Second Person

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Second Person: Role-Playing and Story in Games and Playable Media is a new book about all sorts of games (including IF, RPGs, board games, and more). Edited by Pat Harrigan and Noah Wardrip-Fruin. Published by MIT Press in 2007. 426 pp. ISBN-10: 0-262-08356-6. ISBN-13: 978-0-262-08356-0.

Summary

Second Person is a sequel of sorts to the editors' volume "First Person", but departs from it in both format and content. First Person featured a series of articles and (on the same pages) responses and rebuttals, culled from online discussions between the contributors. This material tended towards the academic and theoretical. Second Person avoids the article-and-response form, and instead presents a combination of long theoretical articles and short making-of pieces (often around 500 words) from creators of specific games.

The book is divided into three sections: Tabletop Fictions (for board games and RPGs played over a table); Computational Fictions (in which interactive fiction is addressed, along with video games, hypertext, and other forms of computer-mediated fiction); and Real Worlds (which addresses improvisational drama, live-action role-playing, situated installations, ARGs, and other forms of game that are embedded in or engaged with the real world to some degree). Appendices add to the volume rulesets for three role-playing games ("Puppetland", "Bestial Acts", and "The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen").

While the content of "Second Person" is extremely diverse, certain questions recur throughout: To what degree is it possible for a game with rules to present a narrative as well? How does a story have to change in order to be presented in a gaming medium? What strategies exist to help (or force) the player to "play" the story "correctly" (or to ensure that however he plays, a satisfying story will result)?

What is the relationship between a game protagonist and the player? Between other characters and the player? Between players in a multi-player world? Between the community of players and the author(s) of an on-going game?

How can games be used other than for entertainment? What political, educational, and social functions are possible for games?

Contributors

The following people contributed to "Second Person":

Ian Bogost, Rebecca Borgstrom, Greg Costikyan, Chris Crawford, Paul Czege, Jeremy Douglass, Bruno Faidutti, Nick Fortugno, Gonzalo Frasca, Fox Harrell, Pat Harrigan, Keith Herber, Will Hindmarch, Kenneth Hite, Adriene Jenik, Mark Keavney, Eric Lang, Lev Manovich, Mark Marino, George R. R. Martin, Michael Mateas, Jane McGonigal, Jordan Mechner, Talan Memmott, Steve Meretzky, Erik Mona, Nick Montfort, Torill Mortensen, Stuart Moulthrop, Kim Newman, Robert Nideffer, Celia Pearce, Teri Rueb, Marie-Laure Ryan, Joseph Scrimshaw, Lee Sheldon, Emily Short, Andrew Stern, Helen Thorington, Sean Thorne, Jonathan Tweet, John Tynes, Tim Uren, James Wallis, Jill Walker, Kevin Whelan, Kevin Wilson, Adrianne Wortzel, Eric Zimmerman, Robert Zubek.

Articles Relevant to IF

"Games, Storytelling, and Breaking the String", by Greg Costikyan, does not focus on interactive fiction, but discusses problems in creating interactive narrative in general, including the conflicts between emergent and progressive game-play.

"Enlightening Interactive Fiction: Andrew Plotkin's Shade" by Jeremy Douglass discusses Shade in terms of the relation between its themes and the coding. Douglass notes the prevalence of light-related attributes in Inform 6 code.

"The Creation of Floyd the Robot in Planetfall", by Steve Meretzky, offers a brief discussion of the popular Floyd character.

"Fretting the Player Character", by Nick Montfort, discusses the concept of the player character and how that characterization emerges. Montfort's article uses examples and ideas from Adventure, Zork, Book and Volume, Babel, Amnesia (Thomas Disch), Shrapnel, Worlds Apart, Olvido Mortal, Varicella, Savoir-Faire, Anchorhead, Facade, Winchester's Nightmare, Ad Verbum, Curses, Shade, Bad Machine, Moonmist, Leather Goddesses of Phobos, and A Mind Forever Voyaging.

"On Savoir-Faire", by Emily Short, briefly describes the puzzle design in Savoir-Faire, and how it contributes to educating the player to perform the role of the player character.

"Deikto: A Language for Interactive Storytelling", by Chris Crawford, discusses approaches to creating vibrant characters. While Crawford rejects interactive fiction as a plausible medium for the kind of work he wishes to do, his approach to the problem may be interesting to those studying the development of non-player characters.

"Writing Façade: A Case Study in Procedural Authorship", by Michael Mateas and Andrew Stern, gives a detailed description of the code underlying Facade, focusing especially on the strategies used to process natural language input and translate it into content relevant to the progress of the drama.

Also of interest: "One Story, Many Media" is by Kevin Wilson, the author of Once and Future and other interactive fiction. This article is about the development of story elements in a board game, however.

See also

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