Story and Winning

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the future of stories and of games. I’m trying to reconcile the two, and it’s not working.

Stories are, well, stories. They recount events and people to evoke an emotional response in their listeners; they educate, illustrate, fascinate and other …ates. They are history, they are factual without being fact. They can be written, fixed in place, or they can be improvised and fluid.

Games are agreed-upon rules for people to compete, often with an overarching metaphor. In the most macro sense. Games can be based on stories, and have some narrative elements, but games are not stories.

At least, that’s what my gut says.

There are stories that emerge from games — metastories, I guess. The drama that comes from a good chess game can be remembered for years; but the story is not part of the rules themselves.

Now video games are starting to change things. There are games that are “story-driven”, like Mass Effect 3 or Bioshock. And yes, you can get wrapped up in those narratives. But do you ever lose the drive to win?

And what does that do to the story? Would we ever ask an actor in a play to try to win? And if we don’t in a game, is it no longer a game? What does it become? Does it become a story with game-like elements?

Anyways, that’s what’s been on my mind.