Redesign Theme Emerging = STORY

“You are in a galaxy far away … your job is to save the world…”

The Selearninggames Redesign Team is off to a fun start. [cf. previous post] The early emergence of the story-telling redesign theme is very cool – because story-telling is a classic game design principle.

Question: What is the simplest redesign thing we can do to make it clearer “how to” participate in making the game?

Answer: Clarify the goals by “telling me a story about what we are doing here.”

Story as Game (Re)Design Principle

Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman (Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals) provide us with a basic definition of “story”: there is an initial situation; then there is a sequence that leads to change in that situation.

A story includes things like: plot, character, and patterned repetition of key elements. We (us human beings from earth, not necessarily those guys on other planets in other parts of the galaxy) use story-telling to process information and make sense out of stuff.

S & Z tell us that story-telling plays out in game design in two different ways:

  1. Embedded = you play inside the story that the game-makers made up
  2. Emergent = you make up your own story as you play (but – you are still playing within the rules of the game that the game-makers made up)

The embedded story is fixed and pre-determined. Every player gets the same story. The end of the story is the same for every player.

The emergent story arises out of your action choices in the game. Your choice leads to a different outcome. The end of your story depends on your choices during the game.

Emergent stories arise from player interactions that are both “coupled” and “context-dependent.”

  1. Coupled = game elements act together in ways that a single element cannot (one action creates creates a change that creates another change in the overall system of the game)
  2. Context-dependent = changes are not the same every time (changes depend upon what else is happening in the game system at the moment of your action choice)


The Role of Story-Telling in Game (Re)Design

A fundamental building block of narrative game design =

game goal.

The goal guides players in understanding the significance of their action in context.

Our “Bee” Redesign Team echoes:

For Kevin Jones, the objective of telling a story is to make the goals of this making-the-game game more clear. Making the game goal more clear will help to clarify “how to” participate.

Playing a game means interacting with and within a space of possibility that has narrative dimensions.

When you start playing the game — your story begins.

For Steve Sherlock, the beginning of the story is our desire. Our desire to make the making-the-game game happen.

The idea of story-telling as redesign principle raises a bunch of more questions for me. What kind of story do WE need?:

Is our story about making the game?

Is our story about “how to” make the game together?

Is our story about what will happen in the making-the-game game?

Is our story about what will happen when we play the game “after” we make it?

How can we tell a story about a game who’s very essence is the concatenation of all of our stories?

How can we tell a story about a game that we keep on making – a game that never ends?

My version of the story:

our making-the-game together game is

a story we need to tell ourselves

That’s a different story.

The story that S & Z tell about stories in game design is a story about story in a game that somebody else made for us.

The story we need to tell is a story about a story we are telling ourselves.

A story about a game we are making for ourselves.

Here’s my Quick & Dirty:

Game Goal = improve profitability for individual nonprofit earned income ventures

Game Concept = game goal is accomplished thru discovery and application of strategic pattern solutions to profitability problems hidden in collective real-world experience

Game Design = collaboratively player/learner-made

That’s not a “story.”

How ‘Bout this “Story”:

Once upon a time, there were over 500,000 nonprofit organizations in the U.S. alone who operated (or wished to operate) an earned income venture. Unfortunately, less than half of these ventures were “profitable” (i.e., generated NET income to support their charitable missions).

Some of these social entrepreneurs believe that the clues to solving the mystery of earned income venture profitability lie hidden in our collective real-world experience. These social entrepreneurs believe that making an elearning game together can help us harness our collective intelligence. The goal of playing the making-the-game together game is to increase the profitability of our own individual earned income ventures.

Our first step in making this learning game together is to use free Web2.0 tools (like wiki and blog) to share our common profitability questions and discover our common profitability solutions. Out of our sharing, we make the core content and rules of this game for ourselves — out of our real-world experience.

Our first step story:

  • share our individual questions
  • discover our common questions

Our second step story:

  • share our individual answers
  • discover our common solutions

Our common questions and our common solutions are the game content. This content is not imposed on us — we tell each other what it is.

The rules of the game are the relationships between our common questions and our common solutions. The rules that connect our questions with our answers are not imposed on us — our real-world experience shows us what the connection is. Our story about profitability emerges out of our playing the -making-the-game game together.

The solution to the profitability mystery is the meta-patterns of our common answers.

Your first mission (should you choose to accept it) is:

share your earned income venture profitability question.

[this message will self-destruct if nobody plays][we will all be more profitable if we play together]

Our Game-making Possibility Space

S&Z tell us that playing a game means interacting with and within a space of possibility with narrative dimensions. A story starts with an initial situation, and a sequence that leads to a change in that situation. Our initial situation = unprofitability (or not as profitable as we want to be). Together, we can set in motion a sequence that leads to change in that situation. We can tell our own story about nonprofit earned income profitability.The possibilities for how OUR story will unfold are endless and/or we don’t know what they are yet. Looks like we feel like we need to narrow it down. Looks like we could narrow it down with the story we tell ourselves.

Our “Bee” Redesign Team workspace wiki page is set up in a Question/Answer Game

external image CUTEBEE.GIF

format. Please join us.

What are YOUR questions?

What are YOUR answers?

What’s YOUR version of the STORY?


2 Responses to “Redesign Theme Emerging = STORY”

  1. steve sherlock Says:

    Sandra, there are too many meanings for story and I think this is distracting. When you approach a game, you don’t have a manual. You pick up the dice and roll, or grab the joystick and off you go. When you approach a story, in the old “fire circle” days, the story teller would pick up on what was happening amongst his listeners daily lives (and from their comments around the fire) and work those into the story. This building upon one idea to make a better idea (i.e. story) I think is where we want to go.

    Part of my trouble getting started is also related to the objective of money. Everything I have done online except for my recent foray into podcasting has been “free”, free tools. The only “cost” is my own time and effort. So it will be a bit of a shift for me to think about making money.

    But let’s start with that as an approach. A non-profit has some resources with their primary resource likely to be the people whose passion on a daily basis is keeping the outfit going. While those people have a passion for community service they may not have an interest (never mind a passion) for web 2.0 tools.

    So let me close with a question by drawing upon one of my favorite movies: The Princess Bride. One scene as Fezik, Wesley and Inigo are outside the castle which they need to storm to rescue Buttercup, Wesley says: “What are our assets?”

  2. sandradickinson Says:

    Steve, thanks for your comment. The “what are our assets?” question is a recurring theme and right on target. I am incorporating that question as a prime example into the Selearninggames redesign effort.

    Point of clarification: Selearninggames IS FREE.

    We are using free web2.0 tools (the wiki, the blog, and now integrating a free brainstorming tool, Brainreactions). All these tools are free and open to everyone to participate.

    In fact — the effort to redesign the Selearninggames wiki is free and open to anyone to participate.

    Anyone can be part of the “Bee” Redesign Team at:
    The working draft of a new home page can be reviewed, commented upon, and edited here:

    Anyone can play the making-the-game together game for free.

    The Selearninggames game is about helping nonprofit social entrepreneurs make more money from their own earned income ventures.

    (Some day – like maybe 2 years from now —
    I hope we make an elearning game that is worth “paying to play”.
    If we do,
    then Selearninggames can afford to continue to serve its own mission of facilitating nonprofit social entrepreneurs in operating profitable ventures to support their missions.
    See what I mean?)

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