FUNDAMENTALS OF GAME DESIGN, SECOND EDITION

The Story as a Drama

A small number of games treat the story as a drama that progresses at its own pace, advancing with the passage of time itself. The story takes place in real time. In this case, the core mechanics don't send triggers to the storytelling engine to advance the plot; rather, the storytelling engine advances the plot on its own and sends trig­gers to the core mechanics to indicate when it's time to offer some gameplay.

The game Night Trap operates as a drama. The story unfolds continuously, whether or not the player takes any action. Set at a party in a suburban house, the game assigns the player the goal of protecting partying teenagers from a group of invad­ing monsters. The house is conveniently fitted with a security system consisting of closed-circuit cameras and various traps that, when the player sets them off, catch and contain any monster nearby. The player watches the different rooms on the security cameras and sets off the traps if a monster appears and tries to harm one of the teenagers who, in typical horror-movie fashion, are extraordinarily oblivious to it all. Night Trap requires the player to switch his view from camera to camera, follow­ing the various events of the party and looking out for the monsters. If the player does nothing and a monster drags one of the kids away, the player loses points.

Night Trap consists almost entirely of storytelling; the player's only action is to switch from one camera to another or to trigger a trap. Because the story progresses whether or not the player does anything, each game always takes the same amount of time to play.

The more recent, noncommercial game Fagade also presents a story as a drama. In Fagade, the player visits a couple of old friends and quickly realizes that their mar­riage is in trouble. The player can help them work through their problems—or not—by engaging in dialog with them. The entire game takes place in the couple's apartment, and like Night Trap, the story progresses even if the player does nothing. But the player's actions during the game profoundly affect both the direction that the story takes and its ending.

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