For the recent AdventureX Expo in London, I was interviewed by Waypoint's Danny Wadeson about my approach to game writing, Paper Drumpf, and the upcoming title Acts of Supremacy.
Please summarise your role and/or project.
I’m currently finishing SUPREMACY, a text adventure anthology game containing my previous political games PAPER BREXIT (https://gregbuchanan.itch.io/paper-brexit) and PAPER DRUMPF (https://gregbuchanan.itch.io/paper-drumpf) with additional new material and episodes about the nightmares of the past year. The player takes the role of an author diagnosed with terminal cancer; a journalist in the aftermath of Brexit; an adviser to Daffy Drumpf on the campaign trail; and Henry VIII, King of England. The player’s choices in response to each story decide who (and what) will finally be supreme in the twilight of the world 2016 left behind.
In one line, what excites you about adventure/narrative games at the moment?
The increasing complexity of emotional relationships and player involvement in the development of those relationships.
How do you feel about the state of storytelling in games at the moment? What do we have to look forward to — and be aware of?
Narrative games have, for the most part, started to mature from simple binary presentations of good and evil choices to present worlds in which there are no easy answers or quick solutions to problems, where cause and effect are increasingly unpredictable, and where casts of highly sympathetic characters are forced to make impossible choices; in brief, all the conditions for successful tragedies in the classical mould.
I believe procedural elements will increasingly be used in narrative games to further increase this sense of humanity and unpredictability, and the challenge will be to figure out how to produce a best-of-both-worlds hybrid between procedural generation and curated pre-crafted narrative that isn’t inevitably inferior to both. Games that somehow invoke a feeling of boundless unknown narrative possibility without losing the perspective, pathos, and craftsmanship of human authors drawing on their own lives and sense of meaning.
For the uninitiated — what would you say is the greatest appeal of adventure/narrative games? What few games/etc would you suggest to a totally new player?
The appeal of playing a narrative game is the chance to briefly inhabit a curated world that can tell you something about your own life through the choices that you make. Narrative games are stories whose authors have given you the chance to intervene in the lives of their characters for good or ill; at their best, the consequences of this terrible responsibility will rarely be simple or direct.
And if you consider that in the best novels, films, and television series, we are often so emotionally invested as to care about the lives of fictional beings with a greater passion than we afford many elements of our day to day lives, imagine the potential emotional relationship you might develop with a character whose heart you could save, who you could damn to despair or resign to a path of mediocrity.
Imagine how you might feel about a character who can tell you how they feel about what you’ve done to them, and imagine what you might say back to them. Conceive of what it would be like to be present in the stories you love and you’ve started to understand the potential of narrative games.