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The Interpretation Game:

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Matthew Tyler-Jones

on 5 February 2015

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Transcript of The Interpretation Game:

Image: http://tynansylvester.com/
"Dear Esther wins Best World / Story at IndieCade 2009"
"Its two-hour long chill will remain in your bones for a long while after"
Video Game Awards 2010: Game of the Year; Best Original Game; Best Song in a Game; Best Original Score
“RDR doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to narrative … you will want to keep this one in your library for the storytelling alone”
“This is the deepest, loveliest world ever created for a single player to explore".
“Plenty of games have set out to create open, lively worlds that feel just as human as the one we inhabit. Perhaps none has come as close as Skyrim”
Drivers of Emotion
Where next?
“The moment I fell in love with the game was when I looked out on to the vast expanse of land, including the first proper town of Armadillo, from the cliff tops above. I can’t remember whether the sun was rising or setting, but it was, frankly, beautiful.”
“Skyrim quite frankly is beautiful"
“ [Dear Esther] is hauntingly beautiful."
"[Red Dead Redemption] does not merely immerse you in its fiction. Rather, it submerges you, grabbing you by the neck and forcing you down, down, down until you simply have no interest in coming up for air"
"The broad strokes of Dear Esther's visuals are majestic, but the finer details on the landscape are the most revealing. Empty buckets of paint, discarded ultrasound pictures and candle-lit shrines surrounding only a busted defribrillator hint at whatever you may make of it"
Pinchbeck, D.M. & Stevens, B (2005) Presence, Narrative and Schemata
Presence indicates that the stimuli are deemed worthy of inclusion within the primary frame of reference for the organism”
"We always look into multiplayer, put lots of ideas on the whiteboard and it always loses.”
Skyrim director Todd Howard quoted at http://www.computerandvideogames.com/296453/bethesda-explains-elder-scrolls-v-skyrim-multiplayer-omission/
“Based on a spoken dialogue system, an Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR), Text-to-Speech (TTS) engines, a Language Interpretation, VHML Processing, Question & Answer and Behavior modules are used. These essential features have very different roles in the global virtual agent framework procedure, but they all work together to accomplish realistic facial and body animations, as well as complex behavior and disposition.”
Neto, J. & Neto, M.J. (2012)
Immersive cultural experience through innovative multimedia applications:
The History of Monserrate Palace in Sintra (Portugal) presented by Virtual Agents
“I wanted to own exhibits like those that I saw in the exhibition”
Othman, M.K. (2012)
Measuring Visitors’ Experiences With Mobile Guide Technology In Cultural Spaces
“The Sims, Minecraft, Snakes and Ladders, Dear Esther and roulette all create powerful emotions without players struggling towards a pre-defined objective.”
Sylvester, Tynan “Designing Games” O’Reilly Media, 2013-01-03 ebook
Rand, J. (1993) Building on your ideas (in Bicknel, S. and Farmello, G., eds. Museum visitor studies in the 90s, London: Science Museum).
Main message
“the single most important idea you want people to leave with.”
Primary Message
“one that we feel we must communicate to a sizeable number of our visitors (albeit to fewer than the main message)"
Secondary Message
"one we feel we should communicate to the visitors (although we expect even fewer visitors to receive these messages)"
Tertiary Message
"is one we feel it might be nice to communicate to visitors (but we expect few visitors, if any, to get these)”
Red Dead Redemption
1. New Austin
2. Nuevo Paradíso
3. West Elizabeth
4. Marston Ranch
is a story told in four chapters...
Exodus in America
New Friends, Old Problems
Obstacles in Our Path
Political Realities in Armadillo
This is Armadillo, USA
Justice in Pike's Basin
Women and Cattle
Spare the Rod, Spoil the Bandit
Old Swindler Blues
Exhuming and Other Fine Hobbies
You Shall Not Give False Testimony, Except for Profit
Wild Horses, Tamed Passions
A Tempest Looms
The Burning
Hanging Bonnie MacFarlane
A gentle drive with friends
Let the Dead Bury Their Dead
Liars, Cheats and Other Proud Americans
Can a Swindler Change His Spots?
A Frenchman, a Welshman and an Irishman
Man is Born Unto Trouble
On Shaky's Ground
The Sport of Kings, and Liars
The Assault on Fort Mercer
We Shall Be Together in Paradise
The Gunslinger's Tragedy
Civilization, at Any Price
Landon Ricketts Rides Again
My Sister's Keeper
Must a Savior Die?
The Demon Drink
The Mexican Wagon Train
Lucky in Love
Empty Promises
Mexican Caesar
Cowards Die Many Times
Father Abraham
Captain De Santa's Downfall
The Gates of El Presidio
An Appointed Time
Bear One Another's Burdens
Great Men are Not Always Wise
At Home with Dutch
For Purely Scientific Purposes
The Prodigal Son Returns
(To Yale)
And You Will Know The Truth
And The Truth Will Set You Free
The Outlaw's Return
John Marston and Son
By Sweat and Toil
A Continual Feast
Wolves, Dogs and Sons
The Last Enemy That Shall Be Destroyed
Spare the Love, Spoil the Child
Old Friends, New Problems
The narrative structure of
But within each chapter is a more complex narrative structure
Each chapter ends with an emotive song
The narrative structure gets simpler in each chapter, but the user may not perceive this simplification
Users report some "complexity fatigue" after what feels like a long Mexican chapter. Maybe that's why the subsequent
chapter is the simplest
The last chapter requires the player complete three simple paths before coming to a swift conclusion
American Appetites
American Lobbyist
Aztec Gold
Deadalus and Son
Eva in Peril
Flowers for a Lady
Funny Man
I Know You
Jenny's Faith
Let No Man Put Assunder
Lights, Camera, Action
Love is the Opiate
The Wronged Woman
The Prohibitionist
Remember My Family
Water and Honesty
Who Are You to Judge?
But the final song doesn't play until one last emotive "side mission"
The Elder Scolls:
The narrative structure of
Before the Storm
Bleak Falls Barrow
The Whispering Door
A Blade in the Dark
Diplomatic Immunity
Alduin's Wall
The Blessings of Nature
The Golden Claw
Dragon Rising
The Fallen
The World-Eater's Eyrie
Missing In Action
In My Time Of Need
The Way of the Voice
The Horn of Jurgen Windcaller
The Throat of the World
Elder Knowledge
Alduin's Bane
Imitation Amnesty
A Chance Arrangement
Taking Care of Business
Loud and Clear
Dampened Spirits
A Cornered Rat
Speaking With Silence
Hard Answers
The Pursuit
Trinity Restored
Darkness Returns
Under New Management
The Book of Love
Delayed Burial
Meet the Family
Scoundrel's Folly
Truth Ore Consequences
Innocence Lost
With Friends Like These...
Rescue from Fort Neugrad
Compelling Tribute (Stormcloaks)
The Battle for Fort Sungard (Stormcloaks)
A False Front (Stormcloaks)
The Battle for Fort Snowhawk (Stormcloaks)
The Battle for Fort Hraggstad
Battle for Solitude
Summerset Shadows
Joining the Stormcloaks
The Jagged Crown (Stormcloaks)
Message to Whiterun (Stormcloaks)
Battle for Whiterun (Stormcloaks)
Liberation of Skyrim
Discerning the Transmundane
Kill Narfi
Bound Until Death
Kill Hern
First Lessons
Under Saarthal
Hitting the Books
Good Intentions
Revealing the Unseen
The Staff of Magnus
The Eye of Magnus
Kill Beitild
Mourning Never Comes
Whispers in the Dark
Waking Nightmare
Pieces of the Past
A Night To Remember
To Kill an Empire
Death Incarnate
Hail Sithis!
Kill Ennodius Papius
Breaching Security
Kill Lurbuk
A Daedra's Best Friend
Ill Met By Moonlight
Laid to Rest
Making Friends and Influencing People
Build Your Own Home
Gharol's Message
The Heart of Dibella
Sanuarach Mine
The House of Horrors
The Taste of Death
The Lost Expedition
Reunification of Skyrim
Joining the Legion
The Jagged Crown (Imperial)
Message to Whiterun (Imperial)
Battle for Whiterun (Imperial)
A False Front (Imperial)
The Battle for Fort Dunstad (Imperial)
Compelling Tribute (Imperial)
The Battle for Fort Greenwall (Imperial)
Rescue from Fort Kastav
The Battle for Fort Amol
Battle for Windhelm
The Man Who Cried Wolf
The Wolf Queen Awakened
Lights Out!
Rjorn's Drum
Silver Lining
Tending the Flames
Pantea's Flute
The Dainty Sload
Finn's Lute
Destroy the Dark Brotherhood!
The Silence Has Been Broken
The Cure for Madness
Recipe for Disaster
The Dark Brotherhood Forever
Where You Hang Your Enemy's Head...
Take the Hidden Treasure
After the introductory adventure, Unbound, the player is free to direct the character they made anywhere in the world
If the starting player chooses to follow a guiding Non-Player Character (NPC), he will point them towards the beginning of the central adventure
But they might easily be distracted, and join a fight to free Skyrim from "the Empire"
Or, they might choose a different NPC guide and be led towards joining the imperial faction
Each story, once chosen, is a generally linear narrative, with very few branching choices to make
The most notable exception to the linear style is a narrative in which the player is invited to join an assassins' guild, but can opt to fight them instead
There is no "roll the credits" moment. When you've completed one narrative, you simply wander around until you find another story to start.

