I just read Bruce Sterling. The Wonderful Power of Storytelling via Luke W. I believe that storytelling is a powerful element of great software design, and probably game design as well (although I’m no game designer). Despite his contrarian argument, I enjoyed reading his talk. Here are some highlights:
“Don’t become a well-rounded person. Well rounded people are smooth and dull. Become a thoroughly spiky person. Grow spikes from every angle. Stick in their throats like a pufferfish.”
He paraphrases what he calls the the classic doctrine of Humanist SF as it applies to computer game design:
“Movies and plays get much of their power from the resonances
between the structural layers. The congruence between the theme,
plot, setting and character layouts generates emotional power.
Computer games will never have a significant theme level because
the outcome is variable. The lack of theme alone will limit the
storytelling power of computer games.
“Hard to refute. Impossible to refute. Ladies and gentlemen to
hell with the marvellous power of storytelling. If the audience
for science fiction wanted *storytelling*, they wouldn’t read
goddamned *science fiction,* they’d read Harpers and Redbook and
Argosy. The pulp magazine (which is our genre’s primary example
of a dead platform) used to carry all kinds of storytelling.
Western stories. Sailor stories. Prizefighting stories. G-8 and
his battle aces. Spicy Garage Tales. Aryan Atrocity Adventures.
These things are dead. Stories didn’t save them. Stories won’t
save us. Stories won’t save *you.*
“This is not the route to follow. We’re not into science fiction
because it’s *good literature,* we’re into it because it’s
*weird*. Follow your weird, ladies and gentlemen. Forget trying
to pass for normal. Follow your geekdom. Embrace your nerditude.
In the immortal words of Lafcadio Hearn, a geek of incredible
obscurity whose work is still in print after a hundred years,
“woo the muse of the odd.” A good science fiction story is not a
“good story” with a polite whiff of rocket fuel in it. A good
science fiction story is something that knows it is science
fiction and plunges through that and comes roaring out of the
other side. Computer entertainment should not be more like
movies, it shouldn’t be more like books, it should be more like
computer entertainment, SO MUCH MORE LIKE COMPUTER ENTERTAINMENT
THAT IT RIPS THROUGH THE LIMITS AND IS SIMPLY IMPOSSIBLE TO