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Gameplay-story. The new Alliance. Yet another blog about it.
by Colm McAndrews on 04/17/11 04:10:00 pm   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


Yet a few persons seem to graze the solution, then they precipitate back to their personal anecdotes and many, many clichés. It won't do. 

To be stuck in a dicotomy is probably the most frequent mistake of human thought. There's dicotomy everywhere because our brains aren't developed enough to reunite things that apparently are contradictorial.

So there's story, uh writing, a plot, an intrigue, dialogues, feelings, bad boys, love and betrayal. And then there's you playing a silly game, beating things up, shooting, running, shooting again, stuffing bars with skill points... things that count, aren't nerd-oriented, thank god! That is a game, that is interaction. But there's no room for story, there. Because it's two different things. There's conflict because we load those things with cultural rigid ideas, these ideas build a WALL that separates them. And both things rot, they're isolated and are diminished because they can't evolve.

Symbiosis is not only possible, though, it's natural. A story told WITH actions still requires writing, a new kind of writing that takes interaction into account. Videogames are interaction so story has to be interactive!

Role-playing, for instance, is not you abandoning the actual game to feel all emotional and immersed in the lore, just to abandon it again when you're slaying things, get down to the serious business, that's misconception. Roleplaying is already a symbiosis of the two elements, it was there all along. You must interact, or play, with story, which is you having a role(or an active function: a villain, an adjuvator, a hero etc.) in some events.

That is role-playing, nothing else. It's simple as that. See RP is the proof that cultural anecdotes we tend to knit upon terms lead astray from obvious natural meanings that are in front of us.

In an RPG you shouldn't develop your character because of tactics and power, because then you're interacting with meta-elements. Your developing the character has to be influenced and have direct impact on the story(which is a two-way interaction).

-you don't follow the story= you cannot play, story kills you, stabs you right in the end(see Laura Bow... zounds, did that game traumatize yet excited me).

But on the other hand, story progresses only thanks to your material game choices and choices aren't necessarily dialogue and text and the classic concept of writing, they can easily be pure action.

When your character enters a tavern, you will talk to someone instead of someone else(even in sequence, not necessarily a rigid "choice"), thus affecting the story; when you buy a long sword you will be categorized as a soldier or warrior, thus affecting story, when you assign certain points to your skills you choose a class and a sub-class, thus affecting the story.

Everything makes story, choices happen all the time and they're everywhere and they trigger new drama and scripts. And they're fluid, not just useless ranting, boring text written by wanna-be hollywood scribblers. Videogames are not books, interaction is an "ACTION". It is, i repeat, a new type of writing that takes into account the actual game mechanics, they're not independent events, story is the expression of a gameplay.

Mind you folks, i'm not talking about a fantasy simulation... i'm not talking about Oblivion's(lousy and childish, the Bethesda way) virtual aspects, generic life as opposed to the actual story-line... that stuff doesn't need writing, i'm not talking about a player who writes his own story. The game writer needs to write a solid piece of drama, but the player needs to actually play it, not just spectate it.

Bulletstorm's gameplay consists on the player having to shoot and kill with style so you get a score. Story should revolve around this concept so that you may interact with it and feel like you're making the story. When you choose to use a rocketlauncher instead of a machinegun the story has to change accordingly.

This way good writing and good gameplay will be saying the same thing. That's the new alliance that is our common omen. The old concept of story cannot work in videogames, because videogames are in-ter-act-ion. Story has to kneel in front of interaction and shift its shape, humbly... to become something entirely new. We have to forget all we learnt about it, as Yoda pointed out.

Naturally a person who doesn't appreciate or understand gameplay will never be able to write a good story in a videogame. Bioware's Dragon Age 2 writer, a person who hates actual videogames, is clearly a plague to all the medium and IT needs to be purged and boycotted. No wonder Dragon Age 2 is mostly a failure of a game.

I feel it's time to provide clear examples otherwise it's all abstraction:

-at an inn, a person hires you for a job. Go to a cave, kill bandits. So yo do it, kill and kill, reach the boss, the boss talks to you and reveals the quest giver is a bandit renegade, he wants to be the new boss, using you. So you may choose to kill both bosses, one or the other, or tell the peasants so they will get their stolen money back. Choose any, you get different rewards such as different companions, different equipment, different skills, a different alignment, and if it's not too much trouble, you get a few different dialogue lines, sometimes. They're mostly gameish consequences.

2nd version.

-at an inn, a person hires you for a job. Go to a cave, kill bandits. So you do it, but the hints about the trickery can be gathered by investigating the premises, by using your skills of stealth, of disguises, of charisma to infiltrate and persuade the bandits to reveal their secrets and gather needed intel. Now it's time to decide what to do, as above, you can choose how to end the quest. But writing intervenes again in connection with your choices, to provide SOLID consequences. Sparing the bandits means that when you face the final evil entity, the bandits will show you a slick way into the castle in the deep of the enchanted forest, or the bandits will support you when you want to run for lord of the feud.

You guys can see WHERE exactly writing allies with gameplay, and on the contrary you can see how external, forceful and sham it feels in the first version; there's a rigid separation between killing phases and dramatic events, even alignment, which is by definition a consequence dense of spirituality, of karma, doesn't have any result except a "scoring needle" that moves up or down(i'm clearly referring to how Mass Effect handles alignment) whereas in the 2nd case dramatic events are triggered by your own actions and your own final choices result in outcomes that WILL change your character's life.

