Narrative in Games: Alternate Reality Games and MMORPG:
Question: What unique experience do these types of games offer?
To tackle this narrative project we are looking at a different genre or sub-genre of games. The massive multiplayer online role playing game represents a social gaming experience driven by a narrative game play base. What makes this different from other games is the “massive” aspect. Players from all over the world can enter a virtual world at any one time. This populates the virtual world with players and gives the feeling of a living breathing environment. When this many players populate a game space the different personalities or alternate personalities of the players take shape and create a unique experience. While some players may drive towards the narrative to be a good person, others may drive towards the narrative be evil or a bad person. This gives the game a sense of unpredictability. It lets players interact and create a story driven by their actions. The massive approach allows the general narrative to play out anyway the players(individually, grouped or as a whole) see fit. For me, a good player, I want to be a good warrior or knight. For the “bad” they want to stop me or do more quests for the evil side to advance their narrative. I’ve played Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic and the narrative experience for those who are Lightside or Darkside is different and drives different story elements. Once you are complete with the narrative you can then participate in an ongoing struggle versus other real players to continue your faction's goals. It is this cycle of narrative that keeps players engaged and wanting to fight for their respective sides much like fans root for a sports team.
In my personal opinion, what I consider the most unique aspect of these games as narrative experiences is the social camaraderie that players feel with each other. For a while, the stigma that represented video game players was; basement dwelling loners that were antisocial and most likely living with their parents. I can now say with confidence that stigma is and should be changed. I would even contest video game players (more specifically, MMORPG players) have more social qualities than other players. Here is my case in point. When you go out into a social environment I am basing my opinion or assuming that you will have met with per-existing friends or in a group of social acclimated friends or friends of friends. How often do we meet “new” people. How often do we walk up to someone that is a complete stranger and ask, “hey, can I help you with that task, or problem”. I do not have any research to back this up, but I’m guessing this does not happen too often. Now let us look at the MMO world. Everyday complete strangers from opposite ends of the world sometime meet, talk, and help each other out in an extraordinary social event where mutual trust and friendship develop in a quick time frame. Thinking about this, to me, is pretty remarkable. For players who have been deemed antisocial elsewhere, they are, astonishingly social in their virtual worlds. This social aspect develops into a shared story that everyone plays a role in. This is a major difference I take away from this narrative experience. I think of it as a movie and everyone has a part in the lead role.
"Original post updated 3/30- http://feedly.com/e/1hWnd45Z
"The stereotype of gamers as anti-social loners is inaccurate, according to a new study"
Alternate Reality Games also have a large social and multiplayer theme. The difference between these games and MMORPGs are ARGs are mainly narrative driven real life quests. One way I helped describe ARGs for myself is comparing it to a Play. A play where everyone has a part in the story and plays a role to move the narrative along. A play that could be a detective story where there is an interactive audience or a play where you simply participate for a larger goal. What makes these unique is the real world interaction. For example the clue to the detective narrative could be on a billboard in the middle of a city, which may look normal to everyone else, but those playing the game seeing it as a clue. This builds on social interaction, camaraderie and collaboration to transform into a real world event. I have never played an ARG or so I thought. Run, Zombie was an iPhone app in which you logged your running times. I had no idea it was actually an ARG until I began reading about the social interaction and ARG elements it maintained. I just thought it was a fun way to keep tabs on running.
In conclusion, I feel the most unique feature for these games is the social requirement they have. Playing together is truly an experience these two narrative genres bring to the table. To me it is a remarkable idea that does not get discussed enough when talking about video games.