perception of defending and protecting are projected from outside the game. This relationship, that the reader gives essential meaning to the text has been modelled:
real author - implied author - narrator - narratee - implied reader - real reader (Chatman, 1978)
The narrative reader relationship set out by Seymour Chatman (1928-2015) indicates that the narrative needs the reader, so that the story construction is a role of the reader, not just of the text. The audience’s conception of character is based on their own understanding of personality, action and motivations, and while events in the film can be objectively recounted, the narrative gives indicators, signals and clues to the interiority, to explain what characters are like and why characters act as they do. In narrative there is direct characterization, the audience is told what the character is like, and there is indirect characterization, the audience infers character, but even with direct characterization the audience will frame that within their own understanding of interiority: the character picks up a cup because they are nervous, because they are interested in the cup, because they want to steal the cup. The physical action is stated, shown, its a story event, but the interiority it presents is indicative and contextualised: the action is picking up a cup, but this does not define the meaning of the action: what has happened in the narrative inflects on the reading and interpretation of the action.
Games can be read as presenting figures that have psychology and this is the same as with story, but as always games rules have no inherent representation: the movement rules for a king compared to a pawn does not make one chess piece brighter, braver, more cowardly, more loyal than any other rule for play: these are projected meanings and values, attached to a game and story by the player’s sense of reality. The events in a story are read to have significant meaning and intention beyond their specific action, and out of their story context an action loses narrative function and this particularly inflects on conceptions of interiority: during filming an actor walks up the stairs, stops then walks on: in terms of story narration and an indication of interiority created by the stop on the stairs this can be of profound consequence for the character in the story, but in filming its a physical action. Cartoon films have figures that are obviously not real characters, they have no psychology, but the audience grants them this interiority, even though it cannot exist in the real world.
To look at one method for attaching personality, psychology, character and intentionality to both narrative film and games there is commentary: through voice over narration in film, and also in games, there is overlaid game commentary. This spectator/expert commentary can be done for any game: chess with commentary stating the situations and options for moves, and commentary on action is an established and effectively ubiquitous practice for the broadcasting of live sport. Sport commentary creates a narrative and realism for a game: the game’s players are turned into people with distinct and individual characters, and these are attached to the game’s figures by the commentary. What is significant here is that a sports game will play without any commentary, so the game can be understood simply by viewing it, and character is attached as a specific type of narration: the psychological interiority of the players is created by the perception and statements of the commentator. With voice over narration for film narrative this will create a viewpoint for the audience and often a tone for the story, so that the film narrative is supported and even positioned by this. If a character speaks in voice over and then they are seen in the film, its been made clear what their attitude is, so if the voice over is removed how the audience perceives the character will be dramatically changed and the character’s actions are likely to become incomprehensible. When a film narrative relies on voice over, and then this is absent this is like playing a film without the sound, some things will remain clear in the story and other elements will be vague, confused.
Games can exist without realism, but there is a mimetic impulse to attach realism, to generate meaning that connects actions to lived experience and to intentionality. Ascribing human qualities to other entities is a psychological trope: things happen for a reason, action has purpose. The functioning of mimesis in games, that it seems to be implicit, can be considered through a question: are games real? We know that games are structured through artificial rules, but not only do we enjoy play, we experience real emotions as part of this play, as we do with story. Through the experience of immediacy, our witnessing and our empathetic participation in games and stories they become real to the extent that we understand the realism and emotionally connect to it: this is the feature that is indicated for story narrative in the concept of suspension of disbelief, which is not only an authenticating of events as representation of realism, but the reader or audience is also connecting to the representation of narrative actions as though these events are presently happening. Suspense of belief is not just a question of declared and formal contract, a conscious agreement to understand a game or story as realistic, but of experience: interpreting the narrated events mimetically. This is also expressed in the concept of immersive experience that is used as term to label the sense of realism in game play and immersive experiences corresponds to suspense of belief in narrative film, and other narrative mediums and forms.
