GTA’s “Extreme Storytelling”

Time Magazine recently published this article.  The most intersting part to me is the conclusion:

“Imagine Victor Hugo trying to write Les Misérables with Jean Valjean under the reader’s control and you’ll get some idea of what Houser is up against. The player is both the audience and the ghost — a mischievous poltergeist — in the machine.”

I’d just like to point out that Grand Theft Auto is regarded as a “sandbox,” game, in that the players are essentially free to do what they will.   There are still key missions that further the storyline, but as a whole, the plot and meaning are shaped by the player.

I want to take a moment to point out that there is a myth that in order for a player to feel “free,” they must be able to do whatever they want.  But, if a player is immersed enough and their chracter is written consistently enough, they will be happy to do what they need to, simply because there is no other logical alternative.

In a play, the playwright can’t afford to make any character inconsistent.  Not only will the audience remember that they are sitting in a block of seats looking into an oddly open-plan house (or whatever other setting must be contrived), the actor who has to rehearse this character over and over will struggle to justify their own actions.  If they can’t justify them, then they’re doomed to give a disgruntled, half-arsed, unbelievable performance.  It is amazing to see how much effort an actor and director will put into making sense of a “throwaway” line, simply because they trust that they playwright must have included it for a reason.  They try to meaning-make, so that the audience can swallow the incongruous line, so that they don’t notice how they saw that same chair in the last play this company produced.

I’ve gone a little off-topic, this has turned into a rant.   But it’s valid and totally on-topic for my research 🙂

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