Circle of Story

So why is Will Wright’s keynote so interesting to me? The core of the keynote was a demonstration of his upcoming game, Spore. Yes, thi in itself is interesting. But what’s more interesting is his actual talk, his actual reasoning for developing the game the way he did. What’s interesting is the circle of story and how story – and thus, storytelling – has evolved.

According to Wright, stories are unchanging. They are a chain of events that flow through a larger story.

This, in of itself, warrents some conversation. If stories are unchanging, can we permit stories to be resurrected and retold in new ways, but still retain the same beats and characters and passion; can stories remain unchanging yet flow through a different set of larger events?

The most ready example of this would be the multitude of Hollywood remakes of older movies. What makes these resurected stories successful – and what makes them such failures? And what of stories that are created to be resurrected; there has for years been an X-Men comic, but now there is a movie series as anew version of the smae basic stor, along with multiple cartoon series, video games, and even a refreshed Ultimate X-Men series of comics.

Wright clarifies two of the strengths of linear storytelling:

1) The audience is engaged in not only the story being told, but also the myriad of directions the story can go

2) The storyteller knows the ending and, as such, can craft details and steps to better take the audience to the themes and morals of the story.

This leads us to see that the storyteller has an obligation to the audience; not only myst they string together events to head toward some sort of resolution, the storyteller must put his audience on a path that makes sense, and that perhaps could have been deduced from across the myriad of possible outcomes; and that the storyteller’s path was once worth listening instead of the audience departing down an alternate path in their own mind.

But now, Wright tells us something different is happening:

“Computers can start understanding what story a player is following, and the game can change on the fly to adapt to that type of story. Eventually games will learn player behavior a lot faster through adaptive mapping and story parsing, so the player’s intended story can change, via music, events, lighting, and even the events that happen in the game. “This is similar to what happens to Jim Carrey and The Truman Show. He’s wandering around through his life, and the director is controlling what happens to him, but he can’t break the bonds of what ‘Truman’s Life’ is.” The Truman Show and Groundhog Day are the two best examples of linear storytelling.”

It is possible for Wright to adapt the story being told to the audience’s choices; now longer is it a storyteller and an audience; the storyteller is crafting the player’s story.

So how is this reflected in society? How can a book publisher engage a world where linear stories have evolved? How can we resurrect stories that are integral to our lives into player stories that are dynamic and change with each action we take? If stories are becoming more and more lifelike – to the point of being almost organic and interacting with the storyteller and the story player – do stories become more important and life less so?

How can I take the truths that I know and tell them as truths – as something more than just a story?

edit: the link to Will Wright’s Spore keynote coverage:

http://www.joystiq.com/2007/03/13/sxsw-joystiq-live-at-the-will-wright-keynote/

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