A feature that develops player involvement in a game, immersion is emergent complexity, a game with simple rules soon develops into complex systems and this has emergent narrative: the player is involved in the action of the game because of their understanding of past events. Again, game rules develop emergent play, but there is a correspondence to story narrative: stories develop complications and have rising action: a story is not narrated as though one fact is stated after another: a story is not a list, but interconnected events. This is the diegesis of the story and it is a feature of games even though they are produced by different methods: for games, game rules, and in stories, plot and character development through action.
In terms of shared functions both stories and games have the fundamental appeal of action: that it is possible for a character or a player to have an influence and even determine events: it’s possible to win, for the figures in the game or the story to have an effect in the game environment or in the storyworld. This means that stories and games offer a possibility, a promise regarding human action: games and stories are constructions but they present an understanding of the world which is distinct from abstract and intellectual thought. Action and meaning in these constructed form is also sought and occurs in actual experience.
Games and Morality: If someone is asked to stack a set of toy bricks twelve bricks high they might fail or succeed in this task but this would not be moral or immoral: setting a task is not setting a rule in relation to morality and virtue, but in games there are the rules of play, playing to these rules, and so an ethical code has been applied and there is implicit immoral action: cheating, deceiving, lying are wrong. Games are structured with an ethical, moral function. Events in actuality do not have this rule structure and therefore there is no implicit ethics and morality, but this is constructed in narrative drama, and as with games, an opponent structure in the narrative creates ethical positions, conflict, action and moral outcomes: the winner is a good person in most stories, or a valiant loser. This moral value is given to game winners: they are better people, but winning at golf does not make one a good person, morally, only better at playing golf than another player.
In life the concept of fairness indicates that rules are clear and apply as stated; no one is treated unfairly, which in itself is an artificial stricture. To mirror this, one feature that is rare in games is the suspension of rules: changing the rules every now and then, is a change to the fundamental elements of the game: this resistance to changing rules, what is essential to the game, operates in narrative where changes to the story world need to be established if the narrative is not to be rejected as unrealistic and false. Characters who are suddenly rich, or can suddenly kill without regretting it can lose credibility.
Adding another feature of realism is that some games are skill based, and some are chance based. So, games are given properties that relate to being able to control events to a greater or lesser degree or of not being able to control events at all because of chance. Skill and luck are embedded in games through the rules of play but in story the events are set, but character are understood to have skills and abilities, and so are less or more capable of the actions that are presented. There is an understanding through the concepts of fate and luck, that there are figure, players, characters, people who will have a better fate and more luck than others: this is a psychological attempt to create some kind of human providence and control over events, rather than accepting randomness as a meaningless and uncontrollable circumstances, games and narrative offer a sense of participation and a sense of controlling, being able to control events. Of the world being organised to support good and bad fortune.
To add value and experience to a game there are rewards, points, pieces taken, space occupied. This is part of the action of the game. It can have a realism because the game has attached representational elements to the rule based action: in Monopoly players buy houses and hotels, and in snakes a ladders players can climb up a ladder and slide down snakes, but the actions actually require no representational aspect for the game to be played. Again this rule based action has no inherent realism. Games have mechanics, the operation of the game, pressing buttons, kicking a ball: this is the actual action of the player. There’s no houses bought in Monopoly, no capital gained. In film narrative the audience can take the viewpoint of kings, cops, lawyers, and have no actual connection to this in life. There’s a sense that value is raised by playing a game, and also by watching a game and watching a film: games and narrative given participation and belief in value where none actually exists.
Game Play: A feature of games that is not present in stories is game balance. This is the setting of the rules, usually so that the game has playability, which means that the game does not end suddenly and that the success or failure in the game is not given too easily or unequally to a single player or to a particular strategy. Scoring systems often set game balance: tennis is structured to be played in games with uneven set numbers, three or five sets, so that there has to be a winner, and each set is structured so that it has a winner. Without this balance tennis games might be drawn. However, the division of tennis into sets delays a player winning: the player losing the first set can still win the game, and this shows how balance has been built into the scoring of tennis. As another example: if football was played with a goal score win condition: the first team to score five goals wins, then soccer games could not be timed. The timing of soccer matches is a function of balance and playability: football might be structured like tennis or boxing with short rounds, but goal scoring is difficult and limited with footable, so the balance of two minutes rounds for a football match might exclude any win results. The game would lose playability.