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Darren Tomlyn
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The problem here is simple - (Read my blog - click my name).


Games are DEFINED by the FORMER, ART, by the LATTER. PUZZLES merely involve interacting with the latter, and not the former. Competitions involve competing for the latter.

If a story TOLD does not enable or (at worst) promote a story to be written in a game, then why does it exist?

Many computer games are no longer just games - they are a mixture of games/puzzles/works of art/competitions etc. - but all of the others, reliant on stories being TOLD, ALL exist at the EXPENSE of the game itself - the WRITTEN story!

This is the problem we have at this time...

Ronildson Palermo
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I thought the main difference between art & science is that one is perceived and the other is understood. Not that art is telling a story, displaying a painting or listening to a song.

Maybe I'm wrong then...

Darren Tomlyn
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OOPS - did I really write what I thought I wrote up there - oops. Sorry - lets try that again... (I shouldn't post when it's getting too late - doh).

Art is created, and then applied by people's perceptions of or upon such a creation.

Art = creative story TELLING.

Art is DEFINED by the behaviour of its creator/performer/teacher. People then APPLY such a definition based on their own subjective perception and opinion of such a creation/performance/teaching.

Listening to a song, or displaying a painting is not art in itself. The song and painting may, however, be considered and perceived as works of art in themselves, based on an individual's subjective opinion.

Games are NOT about TELLING stories at all, nor being TOLD a story. Games are about people competing by WRITING their OWN stories (in a structured environment).

The problem with (computer) games today, is that the emphasis tends to be placed on TELLING a story (art), rather than letting a player WRITE their own, which is a problem. Merely interacting with a story being told, is not a game, either, but a puzzle.

The whole point about games, is that the story DOES NOT EXIST UNTIL THEY ARE PLAYED. (The setting doesn't count). For this reason, puzzles and competitions (competing to be told a story), are not really compatible with games at all - art can be, but it does depend entirely on it's application.

Andrew Dobbs
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I think your caps lock may be getting stuck.

Jack Garbuz
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Writers invent stories. Programmers invent contraptions. If put together right, you get entertainment.

Jack Garbuz
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Ooops, I meant interactive entertainment, albeit that stories and contraptions can be entertaining on their own. Like watching a Rube Goldberg contraption, for example.

Drake Misek
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I like a lot of the thoughts in this piece. Compare with:

"Environment" as the key storytelling element of card games. Voice for literature. Visual imagery for films. And, now, action for video games.

Colm McAndrews
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uhm im sorry, i don't know the first thing about card games, so i don't really understand the post. :)

Drake Misek
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It only started out examining card games. Overall, it was about the unique strengths of particular types of art. In the case of card games, the best way for a story to shine is to create an "environment", which can then be supported by the individual cards associated with that environment. Even if the player doesn't see all the cards, and no matter what order they see the cards in, they'll still be able to follow the story of the environment.

Literature's strength with characterization comes from how something is said (in terms of the words used). Film's strength with icons comes from how something is said (in terms of the style of speech) and what the person who's saying it looks like.

You point out that the strength of video games is interaction, with a focus on "action". But, like you typed, most characterization is done via cut scenes, while the action parts of a video game at most might feature certain character's recycling a few individual lines.

Colm McAndrews
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Ah sure. But my point is that all "artistic" elements that come from other media, shift their shape when they enter a new realm, they come before the ruler, in this case Queen Interaktyon, they kneel. Our omen is that characterization may become one with interaction too.

Every media invents its own way of telling a story, through its specific nature, interaction is definitely the final step of story-telling that started with graffiti in a cave wall... because, i mean, what's beyond interaction? Inter-imagin-action, real-time creation of worlds, of dreams?

Atm we simply don't realize that interaction has to invent a new concept of story-telling, it has to do it, i repeat, WITH ITS OWN native tools, with its own "feet".

If videogames are "only" interaction we will NEVER move on from horrible platformers and beat 'em ups, videogames aren't just games, they DO need stories to become "human". Is that what you mean for M: the gathering?

Drake Misek
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Hm, I typed up an entire response, clicked Submit, and then had to log-in again, at which point my comment was gone. I'll try to retype as much as I can from memory:

I'm quoting the "environment" stuff from an article that is itself quoted in the article I linked to, so there's a few levels of cognitive separation going on, but I can say what I personally mean for Magic.

The makers of Magic found out that they couldn't tell a good story in their card game by using the same methods as, say, novelists. They eventually discovered how to use the strengths of their own medium: many cards are produced for each "block", and each card has its own image along with a sentence or two of "flavor text", and so combined in any quantity or order these cards can tell the story of their block's "environment" to any player.

I like the connection between this article and yours that different types of media need to use their particular strengths to tell good stories, and both the Magic article and yours gave examples of how that can be done.

I also like that you mentioned that video games still need good writing to tell a good story--the writing just can't be intrusive to the game--;I think the same is true for video games and film. Games can find inspiration for creating iconic characters, etc. from films, but this can't be done in a way that's intrusive to the game, i.e. the absolute division of gameplay and cutscenes. I don't think that cutscenes should be completely done away with, but I think they work best as bookends, either at the beginning and end of a game or the beginning and end of each chapter/act in a game. Plus, Heavy Rain--as an example--has shown how the difference between gameplay and cutscene can be blurred, just by adding interactivity.

