Loved this bit “ an emerging aesthetic sensibility around the methods themselves that developers use to entwine gameplay and narrative.”
This is so very true. It feels that stories are lessons shared in a specific learned language. The language relies heavily on conventions; to some degree that is all it is. It is specific to the medium. It is specific to a trained audience. And as with all rich human endeavors, there’s ways to do it well and ways to do it poorly. Recognizing that spectrum is a delicious form of aesthetics.
Over years and many attempts, we’ve built up a lot of story telling conventions in games. And we’ve built up an audience that likes that shit. :-) One fun experiment that proves this out is showing Gone Home to someone without a history of learning the conventions of FPS. It falls apart. The pacing is wrong, the page-turning verb clunky, the story basic.
But to the trained reader, it is delicious.
It feels like this has always been how story telling colonizes a medium. Not via utopian meaning making (never the actual reason for story telling), but authorial meaning transfer via methods of negotiated communication to a specific audience.
And in this model, when futurists predict the future, they are mostly performing a Zerg rush towards defining public standards ‘All Should Strive to Follow’. Betting on that first mover advantage. Their curse and ultimate failing is that the organic iteration on cultural norms doesn’t seems to be friendly to niche voices that are not widely referenced or even read by the seething norm-breeding masses of game developers and gamers.
Cultural norms around language and communication always feel more amendable to being shifted by shear numbers, mundane practice and and billions of dollars of sustained marketing or propaganda. Rather than thought in isolation of the messy reality. Janet Murray? I raise you $20+ billion in advertising over 30 years.
(But systems and players, eh? Wouldn’t it be neat to talk about those at some point.)