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驳Raph Koster对叙事并非游戏机制的看法

发布时间:2012-07-17 18:02:30 Tags:,,,

引言

我偶然阅读了Raph Koster的《叙事元素是反馈形式而非游戏机制》这篇文章,并发现其中包含了一些我难以认同的观点。如今在互联网中经常会出现各种错误的观点,但是这篇文章却值得我们一一提出并进行分析。尽管其中也不乏优秀的想法,但是那些负面观点却有可能阻碍我们的电子游戏媒体的扩展之路。

“游戏”

游戏是一个概括且模糊的单词。我可以将其指向桌游,赌博,政治,毒品交易,体育等内容。Raph用了较大的篇幅去讨论电子游戏(游戏邦注:Raph用黑盒子来比喻这种游戏),但是随后他又转向了老虎机并以“选择你自己的故事”为例进行说明。我认为这种不明确的定义将会引出一个重要的问题:电子游戏与其它像象棋,足球等游戏是不同的,尽管它们总是被组合在一起。

电子游戏的不同之处在于它会向玩家施加各种规则。所以我们不可能在玩电子游戏的过程中出现差错,然而在踢足球或下象棋(现实体验)时却很有可能出现错误的方式。电子游戏不只代表一些游戏规则,它同时也将推动玩家去体验其中的每一个规则。甚至是一些基本的自然法则,如摩擦和重力也在电子游戏中扮演着非常重要的角色。电子游戏并不是在遵循一个特别的规则集,而是将这些规则整合到虚拟世界中并体现出来。我们有可能在电子游戏中犯错的唯一可能便是改变其虚拟现实的结构或找到一些可利用的缺陷(这点其实并不准确,有些人会说当玩《马里奥》时在头几个像素中来回奔跑并不是一种正确的游戏方式,但是我只是在阐述自己的观点而已)。

我的观点是当我们在讨论电子游戏时,其它游戏总是会被混合到其中,也就是我们在这里提到的情况。而这并不说我们在此应该尝试去了解和学习其它类型的游戏,只是当我们想要说明电子游戏这种媒体的优劣时,我们便需要想清楚我们所谈论的对象到底是什么。

存在问题

这一点困扰我很久了——也就是电子游戏必须提供给玩家某种类型的挑战。而这将引出各种问题,更重要的是这一理念要求我们必须在电子游戏中添加试错法。但是我却认为这种想法会遏制电子游戏的发展。

Raph通过列举“删除黑盒中的问题,游戏就只是一个幻灯片”而传达了这一想法。但是我却认为一旦你拥有了这种心态,你便会错失一些重要的内容。举个例子来说吧,如果我们始终坚持每种有意义的互动的本质都具有一定的问题和挑战,那么便不可能创造出《失忆症》这款游戏。同时也不可能看到像《亲爱的艾斯特》等游戏的诞生。除此之外抱着这种心态你将会把《寂静岭》中所有优秀的内容都当成糟糕的电子游戏设计。

Game Rules(from iplcricketmania.blogspot.com)

Game Rules(from iplcricketmania.blogspot.com)

我认为电子游戏的核心并不是提供给我们各种问题,而应该将我们带到虚拟世界并沉浸其中。虽然有时候问题也是蛮有效的,但是却并非长久有效。并且这些问题也并非游戏的核心体验。

反馈需具有趣味性

Raph是以一种非常简单的方式去阐述反馈(图像,音效等):它们只是用来加强基本机制。但是我却认为任何形式的反馈都不只如此。我认为我们可以将图像等元素置于最上方,并利用各种机制去探索这些内容,然后根据图像(而非其它方式)去完善游戏玩法。

比起将反馈当成是一种解决问题的奖励,我认为我们更应该将其视为提高玩家在虚拟世界中的存在感的一种方法。它能够让电子游戏中的虚拟世界变得更具有吸引力,且区别于小说和电影中的世界。如果我们将反馈作为一种沉浸工具,我们便不会再将互动视为问题。同时这也引出了一个更具包容性的观点——即电子游戏到底是什么,比起早前狭隘的观点,这更能帮助我们为游戏媒体的进化构建更好的平台。

“叙事”