Colm McAndrews
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Awesome, you totally got what i meant. Only through interaction can come a good story. Just like in a novel a teaching, a point, a philosophy, can come only through a plot.

Darren Tomlyn
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I recommend you read my blog, in order to fully understand the perspective I have - (which appears to be unique, but then, I seem to be the only/first one who's figured this out).

What we're talking about here is simple - different applications of different behaviour, and how they can be used to enable another, and are therefore compatible.

Art, game, puzzle, competition, (even work and play), as nouns ALL represent applications of behaviour according to their use.

The reason why people have problems with games and art specifically, is because art is compatible with games, and can therefore be used to enable such a thing - for example computer or board games both require art to be used in order to exist. The problem, is that people don't fully recognise and understand that such art is merely an application of something that already exists and is defined separately and independently of a game, (or even puzzle/competition if used in a similar manner for those).

Since game, art, puzzle and competition all exist separately, they cannot be used to define each other. Just because a game uses art, does not mean it is defined by it - picture, music, video/film, animation, sculpture etc. are all forms of art and defined as such. Just because they are used to enable a game, does not mean they stop being a picture, video, animation etc.. (As an analogy - we can make a table using wood, but it doesn't mean wood or table are defined as each other, or that a wooden table means something new for the definition of wood or table themselves - it's merely an application OF such definitions - (which is why we need to use the two words together in combination within the language)).

The person's behaviour such words represent applications of, and therefore how they are defined, is different. Art is defined by the behaviour of its creator/teacher/performer. People merely apply such a definition upon such a thing when they perceive it. Game, however, is defined by the behaviour of the player(s).

The problem you're having, is not fully recognising the basic application of basic behaviour these words represent, based on their use - (and you're not alone).

Telling a creative story, is art. Interacting with such a story, (usually through power of choice, discovery or inquiry), is NOT a game. Why?

Because there already exists many forms of such an application of behaviour, that are not recognised in a consistent manner for what they are.

If we take a normal created story - say a novel. This would be is a work of literature, a type of art. If we then interact with such a thing, say through choosing how to be told such a thing - (a choose your own adventure book) - what would it become? It would remain a work of art, but become something else in addition.


If we just take the basic behaviour, and apply it as a different form - what do we wind up with?

A maze.

A puzzle.

Interacting with creative stories being told is a puzzle, not a game.

So what is a game? Read my blog and find out...

Colm McAndrews
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My god, im having the hardest time figuring out what you mean.

I don't get it, why can't puzzles be art?

Also, how is this relevant to this post, which is about combining classic writing and interactivity?

Colm McAndrews
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"thought that cRPG’s are defined also by the stories they have to tell – i.e. their plot and narrative.

Such a definition, however, has never worked for me, since I’ve never played games for such a reason"

I already strongly disagree with this.

the word ROLE from role-playing already implies that your character has a function in whatever events.

So you can't strip a story from a cRpg.

Darren Tomlyn
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No. GAME is, and can be ONLY defined by the BEHAVIOUR of the PLAYER(S).

cRPG's are a PROBLEM, because such a description is INCONSISTENT with what they must represent, according to how the word game is used within the language.

Plot and narrative is ART, and ONLY ART. If plot and narrative defined games then every plot and narrative would BE a game - or, adding such a plot and narrative to ANY other game, would turn it into a cRPG, which is NOT the case.


The problem with RPG's is that they describe a MEDIUM that is ONLY consistent INDEPENDENTLY of a computer, similar to a board, dice, (playing) cards etc., (though may be compatible with certain other media too, depending on their application - (such as board games)).

When a computer is used to enable and promote a game it BECOMES the SOLE medium itself, (though can also be described by it's type), and so every type of computer game must merely be defined by the stories that can be WRITTEN when using such a medium. (Yes, I know that certain other media can also be further represented within a computer - but a person cannot - though if that were true then EVERY game using a character would be considered an RPG - which it is NOT. Why? because it's what they player DOES, not what they control, that matters! Defining a type of game by the PIECE being used, is not consistent with how the word game is used in general. I can play monopoly with a chess piece, but it does not define it as chess. Games are defined by the medium used to write stories with, (not the playing piece when appropriate or applicable), and then the stories that can be written using such media).

EVERY OTHER TYPE OF COMPUTER GAME IS CONSISTENT WITH THIS. (From shoot'em ups/beat 'em ups, strategy games etc.). They all merely describe the stories that can be written within such games when using a computer.

cRPG's are therefore a problem, and only a problem because of how they are LABELLED.


Because underneath of what all people perceive - inconsistently - with cRPG's, (because of how they are labelled) - there exists an extremely powerful type of story that can be WRITTEN - (possibly the most powerful possible using a computer) - that some 'cRPG's' possess and use, inconsistently.

The problem, is that, because it is based on the behaviour of the PLAYER and not the game itself, it is not, nor has ever been, limited to just CHARACTERS. And games have never limited this type of story to just characters which is why the whole situation is so confused - it's also used with 'things' such as cars/spaceships etc. - but because the behaviour of the PLAYER is still fully consistent, it is not a problem to be used in such a manner.

