Thursday, August 23, 2012

Gaming, Curation, and Memory: The Autobiographical Self.

Who are we when we game?

What happens when we play a narrative game that doesn't happen during other games?

Start a game of Scrabble and chances are, unless you're locked in a battle with a Kasparov-like opponent, you won't recount the story of the game. You may remember the margin of your win or loss, or the triumph of words played, but you're unlikely to have a narrative of the game as it unfolded.

Start a session--note the different terminology already--of a narrative game, though, and the story becomes central to the recollection.


Narrative gaming requires the creation of an autobiographical double (also called the autobiographical self). For us to successfully participate in a narrative game, we must construct alternative selves that are directed by ourselves as players, yet who experience game events separately. This double has identity, skills, traits, and hindrances, and at the same time, it represents something of our true selves, even when we play characters against type. We cannot help being ourselves in some way.

As players, we become the narrators of the story that is the game. If, as Baudrillard and others note, the map is not the territory, then nowhere is that more clear than in narrative gaming. Nevertheless, it is complicated. The game itself is the map; the story and narrative created by the players and acted out by the characters becomes the territory, and in so doing, the players privilege the territory rather than the map. In other words, examining a narrative game by looking at the game mechanics--the relatively linear action of a video game, the choices and missions in an online RPG, or the system used in a tabletop RPG--is to mistake the map for the territory.

The autobiographical double is how the two are sorted, then bridged. Without the creation of the double, the map cannot usefully reflect the territory, and the territory cannot be effectively explored without the map.

Next up: Curation.

PS: Wow, this series got big quickly, and I've only laid out the barest ideas. Looks like much more to come. Stay close...

No comments: