185: Story Time with Agent 47

Story Time with Agent 47

The best videogame narratives are often the ones you write yourself. Michael Cook talks to a few game writers who have been uniquely inspired by their favorite medium.

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Nice read, I had no idea this genre was getting this popular. You can find a ton of great stuff like RPS's Planetside essay or Tim Stone's recreation of a flight across the Atlantic that are in the same vein. What always distinguishes these essays from the fan fiction, in my mind, is that often people will approach the game with an agenda. Arbitrarily discussing a game is one thing, talking about what happens when you try to play the game as someone evil or a pacifist is quite another.

Awesome! ^_^

I wanted to do the same thing for ages, yet I was discouraged by the fact that it will most likely sound like fan fiction or a simple game commentary. I'm a PC game reviewer for many years now, and writing a blog about my adventures in Heroes 4, Civ 4 or Oblivion somehow always felt conflicing with my duties as a reviewer. Because when I write reviews I have to be objective and stick to point. After reviewing the story, the gameplay, the graphics and all the nuances the game has, there is very little wordcount left to trail off and tell my (mis)adventures and stories in the game world. I have my own blog on the webzine's site, and I use to write articles about various topics like gaming culture, techology, stories or real life issues I care about the most, but this kinda "in-game" blogging always seemed out of place somehow. Maybe because it seems unprofessional somehow, or I don't know.

But after reading this article, I feel inclined to start writing one. Maybe I start with the next game I get to review...

Thanks! \o/

The (non-)adventures of Nondrick are quite a lot of fun to read :) And Concerned, of course.

I hadn't heard about the other ones, though. Must look them up.

Thank you for this excellent article. What falls short for me though is the lack of setting this apart from fan fiction, because to my untrained eye it looks like fan fiction - only fan fiction that is really well done. I am glad you do note that it does seem to require games that allow a breadth of options to the player, allowing a writer to approach the playing of the game and the subsequent telling of the story as they see fit.

Interestingly enough, I have stumbled across when seeking more stories like Concerned, a game for which one of the main motivations for the game is the telling of stories to others: Dwarf Fortress - http://www.bay12games.com/forum/index.php?board=14.0

CanadianWolverine:
Interestingly enough, I have stumbled across when seeking more stories like Concerned, a game for which one of the main motivations for the game is the telling of stories to others: Dwarf Fortress - http://www.bay12games.com/forum/index.php?board=14.0

Tru dat, yo! It's quite interesting, but I first read about Dwarf Fortress right here, on Escapist. I can't find the actual issue right now, but I remember there was an article about the game and Bay 12 Games. There is no game like it. Dwarf Fortress is a unique...um...simulator, you can't really call it a game per say. It's more like a highly sophisticated simulator. You can play the fortress part, the adventurer part or you can read the history of the land, of which you yourself can be a part of. It's amazing.

Granted, the graphics are seriously outdated, I mean 1990 outdated, but it does the job. The controls are insanely complex, the learning curve is more like learning straight wall, but still...it's the best there is, for stories. Everything you do in the world (which is generated for you at random, or using specific options) will be entered into the history of the land. Everything you interact with will have your mark in the history. And it's all FREE. I think if any, this game deserves respect and appreciation.

I'm rather sad. TEAM RED blog was awesome in every way. Back then, I didn't even know what the heck these things are called, but damn it was fun to read. Too bad the author stops updating it since last year--I still go back to check on it periodically, hoping one day it would be updated again.

Nice. I recall narrating AAR to my friends, but it never hit me as potentially interesting literature. Especially to non-gamers.

On the other hand, the more it feels like a fan fiction the less it has chances of being too specific. If written like a diary...then I'm not so sure. Nevertheless, I had no idea these were popular.

Currently, what are the best/popular examples of AAR? To what side do they tend? Diary-like or "fanfic"ish?

It's good to see - as I'd suspected - that a few of you had already done this but weren't sure what to do with it. You need to get your work out there! Once more of it's hitting the internet, people start to take notice and the communities grow.

Glad you all enjoyed it. Please post your favourite blogs in the comments so we can get a look at some more!

great read...

Interesting. I read Concerned, and have been reading Living in Oblivion for a few months. I had heard of After Action Reports before, but never really looked into them. It's neat knowing other people are also doing them on blog-type sites. Probably pretty hard to find them, though.

There's something similar over on the Something Awful forums, which I'm completely addicted to: the Let's Play thread. The biggest difference, though: LPs that conclude on the forum usually get archived in the massive Let's Play Archive. The number of games in there is insane - most of them, I've never even heard of.

Here's a short quote from their FAQ thread, which explains them pretty well:

Q: What is a Let's Play (LP) thread?
A: It's a documented playthrough of something that, at the very minimum, resembles a game; how the author chooses to present it is incredibly varied. Some use screenshots, some use video. Some let the readers make decisions, others plow on through and use the thread for discussion. Some are serious and informative while others are parodies. For some examples, see the LP archive - details below.

Naturally, I have some awesome recommendations. I'm keeping my eye on a few ongoing ones, (there are lots on the forum I linked above) but some of the archived ones are just plain epic.

Dwarf Fortress - The Saga of Boatmurdered. Since CanadianWolverine already mentioned DF, I feel obliged to add this. :) Referred to as one of the major reasons people get involved in Dwarf Fortress in the first place, it's both hilarious and horrifying, an account of a succession game where each player saves the fortress and passes it onto the next person in line at the end of every ingame year. Basically they take turns running it into the ground. Boatmurdered: It's what you'd get if you took a Dystopia, set loose a pack of murderous vomiting elephants in it, and lit the remains on fire.

Fallout and Fallout 2. Both written as first-person journals, for the most part, of the main characters going through their respective games. The first is about Smith, a ho-hum good-natured guy around whom people die horribly, as he tries to save Vault 13. The second is a 3-intelligence playthrough that am all about Trogg. Trogg am on quest! Trogg punchstuff verygood! Trogg am go findstuff and save home. Trogg am make lots friends, but Trogg am be confuse veryverymuch. Both are a riot. They can be read in either order, since they aren't really related.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. When I say "some LPs are epic in scale", this is the one that towers over top of them. It's 92 chapters long. It took me over 2 months to read through it in my free time. It's essentially what you'd get if you crossed a full novelization of GTA:SA's story with a 100% completion playthrough (a medically accepted sign of insanity). It's also a hybrid of screenshots and video, as it has frequent animated clips in it. I've never played a GTA game before and doubt I ever will, they're just not my kind of thing, but this story was amazing.

Also of note, the LP'er raocow does some utterly crazy video-LPs. This Commander Keen one, for example. He's an unstoppable motormouth and something of a klutz, and watching him stumble through a game, talking a mile a minute the entire time just cracks me up.

Finally, this "Half-Life 2" (cough) LP. Trust me - it has to be seen to be believed.

So... there ya go. If you're anything like me, I've just about killed your free time for the next 3 months... ;)

CanadianWolverine:
Thank you for this excellent article. What falls short for me though is the lack of setting this apart from fan fiction, because to my untrained eye it looks like fan fiction - only fan fiction that is really well done. I am glad you do note that it does seem to require games that allow a breadth of options to the player, allowing a writer to approach the playing of the game and the subsequent telling of the story as they see fit.

Interestingly enough, I have stumbled across when seeking more stories like Concerned, a game for which one of the main motivations for the game is the telling of stories to others: Dwarf Fortress - http://www.bay12games.com/forum/index.php?board=14.0

If you have not had the chance to read the GalCivII AARs that Tom Francis did, you should avail yourself of them, and see if they still seem like fan-fiction. While this may not be a true delineation, in my head I mark the difference that fan-fiction merely takes place in a universe recognizable as related to a given fictional setting. For the items discussed in this article, the GalCivII stuff in particular, everything discussed actually took place in the game, and the writer is merely adding context (of what was going on in the player's mind, of what could theoretically have been driving the opponent's mind if they weren't just algorithms.)

Because you mentioned Dwarf Fortress, I was reminded of this awesome thing I had read somewhere where different people had managed a fortress for a generation then passed it along, but for the LIFE of me, I couldn't remember where or what it was. Thankfully, MooseHowl brought it up anyway. The Saga of Boatmurdered is hilarious, and yet it all takes place in-game.

On that note, Concerned seems to edge more to fan-fiction to me, much in the way of The Reclaimer or Red vs. Blue, despite how closely tied it is to the main storyline of the canon HL2.

I just want it to be clear that when I use the term "fan fiction", I do not use this with any kind of derogative intention. I love fan fiction, write little short stories from time to time in much the same sense as the "LP" mentioned above for my own enjoyment - strangely enough, because it is as easy as writing a journal for real life. I have noticed some places calling something fan fiction is meant to devalue it, which I think is wrong. If anything, I eagerly await discovering new fan fictions about games - which this thread is a virtual treasure trove for!

Oh, and I don't have the links anymore, but I remember stumbling across LPs for NetHack. Ho.lee.Crap. Here, I will go google and see if I can share them with my fellow forum goers with an edit.

Edit: Here we are, these are fun and funny - http://www.audentes.ee/~virgo/Nethack/stories.shtml
I also remember one about someone trying to reach the end of the game and after many epic chapters ... her cat performed a keyboard dance and the character was toast, so very close to its goal.

 

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