Oh, man, I love starting blog posts with a bit of arrant poncery. Buckle up. This is the opening to an Isaiah Berlin essay. (I originally wrote ‘an Irving Berling essay’, but fortunately corrected it before I exposed myself to lasting Internet ridicule.)
“There is a line among the fragments of the Greek poet Archilochus which says: ‘The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.’”
Narrative game development is a foxy discipline, not a hedgehoggy discipline. But it’s so foxy – there are so many disparate strands – that game designers and critics alike have often been tempted to hedgehoggy behaviour about it.
Traditional point-and-click adventure games, parser games, visual novels, choice-based branching narrative, AAA stealth games, writerly games, gamish stories, strongly scripted games, utterly procgen games – they all have their own quirks and requirements, and consequently every time I’ve played any of these things I’ve learnt something that I can apply to my own work. Honestly, nothing narks me off like an industry figure saying, e.g., that there is One Right Way to do narrative, or that we have nothing to learn from the Witcher that 90s parser games haven’t already done to death, or that Dear Esther (or whatever the walking simulator du jour might be) isn’t really a game.
So I’m really glad to see AdventureX re brand itself as a friendly umbrella for anything that chooses to describe itself as a narrative game. I don’t really know of any other events like it. There are so many angles you can come at narrative in games from. It’s a Cambrian explosion of ideas and principles. I want to get my head in the middle of it and my hair full of shale and trilobites, and I enjoin you, if you’re interested in narrative games, to do the same.
In short, back the AdventureX Kickstarter (with which I have 0 connection, btw) because something something foxes hedgehogs trilobite. Also, Archilochus wrote terribly sexy poetry.
Here’s the link: