Emergent Narrative and Encouraging Emergent Play

Games have two different kinds of narratives: Explicit and Emergent. Explicit Narrative is the story that the game tells to the player, and Emergent Narrative is the story the player creates for themselves as they play the game.

Perhaps the most noticeable game featuring Emergent Play is Minecraft, which sold to Microsoft for 2.5 billion dollars. Since then, Sandbox and Survival games have taken off, generating countless titles, almost all of which are Early Access, only a few of which will ever see completion.

Any time you get your player to say: “I Did ______ in [Insert Game Name]” then you have created Emergent Play [EP].

How do you get your player to put themselves in the place of their avatar? How do you encourage them to make decisions and create their own Narrative?

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Yes, I Write Professionally

Every day I don’t spend Writing or developing a project feels like a waste.

Its been this way for a few years. Time that I have spent, for instance, writing out over 350 pages filling 3 notebooks, writing the better part of 2 plays a pilot and half of a novel. I used to write every single day, Now I’m lucky if I have time to sit and work on my days off.

Its been a theme of my last few months. A constant droning voice gnawing away at what I assume is my mind, telling me in some eldritch tongue that I need to write more to service the elder-gods, or some other nonsense.

Even so, I don’t like to refer to myself as a “Writer”.

The term has too much baggage. Whenever I say, “I Write”, there is an immediate look on someones face. There are always questions.

“Have you written anything I know?”

That would be code for, “Are you published?”. The answer is: Not Yet.

“What do you write?”

A question thats kind of like asking someone what neighborhood they live in when you don’t know the city. I appreciate the interest and will give you the logline, but most of the time its met with the blank look that reminds me how much of a rhetorical question “What I write” usually is.

Words. I write Words.

“But what do you do for a living?”

Starve, mostly. Or, more realistically, I have a job and write when I can.

“Oh that’s lovely”

You can often hear the condescension drip like… Well… Condensation. I hope the inadequacy of that simile illustrates how few fucks I give.

But always it comes down to one essential question that people seem to have: “Do you make a living writing?”

No. I don’t.

Not many people do.

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t write professionally. 

I don’t know if I have enough experience or gravitas to speak eloquently on this matter. After all, it was only 3 years ago that I even began pursuing writing as a career. But it seems if I haven’t gotten paid for writing, there is an expectation that I should say that I am an “Aspiring Writer”.

But I’m not aspiring to anything, I’m working. Its my second and my third job. I am sure that a lot of other “Aspiring Writers” feel exactly the same way.

Why would we do such a disservice to the work we are doing by referring to our writing as anything other than professional?

 

 


A Story That Needs to be Told, Part 1

I’ve struggled with this.

I have Stories I want to tell, Stories I am able to tell, and Stories I want to tell, but can’t. This one falls into the third category.

But to set the stage, you need to watch this…

Legend has it that John Wayne himself had to be physically restrained from dragging her off the stage

In 1973, at the 45th Academy Awards, Marlon Brando won best performance. Instead of accepting the award, he sent up Sacheen Littlefeather to deny his Oscar. This was far from the beginning, and far from the end. But if I am going to start in the middle, it might as well be from here.

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Why I Stopped Watching “Red Band Society”

I have never found a more perfect example of how misplaced direction and intent can ruin a show.

For those who don’t follow Network Television, Red Band Society premiered this fall with a promising pilot that centered around the inhabitants of a children’s hospital.

I find a small amount of Irony in the fact that these kids with Cancer, Anorexia, Congenital Heart Defects, and Cystic Fibrosis will have a happier ending than their show will. But don’t get me wrong, I’d be very happy with a happy ending. But when you place characters in a position of adversity, especially one as adverse as being a mostly parentless dual-citizen minor without health insurance, then you expect them to be dealing with something more serious than the Love Triangle they found themselves in.

This was the root of the problem. Out of all of the stories that could be told about the state of medicine in the US, or dealing with your own mortality before society legally considers you an adult, they instead chose to have the cheerleader fall for the tooth-pick chewing bad-boy.

It was as if the reality of their situation was superseded by what someone thought kids would find important. You could have taken these same exact plots and moved them to any other location and all you would have had to change  “Cancer” to “I didn’t get the iPhone I wanted for christmas”.

