Monday, November 12, 2018

#2 - The Writing + A Crash Course in Media Communication

So, the writing is the only part I had any experience with going into the project. To give some context, I write stuff. Lots of stuff. Story stuff, opinion stuff, silly stuff, most things in between. (You can see a short list of the things I've made public here.) So here's where I felt comfortable. The story.

I mentioned in my last post that this story needed to be told as a game, and that's mainly because of the way games tell stories. Now, I'm about to dive into an aspect of media consumption that most of us are, at the very least, subconsciously aware of. And that is that every medium brings with it a unique way for an audience to experience a story.

Think of the difference between  how you feel when you're reading a novel verses watching a movie. In the novel, you spend a lot more time digesting and thinking over the material you're reading. You're tasked with imagining the world, the characters, the textures, the sounds, all based off what the writer gives you to interpret. The writer is your guide through this tale, but by all rights you are the one that in charge of creating the experience. And since they already have you invested with the long haul, they can trust you to go with the flow. They don't need to adhere to the same three act structure as a movie might. They can spend time walking you through someone's entire life, or they can keep it to a brief moment.  They can give you little asides into a character's more mundane doings, or take you on a little philosophical walk. They can also place you right into multiple character's heads without it being too jarring.

Movies, however, give you more pieces of the puzzle. They provide visuals, sounds, pacing. They begin with a universally shared starting point, our perception of reality. Defining what we see and hear isn't something they need to worry about. However, without the established presence of the “story teller” walking you through every beat, the film makers and the audience must rely on that set of common expectations. Both parties enter the experience expecting for reality to work as reality tends too, so as to do away with the need to explain what reality is. The film makers rely on the fact that you don’t need a character’s voice explained to you because you can hear it for yourself. And count on that because they only have 90 minutes (give or take) to deliver an experience that books have the luxury of taking days to give. These expectations can be subverted in both mediums, but it often takes a great deal of time or a great deal of cleverness. Time is an element that books have in abundance while movies have then in scarcity.

Essentially, what you have is two different playgrounds. Both have a sandbox, but one has a swing and the other has a slide. The possibilities are endless for each, and there is a little overlap between the two, but you are still playing with a different set of equipment. You're not going to do everything with one that you can with the other. You can play games using just the sandbox, meaning you could play those games on either playground. But, more often then not, the best games to be played will specifically utilize their specific equipment (slide or swing).

So circling back, why a video game? Why do I need that specific equipment to tell this story? 

The best gaming stories are told by inviting the player into the experience, as opposed to other mediums where the audience is only invited to watch. Books can do this too, but with games it’s more necessity then it is happy accident. As such, games play more with empathy then with sympathy. That’s the aspect that I wanted to focus on when crafting the narrative of the game. I didn’t want my  audience to simply observe the main character, I wanted them to step into their shoes.

Yet, at the same time, I still wanted to keep the audience at a bit of a distance. As stated in my previous post, I wanted to create an entry point of sorts, something to allow a deeper understanding of what having anxiety is like but I also wanted to have fun with it. That’s why Socializing Simulator’s player character isn’t a silent protagonist a la Link (Legend of Zelda), Gordon Freeman (Half Life), or what have you. Instead, there’s a protagonist that has an established personality. This game isn’t asking you to be yourself in this world, it’s asking you to be someone else.

And, I promise, there’s good reason for that. 

But that’s a story for another day. Next post I’ll probably dig a little more into the art. I’ve also got some small comics in the works for your readin’ pleasure.

That’s next time. For now, happy holidays.



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