我认为这篇文章出现了太多混淆性单词了。在电影理论中叙事是指讲故事方式(游戏邦注:角色和情节是如何融合在一起)。而当Raph在“选择你自己的冒险”游戏中提到叙事时,他所指的则是情节。所以这并不是叙事,而是情节(例如一些特别的事件),并且这种行为将在玩家输入时给予奖励。

我们最好将叙事当成是一种主观的整体。就像Chris Bateman认为所有的游戏都在阐述故事,并且更有趣的是所有艺术都是某种形式的游戏。也有人认为(不是我)叙事就像在电影中那样是一种讲故事方式(融合了情节和角色),所以在这种情况下叙事便是一种表示游戏机制的涵盖性术语。但是不管怎样我都不认为Raph使用了足够准确的描述字眼,并且我想他的标题如果换成“情节不是游戏机制”可能会更合适。这么表达的话文章要点就跟“动画/音效等不是游戏机制”一样清楚了。

我们似乎一直都在纠结语义上的问题,但是我真心认为这一点非常重要。如今故事,情节和叙事的意思总是会被混在一起,从而让“我们的游戏是否应该关注故事”等讨论失去了意义。语言是我们思考的主要工具,而如果我们未能明确一个合适的术语我们便不能有效地进行思考。

the-joker(from biggamehunterca.blogspot.com)

the-joker(from biggamehunterca.blogspot.com)

Raph在文章中列举《蝙蝠侠阿甘之城》时的表述对我来说便是一种不良思考的表现。“带有Joker的预告片会出现在电视上”是一种叙事元素,但是省略了在此之前的爬升内容便是忽略电子游戏媒体优势的表现。对我来说带有Joker的预告片纯粹就是一个情节,我们有必要阐述清楚并且这也不是什么有趣的内容。真正有趣的是之前爬向大教堂的情节。因为那时候玩家将扮演蝙蝠侠的角色并执行互动操作,从而形成真正具有吸引力的叙事。

就像我之前曾经说过的,为了更好地完善游戏中的叙事方式我们需要适当脱离情节去考虑故事。

总结

虽然本文主要讨论区分不同单词的意义以及如何理解一些概念,但是我也希望借此阐述一种非常重要的问题。电子游戏是从简单的模拟游戏、街机游戏以及桌游的基础上发展而来的,它对后者的延续也深刻影响着我们今天的设计想法,而其中有许多想法却阻碍了游戏媒体的向前发展。对于我们来说唯一的解决方法便是重新塑造心态并抛弃根深蒂固的旧思想(即关于电子游戏是什么以及该如何发展等)。只有挣脱过去的镣铐我们才能真正自由地探索未来。

游戏邦注:原文发表于2012年1月23日,所涉事件和数据均以当时为准。(本文为游戏邦/gamerboom.com编译,拒绝任何不保留版权的转载,如需转载请联系:游戏邦

Narrative not a game mechanic?

Introduction

I just stumbled upon Raph Koster’s “Narrative is not a game mechanic” and found that it contains some stuff that I do not really agree with. Now, thinking somebody on the internet is wrong happens all the time, but I think this article brings up some stuff that warrants a reply. While it has up a few good points, it also contains views on a few concept that I think can be quite damaging when trying to expand upon the medium of videogames.

“Game”

The word game is a very broad and fuzzy one. I can refer to boardgames, gambling, politics, drug dealing, sports and whatnot. For more part of the the article, Raph seems to be talking about videogames (given the black box analogy and that he specifically says “racing videogame”), but then later on slot machines and choose-your-own-stories are used as examples. Now one can see this as just using simply making a point, but I think the unclarity leads to an important issue: Videogames are very different from other games like chess, football, etc even though they are often lumped together.

The main reason why videogames are different is because they strictly impose rules upon the player. It is not really possible to play a videogame wrong, whereas playing football or chess (the physical versions) the wrong way are very easy. A videogame is more than a few game-rules, it is every single rule that you can possibly experience. Even basic laws of nature like friction and gravity play an essential role in a videogame. Videogames are not about following a specific rule-set, they are about being present inside a virtual world. The only way to really play a videogame incorrectly is to change the very fabric of its virtual reality, or to find some kind of exploitable flaw. (This is not strictly true, as one could say playing Mario and only running back and forth the first few pixels is not the correct way to play it, but I think I make my point).

