What constitutes a "story" has evolved quite a bit for me very recently. Before starting at Parsons and learning to make visual media, I was strictly a writer. I consumed other media but the only thing I looked at as being able to be called a "story" was written text. Something with a beginning and end. There has to be a climax, protagonist(s), antagonist(s) and settings that make sense for the world one is attempting to build.
My current view is that these rules don't apply because they never really existed; that is, unless one is looking to fit into a specific money-making structure. Much like the author, proper story structure is "the result of capitalist ideology". As such, I'm doing my best to work against that. In my undertaking of a game about envy I seek not to do or say anything explicit. Envy is a feeling and idea we're all familiar with. Along with it and its cousin jealousy come connotations and signifiers. With the piece I created I want to bring focus on the pitfalls of acting on envy; the struggles of finding out that the grass is rarely ever greener on the other side. Looking at pieces like Nova Alea, I felt this would be the most effective method of dealing with the subject matter. The game by Nova Alea serves as an answer to problems created by Will Wright's Sim City.
In Sim City, you play the role of a benevolent god-king/mayor. With seemingly unlimited resources, you embark on a quest to fill as worlds' space with civilization until you grow tired of it. It doesn't take into account the nuances of life and society. It ignores the human impact of decisions like sending tornadoes through to raze your cities. It also deals with socioeconomic disparities by not doing so at all. In contrast, Nova Alea makes clear the weight of the weathy's buying and selling games on the citizenry.
While still making use of text and dialogue, Nova Alea takes a subtle approach to highlighting the very real issue of real estate capitalism. There isn't any real "loss" in the game; no way to "win" either. You play as an entity representing wealth. there's a meter that tracks the progress to your goal. What that goal may be is rather unclear. If that meter should be depleted, you simply assume the role of some new phantom hyper-rich predecessors. If the citizenry, with whom you eventually find yourself in competition with, fill their meter before you, then they "win". Even that state doesn't feel like a loss. You don't lose your status or resources. Rather, the city just becomes "one of the people.
This is the kind of subtly I intend to make use of in my piece about envy. I want nothing to be so explicit that my intention is the only possible take-away from the experience.
I want just enough clarity that they know they need to do something, but not so much that there is only one answer to why. In his essay "Death to the Author", Roland Barthes makes the point that the story only becomes a story when it is consumed by an audience. My piece was already near the end stages of production when I read it, but I agree whole-heartedly.
He pointed out that stories used to be living, breathing, communal things before capitalism's creation of "the author". As such I am reaffirmed in the direction I've decided to take my piece. I've created a something open to interpretation for which the users can be co-authors. I want the meaning to change. I want the message to be open to interpretation.
I want the story of the game to be a living, breathing and communal thing.
Like the old days.