Narrative Project Outline

In an effort to keep as much of my research progress as transparent as possible, I am presenting you with an outline.   I have reasons for this beyond just showing off what I’m going to write about. My main reason for doing this is that I need a third game to use as an example in one section. I don’t know what it is yet, and I need suggestions.  If you want a little bit of background on this project then you can read about it here (this is the one about narrative).  I’m looking for games that force you to do things, or in which you can make a choice (and that choice affects the narrative of the game in some major way). I am trying to avoid Roleplaying Games for this third game. Dark Souls, my first game example, is an RPG. It’s easy to find narrative elements in RPGs. Less so in other kinds of games. As such, I want to show that my concept can be used for a game where the narrative isn’t so obvious.  BONUS POINTS are given if the game has a stated narrative and the actions of the player suggest a different narrative.  For a baseline, lets try for games from 2005 and forward (but if an older game has your attention for this, feel free to explain). So, without any further introduction, I present an outline.
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Research Projects Next Semester

So, next semester starts today and I figured that I would describe my two research projects that will be controlling my life for the next few months.  In this post, I will describe the premise of each projects, and I will try to explain why I want to do each project.  Additionally, I will talk about what I have already done for each project.

The two projects I have are:

1. Difficulty as it Relates to Narrative in Games

and

2.
Player Taxonomies: Sifting Through Why and How People Play Videogames

Both are working titles. The first is a project related to stories and play and how they can work together in games. The second is a psychological look at how players play games.

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Grad School Introductions

So I started graduate school this past week.  It’s been busy but not horribly so, and I know I’m going to enjoy this (my friends won’t let me not enjoy it, anyway).  I am taking three classes, and all three are promising for me.  But, one of the things I noticed is that the first thing that people want from you in a graduate-level class is your name, followed by your research interests.  I am a bit fortunate here, in that I have research interests.  I know pretty much what I want to study and write about.  Some people are not so lucky in that respect, but they are lucky in that they get this time to be inspired by something (like I was in 2008).

When I say that people want your research interests, I mean they want it distilled down to a maximum of two sentences.  That’s pretty small when you think about what people are asking about.  I’ve come up with my little introduction speech for these situations:

“My name is Michael Thomét. I am a masters student in the rhetoric and composition English program and I am interested in how narrative and play work together in games, various narratives of play, as well as authorship in games.”

I figure that, when I rattle this off, it may sound coherent and organized, but people probably don’t really know what I’m talking about.  I sound like a grad student, and that’s about as far as people can throw me.  Not that I’m saying people are stupid, it’s just that when I say these things, they only scratch the surface of what I am interested in.  They are categories and don’t tell you where my passion is.  So here I want to go into this and explain what my grad school introduction actually means.
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School, Research and Projects, On Journaling

So, I made my first step this past weekend and applied to my very first grad school: University of Wisconsin–Madison.  I’ve gotten a lot of strange looks from my friends about this.  People seem to think that I will freeze.  I probably will, but I am bolstered by the fact that, for four years, I lived in Michigan, and I survived that.  I have no doubt that it will be cold, but if following my passion means that I’ll be a little cold (or a lot cold) so be it.

Regardless, I’ve applied.  I can’t take it back now.  The transcripts are on their way, the application fee is paid, I’m obligated now to see this to the cold, bitter end.  Sure I still have 10 more schools to apply for, but I’m not thinking about that now.  This one event is just enough kick to get me over the horizon.

This isn’t the reason I haven’t been blogging.  I haven’t been blogging because, well, I just never have.  Blogging is a form of journaling, and I have never been good at journaling.  Not in the traditional sense at least.  I didn’t keep logs of what I did during my day or what I was angry about or anything like that.  My parents tried to get me to do this, but I just never had anything to write down.  I do, however have about eight notebooks full of game and story ideas.  This was my journaling.  I would spend hours writing out an idea for a game, detailing all the different things that energized me.  I would spend my breaks at work writing in tiny composition notebooks details about a story or novel that I wanted to write.  I would go from page to page and, sadly, very few of the ideas ever went far beyond the page.

One problem is that I get new ideas too fast.  It’s hard for me to hold on to an old idea when there’s something new pervading my thoughts.  I write down the old ideas so that I don’t have to remember them, and then I don’t go back to them.  Granted, when I look back through my notebooks, I realize how naive I was to think that some things were even possible, or that they were interesting in the first place.  But had I been diligent about a single one of them for at least a little bit, then I would have done something with it.  Perhaps, then, I’d be in a very different place now, but that’s usually where discussions about the past go with me.

The reason I haven’t been blogging is because I’ve had too many projects on my hands to deal with and the least gets the ghost.  I’m going to try to put this into perspective for my few readers. So here goes:

1.  School.  Applying to 11 schools over the course of the next few weeks (technically 10 now).
2.  Research.  Finish writing a research paper about online play motivations inspired by Minecraft.
3.  Project.  Finish the preliminary work on my game design for an RPG-over-Twitter game that I had hoped would be finished by this past weekend.
4.  School.  Take the GRE.
5.  Project.  Begin work on “Now We Are Twenty-Three.”
6.  Research.  Finish (finally) close reading of Bogost’s Unit Operations-side note, I’ve read this once and I greatly appreciate this work.   A great approach to criticism to which I ascribe.
7.  Project.  Mystery adventure game inspired by The Airborne Toxic Event’s “Sometime Around Midnight.”
8.  Project.  A sidescrolling game called “The Ninth Rune,” which is practically already planned out.
9.  Project.  Develop a concept and plan out a psychological-semiotic text adventure about a person so steeped in symbolism he can’t escape it.
10. Project.  Invisible. A collection of fantasy short stories set in second person.
11.  Project.  Market “Bird’s Opening,” which won the Jules Anatloe award at ASU, but has just been sitting, gathering digital dust.
12.  Games.  Just the lump of games I need to play and finish.  There are many more than this: Fable III, Resonance of Fate, Dragon Quest XIX, Persona 3 Portable, White Night Chronicles.

This is only what I can think of right now, and I’ve edited out a lot of things that I don’t really think will get visited anytime soon.  I’m not even about to tackle my reading list here.  The point I’m trying to make is that I’m a project-oriented person, but that I give myself too many projects.  The problem I’m faced with is that I want to finish all of them.  Looking back at the past, this seems insurmountable.

I am reminded that I am capable of finishing a project.  Even though “Neighbors” was a small project (it had to be, see my process paper on the project), I finished it.  At least, I got it to a state I wanted to call finished.  But, therein lies another problem.  Neighbors isn’t finished.  In fact, there were a number of other things I wanted to do with Neighbors, but never got around to doing (another character, playable, with a different storyline to discover; spanning over three days instead of just one).  The way I finished the project closed off this possibility (the scripting isn’t flexible enough, I would have to script the whole thing again, in a completely different way).  And this is why I never submitted Neighbors to its rightful place on the Adventure Game Studio website.

But this is digressing.  I’m not sure, at this moment, why I am writing this blog.  Perhaps just to explain why I’ve been so quiet.  Perhaps just to do some “real” journaling.  Maybe I’m writing this blog because I need help with something I can’t quite grasp.  Or maybe it’s just to hear a friend say, “I know what you’re going through.”  Whatever it is, I think it feels nice to give this ghost another try.