I recently had the great honor of meeting Espen Aarseth at a transmedia conference in Granada, Spain and have since been reading and digesting his work.
This week at our Interactive Narratives meetup in London I presented his paper Narrative Theory of Games.
As expected, Espen’s model generated a great amount of conversation and reflection. One aspect of the 4-dimensional model (World, Objects, Agents and Events) that we debated a lot was whether Agents – which we discussed exclusively to be Characters – should be shown on the same dimensions as the others. It seemed to us that the top and bottom of the model is really the degree of agency that a player has – more if a game, less if a story. Yet the depth of the characters (Agents) doesn’t quite fit that axis – the consensus being that rich characterization needn’t be determined by player agency.
It was felt that relationship building with characters was a key to players having a more story-like experience (“story like” meaning expressing the views/message of the author).
What I find helpful about this model is it allows for a more informed discussion about the scope of work when creating a transmedia experience. Rather than thinking very broadly about where to draw the line between player interaction and authorial communication, this allows a better granularity. Also, in our work we’ve tended to allow players to generate their own content (creatable Objects) but that’s not impacted the narrative (the kernels) whereas some ARGs particularly have used this interaction with more fluid kernels.