Being, Experiencing, and Executing Story

I wanted to talk about my experiences as both a player in the LARP and as a game maker during Queer Game Night. In some ways, it’s hard to compare the two, because they were very different games, and very different scenarios. At the same time, there’s still a few universal experiences that comes with the gaming process, from making to playing. In particular, I’d like to relate my experience to the playcentric approach of game design, as discussed by Tracy Fullerton. I’d also like to discuss story building and narrative for the player and the game designer.

For those of you who were not able to go to the LARP earlier in the quarter, it was a game set in modern times in a small, backwater town with elements of fantasy added to it. This setting was already made for a previous campaign, though the story was new for our group. The character I created was Miss Kitty Gainsborough (no autographs, please. Alright, maybe a few, if you insist), a wealthy socialite who happened to have demon blood within her. As much fun as I had playing Kitty, there was a moment, standing in a room with only a few people lingering, I thought ‘Am I an NPC?’. Most of my gameplay experience consisted of standing in a spot and waiting for someone to come up to me and initiate conversation. This was, in part, because of the nature of my character herself- she doesn’t work, and her method to solve problems is to pay someone to fix it. Why would she go running about the woods or investigating murders? On the other hand, I couldn’t help but wish the storytellers were more active in trying to hook my character in the narratives being developed. Not once did her demonic nature come up, nor did the fact that her family’s wealth was dwindling and she wasn’t as rich as she made herself out to be. Of course, I think the storytellers did a wonderful job, and I definitely did have fun, but I wonder if there were others who felt like their character hadn’t been brought to the fullest potential, and how, if possible, that could be rectified.

On the flip side, I had experience in starting to make a card game at Queer Game Night. My group had to build a game off of the mechanic of ‘coming out’. It would seem like it would be relatively easy to make a thought-provoking game off of such a mechanic, something that is well known to the general populace, but not as commonly experienced by people outside of the LGBT community. Yet, we kept coming back to ‘why would people want play this’ or ‘why would people play this how we want them to’? By the second question, I’m specifically thinking of how we wanted to make a card game about coming out that was cooperative, rather than competitive. We wanted to craft a game that was more wholesome and welcoming. Yet, how do we inspire people to want to play a game like that, and how to we keep them entertained while playing? While we were working as a group, we didn’t necessary speak about a playcentric model, but most of our roadblocks and potential issues we discussed were related to player enjoyment and motivation, and how that jived with the kind of game we wanted to create.

In relation to narrative, I feel like this is the driving motivation for myself both as a player and a game creator. The urge to create and fulfill Kitty’s story is what eventually lead me to help summon a spirit, steal bodies from a hospital, and make impromptu graves, all of which you’d hardly expect a flighty socialite to participate in. On the other hand, as a game creator, I was focused on trying to create a game that would allow a group of people, in a way, build their ‘coming out’ story. I believe that this implementation and building of narrative is what would motivate the players to play my game, as opposed to being motivated by competition.

As both a player and creator, I’ve found how important it is to think of the player throughout the process, from the very start of brainstorming for a game, to the moment of implementation. It is, after all, the player for which a game is made. I also find that narrative is a tool to help engage the player in the same way mechanics are; it can hook players in, it can keep them interested, or it can even motivate them to action, to find out what comes next.