Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Full disclosure in RPGs and IF

In indie-RPGs, there has been a trend towards what I will call full disclosure. In traditional games, there is a knowledge asymmetry about the fictional world in that the GameMaster knows a lot more of what is going on and what is going to happen than the players do. In many recent games, the GM can be more open, or even completely open, about her knowledge; or her lack of knowledge. In InSpectres, for instance, I am always very sure to show my players how I roll an assignment on the assignment chart: this drives it home to them that I have nothing up my sleeve, and the the story is theirs as much as mine to tell. In Dogs in the Vineyard, the GM's first task is to make sure that the players get to know all of what's going on in the town: she first discloses everything, and then the fireworks start going off.

This mode of play has advantages as well as disadvantages, but it is surely advantageous as far as we are trying to make the players real co-authors of the story. It is obviously difficult to contribute meaningfully to the story when you do not know everything which is relevant.

In interactive fiction, this step towards full disclosure has not been made. At least, I have never seen a game that tells its players up front what it is about, what meaningful choices the player can make and in what different ways the game can end.

Again, there are advantages and disadvantages to disclosure. But, again again, if we want the reader of the piece to become a real co-author, disclosure is good and proper.

I would really like to see experiments with full disclosure in interactive fiction.

2 comments:

  1. Ahey, :)

    On the one hand, no. Disclosure is a time-consuming process for any non-trivial amount of information, and there's no difference in the player's mind between "still going through the disclosure stage" and actually "playing" the IF. This is because playing IF is inherently a process of discovery.

    On the other hand, if you say that that still counts, then I agree. But in that case, IF with full disclosure already exists. Tapestry, for instance, which happens to be my favorite piece of IF, by the way, fits the bill.

    Cheers,
    J.

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  2. Hm, I didn't play Tapestry. Let me correct that oversight soon, and I'll return to you. :)

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