But this is a common theme in most of these “Youth Dramedy” shows, isn’t it? The inability to let children have Adult problems? And when they do, A La ‘Secret Life of the American Teenager’, there is the assumption that someone who is 16 (Who can be tried as an adult in most states), can’t face their own problems.

What is absolutely (and very hyperbolically) killing me about “Red Band Society”, is that every single production element is spot on. The show looks gorgeous, every single one of the actors is great, and the writing, when it is allowed to be, is fun and inventive. This show failed on only one front: It didn’t challenge anyone.

These are children who are fighting for their lives in a healthcare system that is likely bankrupting their parents. An Underweight young woman who is fighting her own Mental Illness surrounded by people fighting very physical illnesses; A Cheerleader with a cocaine addiction; a young man whose cancer has been neglected in favor of folk medicine. You can’t tell me that the show they wrote was the only one they could have written.

We deserve better.


What God, Chapter 6

After a brief employment-inspired pause, Here is Chapter 6! Here is Chapter 5 for those who want it

What I had to do before anything else was to figure out Kraden’s timeline for the night, something to do before the blood-work was in. After that I had to find out who the “She” was and what she had to do with Kraden’s old job as the CEO of Æthenmus.

Walking into Adam Kraden’s campaign headquarters made me wonder if they even knew he was dead. I expected to see at least an intern composing themselves, mopping tears with a tie or tissue. Paid or unpaid, it looked like everyone still had a job to do. 

So I walked up to the nearest secretary, “I’m Detective Grant, here to investigate the murder of Adam Kraden”

He didn’t bat an eye, just stared at me for a second and, “Take a seat we’ll be right with you.”

Nothing makes a man feel more unimportant than the bureaucratic power of the waiting room.

I sat and waited for 10 minutes while catching snippets of the office buzz. It sounded mostly like volunteers assuring constituents; saying that his campaign was being taken over by his campaign manager, yes she is a good person, yes she has the same platform, sadly campaign donations are not refundable, the money has already been used.

Then I heard her. “Sir, you are welcome to withdraw your continued funding… yes I understand… But if you don’t feel I can do as good a job as…” She faltered, seemingly unable to say his name, “Yes, sorry… Yes I’ll be fine. Thank you sir. I’ll be fine.” She was a tall woman coming through the cubicles. When she ended the phone call her eyes hardened and her voice was immediately steady as she talked to the aides around her. “Gretchen Thomas, Detective Grant. Its good to meet you.” She didn’t seem to care that I knew the phone call was a performance.

“I hear you’re running for the seat?” She paused for a second, maybe betraying her humanity, maybe evaluating what I knew. I didn’t trust her.

“There is a lot of money in this campaign. It goes to waste or I run for the seat” The aides around her studied their phones. “My office?”

I followed. She led me to a small room off the side of the large office. Probably Kraden’s. “Haven’t moved yet?”

“I’m going to turn it into a lounge. Something for the volunteers” She sat down and straightened her desk, not looking at me. Everyone is guilty of something and I wasn’t here to be her friend.

“I need to know what Kraden was doing last night.”

“I have his schedule right here-“

“No, I need to know what he was doing last night”

A look of understanding dawned on her, “I don’t understand.”

“His schedule tells me what his schedule was last night, I want to know what he was doing.” Her face was tight. “I’m not press, this is a closed investigation. You can tell me right here or I can drive you to the precinct and do it there.” It was an old trick. But the old tricks worked.

After chewing the inside of her lip for a few seconds, “He had an interview at 7 for a late-night show. After that he came back and was signing letters until he left.” She was lying. She knew I knew she was lying. I’ll still have to do this the hard way.

“Has he been acting weird the last few days? Anything out of place? any calls or mail?”

“Not that I remember.”

“Where do you keep your death threats?”

This made her sputter, “They weren’t serious, there were only a few- we never bothered to report them. How did you know?”

“A leap of faith.” A progressive reform campaign mounted by an ex-CEO? Of course there were death threats. “I’d like to see them.”

She walked into Kraden’s office. It was neat and well organized. On her way in Gretchen passed the desk and straightened out one of the pencil holders offhandedly, like it was second nature. “He kept them in his desk. He liked to flip through them to remind him that he was doing the right thing”

It would have been funny. “Was he ever threatened in person?”