Stories are not constructed through game balance, narratives are not structured by rule systems, and playability is not a factor in narrative construction. What game balance does is structure game play, and here there is a crucial difference between a game narrative and a story narrative. Stories make claims to represent factual events because their plot and characters match credible or possible actions: narrative stories can claim to be based on fact, to represent events that have happened in the world. Games can be made to represent actual teams, actual racetracks: game environments can represent actuality, soccer teams, race tracks, and so can the figures in the game, representations of an actual team’s players, but when the rules of play are in place then the outcome is not certain and the game will not play out and represent past, factual based events. Game narratives are not descriptive on the world in the way that story narratives are: the fact that game play is emergent prevents this. That stories can be connected to match actual events is another indication of how story is measured against actuality. There are video games set in World War II and also to match Premier League soccer teams, but the emergent narrative of games, means that this initial setting does not narrate a historical narrative as a story would.
To clarify, in relation to computer games presenting factual narratives, there is a use of soccer video games to recreate actual live play, a specific goal is recreated in a video game, and a computer generated representation of a football team will be moved so that it copies the scoring of an actual goal, and this gameplay action is recorded to match the real event: however this is using a computer game as an animation tool and the recreation of factual events is not following the rules of play for a game, it is using the technology of the game as an re-enactment. When a game represents an actual situation, soccer teams, racetrack, battles, and it appears to represent or recreate or repeat game play in relation to actual events, this is not the case: in a computer based soccer game no one plays soccer, the players press buttons.
A feature of game design is that games fail to function and become unplayable if they are not precisely and successfully designed and constructed: if the game rules prevent or end play, if there are no achievable win conditions then a game is unsuccessful. In Scrabble the design of the game board, how many squares there are on the board, how words can be set out on the board during play, how the board scores the game, how many letters each player is allowed at each turn, how the letters are scored, what is the number of letters overall for the game, what is the percentage, the division between the number of letters that are consonants and vowels, how many letters does a player take and when, why players work as individual players, why players keep their letters concealed from other players, why players can swap letters, what words are allowed are all game rules, which give the game of Scrabble emergent complexity, balance, playability, a concept of fair play and a win outcome. Changing a rule can make the game unplayable or create strategy advantages for players who can identity flaws in the rules. Film narratives do not have this precise system for a narrative to be successful, and the credibility of a narrative is determined in the relationship between the film and the audience: a film can be discussed in relation to the issue of events being credible, they would or would not have happened, so the story can be evaluated as a true or false construction, but in a game the issue if the game has been played fairly and if the game fails and doesn’t work that is due to badly set rules.
In the design and creation of computer games there are production teams that have specialist roles in the same manner as narrative film production has specialist roles, a crucial difference is that games have coders who embed the rules of the game and films have story creation, developed through screenwriting, performance and direction. Coding, is precise and every procedure and mechanism in a game needs to be set through coding: game characters have to be instructed not to walk through walls, to appear to walk on supportive surfaces and to operate through physics with forces such as gravity, mass and inertia operating are these all part of the game’s construction. A film narrative does not have this coding, clarifying an essential difference between story narrative and a game narrative. In case of a confusion narrative film incorporates computer generated imagery, CGI, this computer based work, a form of visual effects is comparable in some ways to environment creation in games, there are visual artists is game design and in film production, but this work is not comparable to the work of coding to produce game rules, the game mechanics, playability and balance for game play in a computer game.