What we're talking about here is:

Systematic (since it needs to be a central tenet of a game in order for it to be described and defined as such), user-defined, (since it needs to be a WRITTEN story), 'character' (it can use cars/planes/spaceships etc. without problem) DEVELOPMENT, (over time), (the element this type of game has that defines it), above and beyond the basic game-play - (since that is a written story that is defined else-where (action-adventure/shoot'em up/strategy etc.)), and setting (since that is a story that is TOLD, that is also defined elsewhere).

Plot and narrative have no place in such a description because they are ART, not GAME.

P.s. calling a type of game 'video' game, is also inconsistent - it is a COMPUTER that is the medium that enables the stories to be WRITTEN, and not video, (since that is purely art - creative story telling). This is the equivalent of calling games 'picture' game, just because they use them in order to enable the game itself. But we don't call games that for a reason - because they are NOT the medium used - they are called card or board games instead.

Again people, including you, are confused between:

Things people DO (for themselves).

Things people DO (for others)

Things that happen TO people.

ONLY the first DEFINES a game, because they exist completely INDEPENDENTLY of the others!

cRPG's are not labelled in a manner that is CONSISTENT with such a thing and so such a label is WRONG.

Plot and and narrative does NOT define a game EVER. Why? Because we can use the same plot and narrative with COMPLETELY DIFFERENT GAMES.


Puzzle, also represents a DIFFERENT application of DIFFERENT behaviour to either game or art.

Like a game, however art CAN be used to enable and promote such an application of behaviour - but it is not DEFINED by it.

Any puzzle that USES art, is therefore simply a work of art in ADDITION to being a puzzle, just like any game that uses art is also a work of art in ADDITION to being a game.


So the last question I'll leave you with, is just why 'systematic, user-defined, 'character' development (over time), above and beyond the basic game-play and setting' is so powerful?

That will, of course, depend on just how much you truly you understand games in the first place... (If you do, then it's obvious).

Colm McAndrews
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HEh are you seriously TELLING me that i AM confused about videogames?

And that you're the only one who "figured all out", and so you "recommend" people to read you in order to "understand"?

I'll be damned :)

But anyway, i'm still trying to figure out what you're actually saying, beyond all the madness of over-complicating terms.

For example i'm not completely sure what you mean with behaviour, but im sure i disagree with it. A game cannot, MUST NOT be defined by the behaviour of a person, because it goes against all i ever preached, not to mention it creats monstrous confusion. Interaction is a concrete element that never changes from gamer to gamer. A game's type of interaction is objective and impartial and decided when the game is programmed. Infact if you want to make a point that's going to provide more clarity for people(and i don't think you're succeeding when you talk about behaviour), and which purpose is to make games better, i think you should stick to something that's common ground for everyone, something that is pure facts. In my blogs the only time i'm "imposing" a point of view is when i define interaction, and even then i just want to stick to facts. Anywhere else i'm just rearranging ideas that everyone already acknowledges.

But this can't be solved in here, plz come find me in MSN messenger at or facebook for "garden kadeshi", and we chat it out.

Darren Tomlyn
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You obviously fail to understand the meaning of the word behaviour, in isolation, which is how I'm using it here.

As I've explained in my blog post, I'm using behaviour as the only suitable word to represent THINGS THAT HAPPEN, (as opposed (and related) to merely 'things' in themselves). In my opinion, based on how the word is used, it is entirely suitable to be used in such a manner, with such meaning (in isolation).

Verbs, are a type of word that represents 'things that happen', by themselves, in isolation - unfortunately, some of the words we use to DESCRIBE what verbs represent, actually represent an APPLICATION of such 'things that happen' instead - (my little Mini (and concise) Oxford English Dictionary describes verbs as representing 'action state or occurrence' - but such words are NOT verbs - they are nouns:

This type of NOUN represents words that are directly, or abstractly related to and/or derived from verbs themselves, and therefore represent APPLICATIONS of things that happen - i.e. behaviour. For this reason, using such words to describe VERBS, is inconsistent.

Since the word behaviour does NOT have to represent an application of 'things that happen', but instead can be seen and used as representing such a thing in itself, it can therefore be used to describe such words BY their relationship in a consistent OBJECTIVE manner.

Act, as a verb, represents some behaviour, though it can also be used as a noun to represent an APPLICATION of the same behaviour.

Action and activity ALSO represent different methods of applying the same behaviour.

Interaction is therefore a further application of such behaviour.

Game, art, puzzle, competition, work and play, (along with other words such as accident, party etc.), ALL represent APPLICATIONS of 'things that happen' - i.e. BEHAVIOUR.

The question then, is of course, whose and what's behaviour?

This is where we're also having problems at this time in recognising and understanding what these words represent. The reason for this, is that such words are not described to or by any actor, and therefore leave it to an individual to replace such a thing with their own SUBJECTIVE representation.

Why is this a problem? Because definitions of words cannot afford to be subjective, and since such words exist in ISOLATION in the language from any actor/subjects/objects taking part in such an activity or being affected by such behaviour, due to being used as nouns, the link between the behaviour itself and those the behaviour is being applied to, is not being perceived in a consistent manner.

Which is why we're getting a situation where people think art is defined by the BEHAVIOUR of its audience, or games are defined by the BEHAVIOUR of the game itself etc. - ALL of which are inconsistent with how the words are USED, and therefore WRONG.

