Two people shorten the road
(Re-upping this post, in honor of St. Patrick's Day.)
You never know how the parts of your life are going to fit together. For example:
As we all know, college is adventure time. So one summer my boyfriend George and I took off on a backpacking trip through Europe. Here I am, loose in the wild:
First of all, let's talk about this picture. WHAT THE HELL is the deal with that backpack? It's bigger than me, for God's sake! How am I standing? Am I about to tip over? Did I just fall down all day, every day?
And why are my glasses half the size of my face? Am I a hobbit, new to the land of the humans, unable to find things that fit correctly?
In conclusion, UGH.
ANYWAY, my point is that we had a train pass for continental Europe, which was awesome, but Susan Mary O'Connor here had to see Ireland. (The pipes, the pipes were calling, et cetera.) The problem was, we were college students who couldn't afford the price of separate/extra train tickets.
So we hitchhiked instead.
Here's the thing about Ireland: it's small. People in these tiny towns have heard each other's stories a million times. They're dying to chat up any new people in town, and hitchhikers definitely qualify as new.
So whenever a driver made room for us (and our backpacks) in their car, we wanted to make it worth their while. We told stories about our trip and cracked dumb jokes and did our best to make the drive a little bit more fun.
That experience shaped the way I think about storytelling in games.
It's easy to think that the avatar is the character driving the story. But it's the player that is driving the action; the avatar is just along for the ride. It's the avatar's job to buy the snacks, man the radio, and tell the jokes, metaphorically speaking.The avatar, in this metaphor, is the hitchhiker.
When avatars in a game WANT SOMETHING and go on and on about it ("Oh noes I have to save my beloved princess", or whatever), it's like the passenger grabbing the steering wheel and trying to take over. This is a great way to get thrown out of a car - or to lose the player when s/he quits the game.
(The avatar may, in fact, really want to save his beloved princess -- but he's got to convince the driver/player that Yes, that's a good idea, a worthy goal, a destination worth reaching. The driver/player has got a mind of his own - as writers, we can't fight this fact, just have to work with it.)
If you can tell a good enough story to a driver, like a sob story about how dear old grandpappy is buried in Tralee, maybe you'll convince the driver to take you an extra 50 miles down the road, just to help you on your way. (We all like to be helpful.)
By the same measure, if you can tell a good enough story to the player, you can convince her to keep playing along.
Today's blog title is lifted from a list of Irish sayings. Here's what it means:
Two people shorten the road. "Company makes the journey fly, as evidenced by one anecdote from Celtic folklore. In it, a father asks his son to "shorten their journey" to see the king and refuses to continue on foot when the son doesn't know how. Frustrated, the son asks his wife what to do. "Everyone knows that storytelling is the way to shorten a road," she says. They set out the next morning, and the son weaves a tale the whole way to White Strand."
Oh Ireland. I love you so.
What about you? Have you ever been to Ireland? Ever hitched a ride? Leave a comment below! Tell us a story. :)
PS Speaking of stories, for the next couple of weeks, the Storytelling Hotline is open for business. Go check it out.
And speaking of Ireland, how'd you like to be stuck in a car with this guy? (This link below will take you to YouTube. IT IS WORTH IT.)
What the hell are THESE guys saying? I don't know, but they're all about their Olympics and I am here for it.
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