By setting out what is specific to games and the form of narrative they produce has also established what is specific to film narrative and this can be used to support creativity in film: clarifying what is essential to the creation of a film narrative. It is also possible to create film narrative with the methods used for game design. This will use the concepts of emergent narrative and emergent complexity. The aim here, to use game concepts to develop story, is to first establish story world, then to place figures in that story world and following on from this play out variations of actions, events, scenarios developing different events, plotting until this produces a narrative that has the conflict, action and drama that is suited to a narrative film. Using emergent narrative as a creative method, this would be the story development process:
ONE. Create a story world which will have a realism: what is possible in the world: it’s naturalistic, it has flying dragons, it has vampires, there are spirits, there are aliens. This can include the history and the social structure and the specific time and circumstances in which story events will take place. There’s no aim to establish specific characters, specific plots and situations at this time. This story world building does happen as part of the established process of screenwriting, but often it is done impressionistically: the story is a vampire story, or the story is set in the future. This vagueness can seem helpful, being undecided means that the story world is flexible, but this also leads to problems in storytelling: films where the story world has sudden changes to keep the characters alive or free in order to keep the plot from ending, or sudden changes to the history of events in the story to justify and explain what a character does. A screenwriter can solve a plot problem simply by changing the story, but the audience will know when the integrity of the story world have changed to make action continue and the story will lose its credibility as a plot and in its realism as a story. So, instead by the filmmaker’s precise about the storyworld, then the characters created for it will match this world.
Having clarity on terms of story setting will establish what the audience need to know in order to understand a specific story world and so accept the events that happen in the story. A player can only participate in a game when they know the rules, and in a story if this world is incoherent or unclear then what happens losses sense. When a screenwriter works within a form, a genre, the police procedural, the horror film, this can seem to put in place the story world and its rules, but stories are specific, so the rules of that world need to be clear.
Designing a detailed story world takes time, so can seem like an unnecessary and burdensome task, but many writers create a story world and characters and then develop many stories within this world, effectively using emergent narrative without necessarily any conscious use of this term. Long form dramas, continuing story serials, single episode story serials, sequels, prequels, spin offs, can all be produced from the same story world. So, this complex story world creation is already in place, and can already be identified in production terminology as part of for the story format, or the origin story. Writing a story beginning with the first action by the main character, or stating the main action of the story, can seem like a way to start a story, it’s actually a rather vague step is the storyworld is not clear what’s possible in the narrative, and this vagueness can explain why stories that start wee are often unfinished: there’s no clear sense of the environment where the story takes place: it’s been written like walking out on a diving board, walking forward is purposeful, but then it goes no further.
Game design for computer games will very carefully and exactly develop and decide on the story world for the game environment because everything that exists and everything that happens in the game environment needs to be created through visual design, through coding, through game mechanics. Things just don’t happen in a game. In film narrative a screenplay, it’s just words on a page, and these can easily be set down, there’s very little cost to the activity, but then this screenplay is subject to a production process which involves thousands of hours of work, so that having a screenplay that is well developed is important. Just because as film is well made in terms of film technique, sets, props, costume and acting does not make the story successful and if a film fails it’s often the flaws in the screenplay that causes this.
In first developing a story world there can then be a problem that detailed, full dramatic plots don’t develop, and then the story world may need to be changed or even abandoned. This can seem like a failure of the process, but a single long form story, a full screenplay can be successful or unsuccessful in dramatic terms, and it is common to re-write and re-draft many times and this can be a very unclear process: in the editing, redrafting process what changes will make the screenplay better is uncertain. Having a story world clarifies what is possible and who can inhabit this world. It directs the writing.
There are many story worlds that have a hundred, two hundred stories in this setting. A story world supports creativity. Often writers struggle and even fail to create one full and coherent story: starting with the story world is a development process and helps the writer. It will also help with production process: production design, costume design, acting. All of these can be developed from basis of the story world.
TWO. Develop characters. After the story world is developed the screenwriter put characters in place, not to establish major and minor characters, but a range of characters: what are the family roles in this world, what is the personal history of a character, what are their duties, responsibilities, what are their ethics, what laws do they need to obey. What do they do? If a screen writer tries to work with a character who is just a label then this will lead to a lack of depth in the characterization: as a label the character is a cop, a lawyer, an older brother, an aunt. When a story is developed with plot first there’s a habit to create characters to fit the plot: they do what’s necessary for the story to take place: but then realism is often diminished, the characters don’t seem to have an internal life, they don’t seem to make choices, they are mechanistic.