This is ultimately the cause of the argument we're having here:

Games are defined by the behaviour of it's player(s)

Art is defined by the behaviour of its creator/teacher/performer

Puzzles are defined by the behaviour of those interacting with it

How such definitions are APPLIED - is a COMPLETELY different matter, the difference of which is NOT being consistently recognised at this time, and is also causing a LOT of problems - which you should expect, since its a very basic part of how our language functions!

Colm McAndrews
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I am really really really sorry, but i literally have no idea what you're saying. PLEASE try to simplify.

I just cannot read more than 2 phrases without feeling my head bubbling. Sorry again.

"Which is why we're getting a situation where people think art is defined by the BEHAVIOUR of its audience, or games are defined by the BEHAVIOUR of the game itself etc. - ALL of which are inconsistent with how the words are USED, and therefore WRONG."

jesus. Just... re-read this phrase, it's so gibberish it feels like you're typing random words on purpose.

Darren Tomlyn
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As I said - if you don't understand what the word behaviour represents - then you're a bit stuffed, because that's what these words represent (applications of).

Flight is an APPLICATION of fly.

Movement is an APPLICATION of move.

Speech is an APPLICATION of speak.

Do you not understand this?

Fly, move and speak are words that represent, and can be DESCRIBED as representing, a form or type of BEHAVIOUR, in and for itself, in ISOLATION, and is used as such within and by the language itself - and belong to a type of word that is used to represent such a concept - verbs.

Although this type of NOUN can and does contain words, like those above - speech, flight and movement - that are directly related to, and derived from verbs, they do NOT have to be.

Game and art are two such words, as is party, accident etc.. They represent a similar concept to flight and movement, yet have no direct equivalent for representing just the behaviour itself - for this reason, the use of these words either directly, or derived, to represent such behaviour has been derived from the application, rather than the other way round - (let's party, for example).

All these words, fundamentally represent THINGS THAT HAPPEN and APPLICATIONS of such THINGS THAT HAPPEN.

Since one of the biggest problems people have with the language currently, is getting confused by the different uses of the word 'thing', an alternative method is required to describe such a concept without the word - a replacement of 'things that happen'.

In my opinion, based entirely upon its USE, the word behaviour is the ONLY possible solution.

Fly, move and speak can therefore be described as words that represent BEHAVIOUR, in and for itself, in isolation.

Flight, movement, speech, game, art, puzzle, work and play, competition - (as nouns) - can therefore be described as representing APPLICATIONS of BEHAVIOUR.

Colm McAndrews
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ok. Uh we established that a noun is often verbalized and viceversa. What's the exact problem?

And that the words game and art don't have a verb.

i'm slowly starting to grasp your point and the more i understand the more i am shocked at your attempts to dictate definitions of words.

A puzzle is not a game? Why the hell not?

I restate the invitation to come to FB or MSN, we've already cluttered this page enuff with this junk.

Darren Tomlyn
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This is not junk - this is the very foundation upon which the reason for this entire website is built.

A puzzle is not game because the two words are not USED in a manner that demonstrates such an identity.

Crosswords/sudoku/mazes etc. are not, nor have ever been considered games in themselves - they're called puzzles.

A race, competitive throwing/movement for accuracy/precision/distance/time are not considered puzzles, but based on how the word game is, and always has been used, they are games.

Puzzle != game Q.E.D.

You might as-well describe metal as being wood. Objects can be made using both, but have no place defining either. Of course, if you don't know what the word material represents, is in the first place, or why and how it exists, then...

This is a very basic, simple study and example of linguistics. If you want to know WHY those things are, or should be considered games, based on how the word is used, then read my blog entry on the word (part 3).

EDIT: As for your first point - you are wrong. The reason for that, is that the only relationship verbs and nouns are currently DESCRIBED, and recognised, to have, is between 'things' and behaviour - (sail/brake/bomb etc.). The type of noun we are looking at here is NOT described or recognised or understood BY such a relationship, even though it is completely obvious! THIS is why we're having problems!

This type of noun is currently described in general using two words, in ISOLATION - event and state. Such a description is therefore completely unsuitable for a type (or even a sub-type) of word. When you consider that verbs themselves are sometimes described as representing a state - you must recognise that there is, in fact, a problem!

But how the word game is related to the rest of the English language, and how that affects it's definition, is merely HALF of the problem when it comes to fully understanding what the word game represents.

The other is understanding the difference between it's definition, and it's application - the same goes for puzzles and art, which is also part of the problem here (with puzzle).

As an analogy - if you take game to be the word furniture, what we have at the minute is:

Arm, high, single, double, metal, wood, plastic, glass, front, back, bedroom, kitchen.

Without table, chair, bed, wardrobe, drawers etc., how can we possibly understand and know WHAT it is the word furniture represents?

Colm McAndrews
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Sorry, i still have no idea what you're talking about.

"A puzzle is not game because the two words are not USED in a manner that demonstrates such an identity".

this literally means nothing. What do you mean with USED, what do you mean with demonstration.

i don't understand this obsession with words. Words don't have rigid meanings, each person can refer to dozens of different objects with a word. How can you tell how words are "used" and what does it even mean to "use" a word? Use where? To communicate what to whom?

"Puzzle != game Q.E.D." what is this, what is that exclamation mark next to that maths symbol, what is a Q.E.D?

