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42. Seperate The Story Mechanics From The Story

42. Seperate The Story Mechanics From The Story

Let’s turn our attention back to games because honestly, I miss talking about them. I’ll start with a quote from Games and Men,

“If a game creator really wants to focus on storytelling, he has to choose the best mechanics to allow the storytelling to take place, but he should not feel obliged to introduce any “twist” in the chosen mechanics. Having the finest understanding of the chosen mechanics and their particular codes and patterns should allow him to create his own masterpiece without having to uselessly reinvent the wheel. Innovation for the sake of innovation always bears the risk of creating discrepancies between a player’s expectations and his actual experience of the game.”

This seems to run contrary to our last segment, the one with the 16 minute video from Seth Godin on being remarkable.

Well, look a little closer.

What the author of this piece is saying is the same thing I said about “twist” endings many segments ago. If you tell a great story, you don’t need to bend the mechanics. In fact, if your story is truly remarkable, then throwing in an unnecessary twist, trying to “shake up” the process of storytelling too much can be little more than a distraction. Instead of focusing their attention on the story itself, all people will notice is the twist.

Game designers especially have trouble keeping this obsession with “innovation” in check. Let’s face it, most games are built around mechanics with stories thrown in as afterthoughts. The difference between a game that sells 10 copies and one that sells 100,000 copies has little to nothing to do with the storyline and almost everything to do with how innovative the play style is. If you want an example, you don’t need to look much further than the Nintendo Wii. It’s claim to fame is not having the best games with the most robust storytelling, it’s power can be found squarely in its controller.

Make great content first and then build a compelling platform to deliver it. The moment you think that one is the other is the moment you lose control of your story.

The video for this segment is a walkthrough for the game “You Have To Burn The Rope” which is parody game developed by Mazapán and one of the clearest examples of three things we’ve been looking at:

Drawing something profound from the trivial (innovation in game mechanics is completely negligible),

Simplifying the story

Separating mechanics from the content itself to make the point of the story stand out.

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