In case you want more discussion on this, Chris Deleon goes into the issue a bit deeper here. My main point here is just that when discussing videogames, it is very common that all other kinds of games get thrown into the mix, and that is exactly what happens here. This does not mean that we should try and learn from other kind of games, but when we want to talk about the strength and weaknesses of our medium, we need to be clear what it is we are really talking about.

(I know I do say “game” when I really mean “videogame” from time to time. I hope I have become more clear on what I mean in later posts though. Also note that I sometimes simply use “game”, after having just said “videogame” to make the text less repetitive. With that said, I hope I do not get too hammered because of improper usage :) )

A series of problems

This is something that have annoyed me for some time. It is the idea that videogames must pose some kind of challenge to the player. It leads to all kind issues, most importantly the idea that one needs to have trial-and-error in videogames. In my mind it is this kind of thinking what has been holding back videogames for quite some time.

In Raph’s article, this thinking is best exemplified by:

“Cut the problem inside the black box, and you have a slideshow.”

Once you get into this kind of mindset, I feel that there is so much you are missing out on. For instance, Amnesia would not have been possible to create if we had not let go of the belief that every meaningful interaction must have some kind of problem and challenge at heart. It is also a statement that makes videogames like Dear Esther impossible to create. It even dismisses a lot of what makes Silent Hill so great as bad videogame design. Needless to say, I think this is a very silly statement to make.

My view on the core of videogames is not that should to provide us with problems, but to immerse us in engaging virtual worlds. Sometimes problems are useful for doing this and sometimes not. But they are never what lies at the core of the experience.

Feedback is for fun

The way the article talks about feedback (graphics, sound effects, etc) is in a very simplistic manner: They are simply there to enhance the underlying mechanics. I believe that feedback, in any sensory form, can be a lot more than that. I think that visuals, etc can lie at the front and the mechanics can be a way of exploring them, hence you tweak the gameplay according to your visuals instead of the other way around.

Instead of seeing feedback as rewards for problem-solving, I think we should see them as a way to increase the feeling of presence in our virtual worlds. It is the ability to “kick back” that makes the virtual worlds of videogames so compelling and so different from other media like novels and film. If we see feedback as a tool of immersion, we can also stop seeing all interaction as problems. I think this brings forward a more inclusive view of what a videogame can be and is also much better at forming a platform for evolving the medium than the old narrow view.

“Narrative”

I think there is a quite a confusion with words in the article. Narrative, in film theory, is how the story is told (how characters and plot are put together). When Raph talks about narrative in the sense of choose-your-own-adventure games, he is really referring to the plot. It is not narrative, but plot (ie some very specific events), that act has the reward for the player whenever they provide input.

It is much better to say that narrative is the subjective entirety of the session. This also goes along with Chris Bateman’s view that all games tell a story and more interestingly that all art are games of some form. One could also take the view (which I do not) that narrative is, like in film, the way in which the story (plot and characters) are told, in which case narrative would be an umbrella term for game mechanics. In any case I do not think Raph’s usage of the word is correct and a better title for his post would be “Plot is not a game mechanic”. By saying it this way, I think the main point gets no stranger than “animations/sound/etc are not gameplay mechanics”.

This might seem like a useless discussion in semantics, but I honestly think it is quite important. Right now, story, plot and narrative are mixed up to mean pretty much whatever, making discussions like “should our game focus on story” pointless. Language is our main tool for thinking, and if we cannot have a proper terminology, we will not be able to think properly.

The article’s example from Batman: Arkham City is to me a very clear example of this kind of bad thinking. By saying that the “video of the Joker playing on a television set” is a narrative element, but then dismissing the entire climb that came before it as such, one is really missing out on the strengths of the videogame medium. For me I the Joker video is pure plot, a bit of needed exposition and not what is interesting. What is interesting is the climb up the cathedral. Here the player takes on the role of becoming Batman and, while performing interactive actions, forming a very compelling narrative.

As I have written before, in order to improve story-telling in games we need to consider stories beyond their plots.

End notes

Most of this post has been about meaning of words and of how to approach some concepts, but I hope that I still showed that it is a very important issue. Videogame is a medium that have grown from simplistic simulations, arcade machines and boardgames. This legacy has put its mark on a lot of nowadays thoughts on design, many of which are holding the medium back. The only way to move forward is to reassess this line of thinking and remove ingrained preconceptions of what a videogame is and needs to be. Not until we break the bonds of the past can we freely explore the future.(source:frictional games)


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