"Such a description is therefore completely unsuitable for a type (or even a sub-type) of word. When you consider that verbs themselves are sometimes described as representing a state - you must recognise that there is, in fact, a problem!"

i don't understand this entire paragraph, i dunno what you mean with unsuitable, i dunno what you mean with "described".

TRY to be simpler. Use more examples. In the meantime i'll contact someone to delete this which i can only define as spam. There's no point in leaving it here as it can be egyptian to me.

if this sums up your point:

"Games are defined by the behaviour of it's player(s)

Art is defined by the behaviour of its creator/teacher/performer

Puzzles are defined by the behaviour of those interacting with it

How such definitions are APPLIED - is a COMPLETELY different matter, the difference of which is NOT being consistently recognised at this time, and is also causing a LOT of problems - which you should expect, since its a very basic part of how our language functions!"

then please TRY to translate in a human language because it sounds completely insane to me.

WHAT-exactly is your point.

Darren Tomlyn
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If you do not understand language in general, enough to know what you or others are talking about - or do not understand the English language enough to understand its use - then may I suggest you go and take/do a proper English language course somewhere. (Note: I've taken and passed one in the past year).

Once you have done so - we might be able to have a proper conversation.

What we are talking about here is the foundation of language itself - the reason and purpose of its existence, and how and why it is used to enable such a thing.

As I said, if you do not understand such fundamentals, then you will not understand what it is I'm trying to say/saying.

If you do not understand how and why a word is defined by it's use - then just stop - this conversation no longer has any purpose to exist.

Colm McAndrews
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Finally, i understood ONE post of yours. :)

That's exactly the point, you talk to me and everyone else as if we all took a course not just in plain popular english but in super-freak hardcore PhD-level semantics/epistemology. How can you assume we all studied that and understand your way to explain this crap?

I can list all the words you ASSUME we know what you refer to, extremely niche words that per se have totally generic, uncertain and multiple meaning, that you use in a way that's understood by nomore than 3 or 4 semiologists in the whole world... that i repeat you presume we understand.

You took a course in english but they obviously didn't teach you the essence of a conversation being among other things consensual reference to reality(a person has to talk in a specific way in relation to the other person's culture, in this case you had to assume i had a simple videogame culture, and you completely FAILED to do that hence failing conversation) but you go on and on you didn't even CARE whether we knew what you're referring to, and that's a terrible mental problem you have.

What else? These are not "fundamentals", the things you were typing are very advanced linguistics you can find in a university. The fact that you think it's fundamentals is demential.

And finally, the "use of a word" doesn't mean anything per se, i use a lot of words but it's important to know what material or mental object im referring to. In the use ITSELF of a word there's no meaning or definition. I use the word puzzle to refer to a generic obstacle or problem to overcome. Sometimes it's a game, sometimes it's serious life obstacles that one struggles to solve. They're all puzzles, and arguably life is a game, so you face problems that puzzle you all the time. So a word is not defined by its use because everyone uses them however they want. You assume that the use is common for everyone

I'm done. I couldn't find anyone to clean a bit this shit... i hope you can edit your posts empty before you go-go. :)

And lucky the next one who will read yoyr jabber :)

Darren Tomlyn
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I never told you the level of the course I took ;) (English literacy level 2 in the U.K. - GCSE level - standard secondary education). The 'use of the word' generally means context - the words used in combination etc..

As I said, however, if you have problems with words such as 'behaviour' or 'application/definition' or 'interaction/interactive' which are about the most complicated words I've used then I really do suggest you go and learn some more about the English language before being involved in discussions like those you'll find on this site.

This is about language itself and the foundations of how it works - ANY language pretty much works the same way - (there are probably some exceptions - it wouldn't surprise me). Since the words game and story, are basic, standard words in the English language that currently have problems, an understanding of the language is required in order to discuss just such a matter to its full potential and understand the/any (possible) solution(s).

Now, if you'd actually said you had problems with understanding English at this sort of level, then I probably wouldn't have bothered in the first place ;)

Colm McAndrews
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i don't think you'll find many persons in here who understand "this level" of english :)

And naturally i don't think this site requires it, all the discussions are pretty "normal", they don't bother too much with semantics.

Darren Tomlyn
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I was just running through this with some people on techreport, and it seems that maybe doing it backwards works best. I.e. top-down, rather than bottom-up.

If you don't mind, because of that, I'm going to try and explain a little part of this problem again, and see if you 'get it', ok?

There was one particular problem, for me, that started all of this off - a very basic simple problem that no-one - (including Dr Anthea Fraser Gupta at Leeds University) - could find any fault with.

So, the basic problem is a symptom of:

Words being perceived, recognised and understood in a manner that is inconsistent, i.e. not the same as, what the words must represent based on how they are used, (especially when concerning dictionaries/encyclopedias etc.).

The basic problem I ran into was this, due to using a word in a different way that seem to work without any problems, and yet the dictionaries said no:

The word STORY, is currently recognised, understood and defined, as a type/form/arrangement of information (about a series of events) that is TOLD.

But within the language, we USE the word TELL, in COMBINATION with the word story, in order to give it just such an application. Ok? In other words, the word story, within the language, exists separately and independently of the word tell or told, so it can, and must not have any place in its definition.

So if I say that if ART is about TELLING stories, then GAMES must be about WRITING stories, which is consistent with how all these words are used, then what does that mean for the language as a whole, including the words game, art and the word story itself, let alone the rest of the language?

