There are no such thing as mediabound stories. Moby Dick is a novel, and it contains a story, but only if we read it that way. The novel itself is no story. Just as a chessboard and chess pieces isn’t the game of chess. In fact Moby Dick is just as much of a game as the chess pieces are. If two people are told to read the first 200 pages of Moby Dick as fast as they can and that the reader who reads the fastest, and have the most correct answers on a Quizz afterwords gets a 100 dollars, they aren’t only reading a story they are also playing a game (from now on called a Mobydash). In fact, chances are they are game players to a larger extent than they are story readers, since they have to adjust their reading in order to win. If the rules applied to the reading are rules of a game, the reading becomes a game, but it doesn’t end being a story. Chances are we read it both ways simultaneously, only with porer quality than if we hade just sticked to either game or story. In fact we absolutely have the possibility to do both at the same time, even though one of the process might be dominant.
So the book is only a book and whether it is a story, game or play is all about how we use it. This principle is in very much applicable on computer games, but more on that later. Today I want to finnish off with cards.
There are several activities that turn storytelling into cooperative play. The card games Tell Me a Story Creative Story Cards from eeBoo och StoryWorld Cards from Templar Publishing are two examples. Both encourages storytelling by letting the players improvise their own stories out of cards containing words and pictures that triggers the narrative. The players simple draw new cards at random from the deck to add fuel to their own imagination. The cards can be used as an uncompetitive party game (Each team gets a deck of cards and must tell a story about the host using all of the cards, go!”), or parents can use them instead of books for bedtime stories.
If we then add formal rules and an award system outside of the actual story, like points, honour, money or privileges, we have a game. This kind of cardgame can be found in Once upon a Time: The Storytelling Card Game from Trident, for example.
Storytelling can be a game, or simply play. The result is a story none the less, and to the onlookers it is surely a story experience. The same goes for short story competitions. We have formal rules and an award system outside of the actual story. Yes, writing stories can be a game too, just as reading stories for a book club can be a game. If you, for example, haven’t finnished the book and can drop a few trivia about the books characters and meaning, your were to get socially punished. But not only can storytelling be games, I would argue that all writing actually involves play.
Play refers, according to Wikipedia, to “a range of voluntary, intrinsically motivated activities that are normally associated with pleasure and enjoyment”. It’s a wide definition, but regardless seem to fit the act of most storywriting perfectly. Informal writing, as in fan ficition and collaborative storytelling, is motivated by the enjoyment of participation, there is usually no big carrot outside of the actual activity. If writing is play, and some of it is game, and we have cards than can support this play by providing stimuli, can the same not be said of computer games? Computer games aren’t stories, but they aren’t games either. Instead they are (most often) products that support “game playing”, as well as activities of play and story. More on this in the next post.