Though, when you've already saved the world, liberated (or reunited) Skyrim, AND become a master assassin, it can seem strange to start as a novice again...
is scattered with story seeds that are waiting to be nurtured by your character
is sound organised in time, and this organisation helps to connect disparate events in other domains. Thus a break in the music can signal a change in the narrative or, conversely, continuous music signals the continuation of the current theme.”
Cohen, A.J. (1998) The Functions of Music in Multimedia: A Cognitive Approach
“I use the term dynamic audio to encompass both interactive and adaptive audio. Dynamic audio, then, is, audio which reacts to changes in the gameplay environment or in response to a user. There are several different ways in which dynamic audio interacts with a listener/player, and in which it acts within a game’s diegesis.”
Collins, K. (2007) “An Introduction to the Participatory and Non Linear Aspects of Video Games Audio.” in Hawkins, S. & Richardson. J. (Eds) Essays on Sound and Vision. Helsinki: Helsinki University Press. pp. 263‐298
Aylett. R, (2000)Emergent Narrative,
Social Immersion and "Storification"
The well-known ‘narrative paradox’ of VEs is how to reconcile the needs of the user who is now potentially a participant rather than a spectator with the idea of narrative coherence — that for an experience to count as a story it must have some kind of satisfying structure.
The Narrative Braid: A Model for Tackling The Narrative Paradox in Adaptive Documentaries
Hargood, C., Jewell M.O., and Millard D.E.
The Interpretation Game:
Research into digital narratives and cultural heritage interpretation
Matthew Tyler-Jones
Digital Economy USRG
University of Southampton
Full transcript