Colm McAndrews
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Sorry, i can't. I just can't.

You say "there was one particular problem" and then instead of telling clearly what the problem is, you slip out with "the problem is a symptom of", which completely does me in and leaves me in total confusion. According to your phrasing i should understand the problem from the symptom.

"words being perceived, recognised and understood in a manner that is inconsistent, i.e. not the same as, what the words must represent based on how they are used"

it's too obscure a phrase, it has no reference, it has NO OBJECT i can relate to. It just doesn't mean anything. What is inconsistent? One reads and wonders "what exactly must words represent?" and "how are they used?", how do you use a word, isn't it subjective?

same as this one "The basic problem I ran into was this, due to using a word in a different way that seem to work without any problems, and yet the dictionaries said no"

It's too contradictorial, the verb "seem" isn't even inflected, you can't put a "due to" after "was this", it's messy and a syntax nightmare. How old are you, it sounds like a phrase a 12 year old would write, no offence

"The word STORY, is currently recognised, understood and defined, as a type/form/arrangement of information (about a series of events) that is TOLD".

this is clear, at last.

i may have gotten your point. In the "dictionary definition" the word story is followed by the word tell but in the language can be separated which makes you conclude that story doesn't "need" telling. But it's wrong, why shouldn't it have a place in its definition? You cannot define story without telling but you can speak story without telling. Is there anything strange or wrong about that? Obviously(and this is the point i suppose), when you say story without tell, it doesn't mean that the word tell can be eliminated, or that "only when you use it you're specifying that application" it's just that when you're omitting that word you're IMPLYING IT with the sole word story, because it's already contained in it. Using the word, specifying it, doesnt "change" the term, it's simply meant to reinforce the act of telling that's implied in story. Isn't it obvious?

For some words like story there's "satellite" words related to it and often implied... depending on the context, you may wish one "attribute" to stand out more so you will bring one "satellite" near the big word to make it brighter. Otherwise you just use the word generically knowing it already contains all the satellites. Do you see? This is how you explain things to people, you help them form mental images with other images taken from reality.

God it's an argument so pointless and inconsistent that i keep getting the feeling you're bugging me on purpose. :)

Darren Tomlyn
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Viewing your posts - on the one hand it's almost like you do not, cannot understand language at all - and yet you manage to use it in a manner that completely betrays such a thought - it's bizarre.

The problem I ran into was the problem with the word story, which was a symptom of the greater problem I mentioned - this SHOULD be obvious based on what I wrote, and how.


Words are a collection of sounds or symbols that are used to transfer information between people. (Though of course there are other types of language, such as body language, but we'll leave them for now).


A specific language is collection of such words that uses rules and structure to help define and enable their use in a consistent manner, and so help people transfer information easier, and more consistently.


Words, in themselves, ONLY have the meaning that is given to them when they are used, BY the person using them.

This means that because of this, by examining the context of their use - (the other words they are used in combination with etc. - (as-well as any other indicators of meaning (body language etc. if possible))) - it is then possible to decipher what individual words represent - the meaning they carry - even if it is not recognised in isolation.


What meaning words are used to represent can then be described, taught and informed to others, by using OTHER WORDS IN THE LANGUAGE to do so.

This of course, does mean, that the most basic, introductory level of language must be taught differently, because without any words known to begin with, they have to be explained in a different manner. The most simple and basic method, of course, is relating certain sounds/symbols, with certain things/objects/people.


Because of the scale of the English language, and the amount of people using it, the amount of support needed to keep the language consistent enough - the meaning of all the words used - so that people can use it to do its job (transfer the same meaning between them) - is extremely great, and increasing.

This is why dictionaries and encyclopedias etc., along with standard education platforms, have become so important over the past few centuries.

But what happens if they're WRONG?

What happens if what people think of as the meaning of a word, or words - what a word represents - is NOT consistent with how it is used - if, say, I label and call a particular object differently to anyone else, using a word with another recognised meaning, or label an object by certain behaviour, which the language everyone else uses treats separately, for a good reason, because they can exist separately from each other in the universe itself?

The enemy of language, is INDIVIDUAL SUBJECTIVITY. If everyone has a different opinion of, say, what a table is, what the word table represents - the word table could not have any function within the language. But BECAUSE such individual subjectivity is the very nature of humanity itself, it means that language, in order to be USEFUL, HAS to be able to counteract such a thing in order to exist.

Now, of course, language changes and evolves - and the greatest strength of the English language is that allows that to happen without having to break its rules to do so - (for example adding additional words, or using the same word in different ways to represent different applications of the same concept).

It is for this reason, however, why keeping a language functional takes EFFORT and study on behalf of humanity itself - though how much effort, of course depends on the amount of people needing to use it.

(All of which on behalf of the word game, for example, has FAILED - the word has now become so subjective).


So this is the basic, fundamental problem, upon which every other problem I see is built, and is therefore a symptom of:

The PERCEPTION of what certain words represent, within the English language, is not consistent with what they MUST represent, based on how they are USED - (their context/type of word/place and role within the language based upon its rules etc.).

One of the main REASONS for this, is that dictionaries/encyclopedias/education etc. have FAILED TO DO THEIR JOB.

