As discussed previously, one of the sub-questions currently under observation is
- How can a system induce without compelling?
If this video game is supposed to encourage but not enforce dramatic inter-player interaction, there must exist sustained stimuli to make them do so. However, their dramatic contributions should be drawn from imagination and creativity rather than dutifully rendered to comply with some preordained objective. Paradoxically, the problem spells out something along the lines of “Players must do X but they mustn’t feel like they have to X but they need to do it anyway.”
Earlier I analysed the narrative device known as the MacGuffin, which is an object er event that propels characters through a narrative without having very much meaning in and of itself. Translated to the video game grammar, this would mean an obvious, concrete objective to reach within the confines of the game, that is not as essential as it initially seems.
Journey appeared to be about journeying to the mountain. It involved journeying to the mountain, and ended with you ending up said mountain. The game, however, was not about the mountain. The featured some light platforming and collecting stuff, but it wasn’t really about that either. It was about the subtle, anonymous multiplayer mechanic, where though limited communication two players, unaware of each other’s identity and with no way to discover it before finishing the game, forged a relationship between the two players, companionship for the titular journey. A game that solely dealt with this would be much harder to realize without the huge mountain-shaped MacGuffin (though the idea is not without merit), but within the confines of the concept, it works very well, as the objective-driven mind of the player is still concerned with reaching the mountain, even if he spends more time interacting than actually completing this goal.
On the other hand, if I really want meaningful, dramatic interaction in my game, it can’t solely rely on misdirection and subtle induction. The meaningful interaction would probably entail concerted effort from the players’ side, a will and a want to perform and interact with one another, something that is not featured in Journey. The interaction can’t just be incidental, a byproduct of more focused play. Therefore, we can conclude that the ‘MacGuffin’ in the game, the device that will induce players into performance, can’t be an all-encompassing, direct objective like a gargantuan mountain in the distance. Which begs the next question: Of what nature should the MacGuffin be in order to realize the goal of meaningful inter-player interaction? In any case:
Tenet: The performance-inducing MacGuffin cannot supersede the performance-focused goals of the game.