As with story world setting clear parameters, having well developed characters before a full plotting is produced supports plot. There’s a tendency to try for plot first as it seems the most essential element: it is essential but the plot doesn’t have to be created first. This habit can stem from the practice of film reviews and studies of film setting out plot as the main element of a story. This does clarify what a story is about where it is set, an outline of events, but creating stories does not need to work from this basis. It can develop from emergent narrative: creating setting, creative and a range of characters, and then a story about specific charactrs.
When there are characters in the storyworld like a game, they can do things, things can happen to them, they can decide to act, or be compelled to act, and then like a game, because the player/the characters are in place there are different actions that can be taken which have different possibilities and outcomes, based on character intention, character interaction: so the character is played as in a game. Choices over action are taken and one step follows another as other characters help, impede or stop the main character’s action.
THREE: Develop stories, working on a specific single plotting based on the story setting and characters. Like a game in this development process stories are emergent, there are the possibilities for action and narrative to develop. One character can be identified as a main character and then their stories are developed, and this can be successful or change to another character or multiple characters. The screenwriter can create events in this world that create the need for action and so incite a story. Creating a plot in a story world helps to develop emergent complexity: the characters will need to take a range of actions to undertake a task in the story world, they will face laws, people, personal challenges. Like a game the screenwriter starts knowing the rules, what is possible in the world, what the characters can do, the writer can play and develop a story. This open process, having an expansive story environment can be understood as the fabula, the potential for stories from the raw material.
The impetus, the model for creative writing seems to be to write the first word, the first sentence of the novel, the opening scene of the screenplay, and this is also understood as a tremendous barrier and challenge for the creative writer, so getting the first page completed seems like a success. However, having a range of material to choose from as part of a fabula makes writing so much easier: where does a character live, who are they responsible for, what would they do if they lost a specific item. These have all been developed before the writing of the specific story. There’s a richness in having detailed development rather than setting out a plot like a plan and then attaching things to it. Even when a screenwriter works from a world they know, an actual world, or from historical facts, or a real-life setting, this needs clarity in relation to what this setting is like and what this setting is like for a story narrative: real life has actual events, but these events are not stories in the sense of implicitly dramatic constructions. Creating a drama from a real event is a detailed process: just the actual events in themselves don’t give dramatic characters and dramatic events. This is seen in a film about major historical events, which can often struggle to create the significance of these events in a character based story: what the characters did might be significant, but how they did it, their actions are not dramatic: a group of politicians meet and agree to drop atomic weapons, and this is not a scene, a story event with much drama or conflict between the characters. The solution to this issue, as with creating a storyworld is too look for characters where the historical events were dramatic, and so here there is a drama narrative.
A screenplay in the simplicity of its layout, mainly dialogue, and some directions for action can be taken as easier to write than a novel, which presents so much detail, but the screenplay needs to present a coherent story world, characters in depth, credible action, and doing this within the format of a script is deceptively difficult. Using a process of emergent narrative proves and tests the script as it written: is the story world established, are the characters actions understandable, do they make sense. There is what is happening in the narration of the story, what is stated or shown to be happening on the page of screenplay and then there is action that is understood to have taken place: working from a fabula means that this off screen action is conceived and understood: it is easier to be confident that the audience will follow the story even when things are not explicitly shown or explained if the storyworld is clear: this is a key element in the realism of a story: the audience feels the reality of the world beyond the page, the stage, the screen.
Game design is a discrete practice: it requires specialist skills. Screenwriters don't need to know coding or understand game mechanics, or be able to construct game balance or to use game design to create a story. What screenwriters need is a method that makes them creative so that they can write stories with a realism and a narrative that is accepted by audiences: plot is not one event after another, stories are complex narrations, presenting setting, presenting character, presenting plot. Working as a screenwriter with a vague sense of what is required to narrate a story is not very helpful, so the precision that is the model for games because of the need for game rules, and the concept of emergent narrative and emergent complexity, can be a foundation for developing storytelling skills for film narrative.
Copyright: Eugene Doyen 2019