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A tumbleweed drifts past April 4, 2006

Posted by joshg in General.

Mostly this is just a quick post to say that no, this blog isn't dead yet. The games I've been playing lately haven't crossed into spiritual territory, and I haven't come across any related news. Although I suppose if I really wanted to stretch things, I could frame Dystopia's portrayal of cyberspace as an interesting model for representing a dual physical / spiritual world. But that's probably pushing my luck.

If I could drag myself away from my cyberpunk addiction during my gaming time, I would probably be playing Vespers, an interactive fiction which won last year's IFComp and is the recent winner of the Xyzzy Best Game of 2005 award. Yes, it does have strong religious themes, so I'm actually on-topic, but I can't comment on what it does with them since I've only played it for a few minutes.

I also suspect that Indigo Prophecy would be very worth playing, if I could afford it. I'm not particularly interested in portrayals of ancient Mayan prophecies and murderous rituals, although there is that religious (or pseudo-religous) aspect to the game. But from what I've heard, it does interesting things with character perspective, and integrates non-genre gameplay mechanisms into a highly narrative game.

I tend to believe that games could make their most powerful expression of faith somewhere in that grey uncharted area between highly interactive, open-ended games, and strongly structured narrative games. Without a strong narrative to give the player character some depth, I'm not sure how well a gameplay mechanism can convey what a relationship-focused faith is like. Games already have a hard enough time with believable human characters, never mind believable interactions with an infinitely clever and uncomprehendable God.

There is the advantage that God is never a very transparent character, and God's reasons don't need to be made clear; they often aren't in real life. And I suppose the problem exists even in writing static, linear fiction where God actually answers prayer, and you have to imagine what God would do in the situation. It compounds quickly, though, if you want player characters to be able to talk to God within a game and have those prayers actually mean something. So it's always good to hear that developers are still exploring new ways to engage the player while telling a strong story.

Still, I look forward to what can be done in a future where interactive stories can become more open-ended but remain believable. For a glimpse in that direction, try out Façade, a small one-room drama which aims to let you converse with two believable characters and interact to influence them to sort out (or escalate) their marital woes.

Hmm, so much for this being a short post.

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