“No.” She was holding onto the death threats. I held out my hand and she reluctantly passed them to me. “There were always protestors, but-“

“What time did he leave last night?”

Her face fell a bit. Not an act like the phone call, but something like guilt or empathy. “I don’t remember”

“Call me if you do. We’ll be in touch Ms. Thomas.”

She showed me out of Kraden’s office and went back to hers. I walked out to the main floor of the office and everyone there was working furiously. They had been listening. I smiled and turned to the room.

“Hello everyone!” I wasn’t shouting, but I didn’t need to. They all stopped, “Hello! My name is Michael Grant, I’m a detective. We need to construct a timeline for Mr. Kraden’s last few days.”  I reached into my coat and pulled out a silver case, I pulled a small stack of business cards out of them, “If any of you have seen anything out of place or weird or even worth knowing, please contact us.” I held the cards up high and walked over to the large chrome coffee maker. I made myself up a cup and put the business cards on top.

As I left a few people in the office decided it was time that their mugs needed refilling. This might have been worth the drive.


What God, Chapter 5

Another Chapter! Chapter 4 Here

I knew that crime scene. I’d seen it before, spread over a loading dock in an alley in midtown. A scene I left chasing a man who was running from the scene. He was covered in blood. A man who I fired at and accidentally hit a lady further down the alley. She later apologized for getting in my way. The bullet is still in her collarbone, and she baked me a  cake to say sorry.

The worst part was that the body disappeared when I got back to the loading dock.

So I took a squad car back to the precinct and I stopped on the highway to grab a bottle of water out of the trunk. I was getting lightheaded. I’d have to twist some balls to get the blood-work off of the scene by tonight. Its not that I didn’t appreciate what the techs did, I just wanted to have some real evidence to follow before I started chasing ghosts. Ghosts seemed to like long car rides anyways.

“I don’t want you to start looking into this” Misha was right, of course. My only stake in this investigation was supposed to be the murder of Adam Kraden.

“But there is too strong a chance that it could be linked.” She knew I wasn’t wrong.

“Michael, you have a pad of paper that doesn’t say anything and-“

“It says-“

“It doesn’t mean anything!” It didn’t mean much, but it meant something.

“Look at this thing, Misha.” The evidence bag and the pad was between us on her desk. “Kraden was holding this before he died.” I flipped it over, showing her the bloody fingerprints on the back.

“Then tell me what to do about it.”

“Nothing. Not yet.” Misha wasn’t happy. A dead politician and a commissioner who didn’t approve in her choice of detective was enough to make anyone jumpy. For Misha? She was pissed. I didn’t like waiting to drop the worse news on her, but I’d rather she kick me out than spend another hour yelling at me.

“Why,” She pinched the bridge of her nose and measured her words carefully, “The Hell. Are. You. Here.”

“I wanted to let you know that this might be more complicated than the murder,” I heard her mumble a small ‘fantastic’ before I continued, “And also that I am adding the midtown files to this case. The body I witnessed is concurrent with the way Kraden was killed.” I was scared for a second that she was going to lunge over the desk and kill me with a paperweight. She didn’t. I would later wish she did.

“This is my career on the line too. If you fuck up, I fucked up”

“Do you trust me?”

“No, but I believe you.” This wasn’t the response I expected.

Being witness to something like Midtown and then having no evidence to back it up and having no one believe you- It’s an awful thing. You start to become obsessed with proving it. The midtown file was nothing more than my report and some nearby security camera footage.

What I wanted to do was to dig back into it, to link it somehow to Kraden or to find any lead at all. I wanted to make it real. And the worst part about this was that just in the early dark hours of this morning I was driving around trying to make myself finally let go of it. I wanted so bad to let it go. But then I see the parts of Kraden laid around his living room. Now I can’t.

I was back at my desk sipping a cup of coffee for twenty minutes before I even realized I had gotten the file. It was open on my desk. I forced myself to close it.


Devil’s House: For You To Listen To.

Well I guess I’ve strayed into multimedia.

My friend and housemate Scott Key helped me out by throwing a little voice acting onto Devil’s House. I’m pretty damn pleased with the product, and this may be the mode of distribution from here on out.

The first two chapters are currently being hosted on SoundCloud. I encourage you to give a listen. They aren’t yet available for download- but they will be at a later date.

Please listen! Enjoy!