Thursday, 4 November 2010

Ludology versus Narratology

The ludology versus narratology debate has been going on since the start of games production. The idea is that narratologists believe that games have narrative that coincides with the other components of the game wherefore ludologists believe that a game is primary a game through its actions; rules, gameplay and user interface. I will look at both sides of this debate and express my opinion on both behalves.

The ludologists think of games the same as everybody, they're for entertainment purposes but they believe that the rules and gameplay is the key to a successful game. This is true and in the sense that rules determine what a player can and cannot do. Also gameplay is the largest component of the game that creates the series of interesting choices for the player to suspend their disbelief for a period of time. But I would argue that in games like Final Fantasy or Zelda the story is strongly related to the game. With a story the player develops a personal relationship with the character they play, this enhances the gameplay. I could also say a story is set in stone, a straight line and the player cannot interact with it which is the definition of a game. But there are games that include multiple endings according to what the player does throughout, for example Fahrenheit, Heavy Rain and Fable.

Also if I explore Final Fantasy X-2, the story is not linear instead the player can go to the end goal immediately, although they would probably fail because they don’t have the experience to defeat the end boss. Although this is restricted sometimes as the game is trying to tell a story, but it’s linked with many other smaller stories. Also a core part of a game is a back story; again I go back to the comment that the player develops a personal relationship with the characters. This is enhanced by a back story.
Games like Call of Duty I don’t see as narrative though, for me I go about just completing the objectives. Yet another person would be completely immersed in the war time story. This emphasises that people are different and have oppositional views to that of another person, so therefore supporting the uses and gratification model of game design (whao I totally forgot what this means but I remember that basically it's when you do something in the game you are rewarded and so you are encouraged to keep playing).
But again in the act of saying that the ludologists are correct, what about games like chess and draughts, how does a story enhance the gameplay within these games? In the package of these games they don’t contain a story; they tell us the rules so the player can play the game correctly, objectives are different than a story.

The relationship between the reader/viewer and the story world is different from the relation between the player and the game world” (Jesper Juul)

This quote expresses how different mediums tell stories. In novels and in films the story is linear, we read from A to B with no interaction and consequence on the story. This is different for games because of the interactivity; a player has to control the avatar in order to achieve the next part in the game. Interactivity is the biggest difference between that of games and other media.

So if games aren’t stories then why is a department of game design story writing? When someone asks you about a game normally the first thing you do is tell the story, as it is the most memorable component they find important. The industry recognises the importance of a story so why can’t ludologists?
In another debate Michael Mateas and Andrew stern believe that in order to have a successful game it must have “player agency”. This can be spilt up into local and global, what they refer to when talking about this is the effect the player has on the game world. Local agency means the effects right at this moment in the game, so for example flipping a switch causes a door to open. Global means the effects the player has in the game over a longer period due their choices before, a great example of this is Fable 2 in which the avatar disappears from the main game world for ten years and they return many changes have been made depending on what the player did previously. Overall they support a position in between the debate so neither think ludologists or narratologists are correct. This is where I lye in this debate, the integration of gameplay and stories are both significant in order to create a good game. For me I suspend my disbelief in the story and immerse in the game world. The gameplay provides the series of interesting choices that makes me continue and so it’s the combination of the both that makes a good game for me. 

Why are they arguing in the first place? Well as an example I will use Fairy Odd parents. Timmy wishes everyone was the same because he was bullied about his weird butt teeth. Wanda and Cosmo grant the wish which turns everyone into grey blobs. Timmy then confronts his bully in which he still gets bullied because apparently the bully is the grey-est of the grey and ends up picking on him once again. Long story short it is in people's nature to argue, this issue won't be resolved because they are as stubborn as each other. Even in a perfect world it would be imperfect because there will be someone who still wants to pick a fight. I was out on the street the other day, I crossed the corner and almost bumped into a guy but I swerved to miss him. I walked on and then he shouted after me saying "Did you say something mate?" I turned around and was like "What?". Again he repeated the question and I replied "no", in which his super smart brain came up with "Aye you better not'n". In conclusion people are dicks.

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