Instead of reporting what words must represent based on their use - what people are using the words to mean - they are instead basing such descriptions upon the PERCEPTIONS people have of such use instead. Not only that, but due to the METHOD of their descriptions of words, one of the main foundations of meaning within the structure of the English language - the descriptions of what the basic types of words represent - are also INCONSISTENT with their use.


Because words are only ever defined and described for what they represent in ISOLATION.

But if none of these words EXIST in isolation, then describing them as such is wrong.

This has created a feedback loop, where the use is causing inconsistent perceptions, which is causing inconsistent definitions, which is causing inconsistent use, then perceptions, then definitions, then use etc..

This is the problem with the word game for example, at this time. (This is what my blog is here to explain).


As for the word story - the problem, based on the RULES OF ENGLISH GRAMMAR - is very simple.

The word story is a NOUN.

There are THREE MAIN types of noun - (NOT CURRENTLY RECOGNISED!) - (not all nouns fall within such types, which is actually useful, but this word does):

1) Things (tangible or intangible) (objects, people, places, information etc.)

2) Applications of behaviour (usually directly or abstractly related to verbs) (flight/speech/movement/game/art/puzzle/competition/accident/party etc.)

3) Applications of 'properties/qualities/attributes' (no equivalent of the word behaviour for this type of noun leads to problems with its description) (usually (but not always) related to adjectives directly/abstractly) (agility/strength/colour etc.).

Based upon the use of the word story it is NOT an application of behaviour! Therefore describing it as such is INCONSISTENT.

The word story is USED as representing an INTANGIBLE THING - a form or arrangement of information, that can be applied or given certain properties by using OTHER WORDS in combination, in a manner consistent with the rules of English grammar.

Examples of the words we use in combination with the word story are:

Tell, write, short, good/bad etc..

The word story therefore exists WITHIN THE LANGUAGE independently of what these other words represent. IF it didn't - they would be superfluous and not needed and therefore used.

How do we KNOW this to be true?

Because the English language HAS a word that represents a story that is being TOLD. A thing that is being applied.

This word is NOT used as representing a THING - but is in fact used as representing an APPLICATION OF BEHAVIOUR, so it is consistent with the rules of English grammar for such a concept, and is in fact directly RELATED to a VERB that represents such behaviour on its own, in isolation:

NARRATIVE, as derived from/related to NARRATE.

Narrate/narrative etc. are therefore APPLICATIONS of the word STORY, relating to such behaviour represented by the word tell/told.

Since the words narrate/narrative etc. are USED in a manner that represents such a thing, as defined by the rules of English grammar - they are NOT used in the same manner as the word story and so they CANNOT represent the SAME THING - (which is how narrative and story are currently described!).

We don't use the word TELL in combination with narrative for example - because it ALREADY represents such behaviour - which is why the word story CANNOT represent such a thing.

The word story represents a form of information that CAN be told, CAN be good (or bad) or CAN be short etc. - not IS.

So what does the word story represent if it isn't told? And how and where does such a thing exist?

Story n. An account of events either real or imaginary, (created and stored inside (a person's) memory).

Colm McAndrews
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you probably missed this, since you didn't reply to it:

i may have gotten your point. In the "dictionary definition" the word story is followed by the word tell but in the language can be separated which makes you conclude that story doesn't "need" telling. But it's wrong, why shouldn't it have a place in its definition? You cannot define story without telling but you can speak story without telling. Is there anything strange or wrong about that? Obviously(and this is the point i suppose), when you say story without tell, it doesn't mean that the word tell can be eliminated, or that "only when you use it you're specifying that application" it's just that when you're omitting that word you're IMPLYING IT with the sole word story, because it's already contained in it. Using the word, specifying it, doesnt "change" the term, it's simply meant to reinforce the act of telling that's implied in story. Isn't it obvious?

For some words like story there's "satellite" words related to it and often implied... depending on the context, you may wish one "attribute" to stand out more so you will bring one "satellite" near the big word to make it brighter. Otherwise you just use the word generically knowing it already contains all the satellites. Do you see? This is how you explain things to people, you help them form mental images with other images taken from reality.

you're surprised because i didn't tell you i teach literature, grammar, psycvhology and philosophy, but this doesn't mean i studied semantics, you should understand the difference. :)

But i DO NOT want you to reply in here, it'll take days. If we get to a direct chat we will solve this in a row.

so PLEASE PLEASE get either to facebook or messenger.

Darren Tomlyn
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You're wrong - again you're making the same mistake everyone else has and does - you're defining words by PERCEPTION, not USE. They're IS NO IMPLICATION IN USE - ONLY PERCEPTION.

Words are DEFINED BY USE, and USE ALONE. Since the word tell has ALWAYS been REQUIRED to be used with the word story to give it such an application - (going back to the ~12C) - THAT is how it MUST BE DEFINED - for what it represents IN ISOLATION, since it is USED in ISOLATION - INDEPENDENTLY OF ANY APPLICATION STATE OR QUALITY - in other words, consistent with it being a(n intangible) THING, and NOTHING ELSE.

Mistaking applications for definitions is an extremely fundamental mistake to make - one which is extremely common, but still a mistake.

NARRATIVE is the word you're looking for that has such an APPLICATION OF BEHAVIOUR involved - based on how it is USED - WITHOUT the word tell in combination, since here it IS implied, and contained within the word itself!

Colm McAndrews
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I believe you're wrong. When you use the word story you're subconsciously implying other words related to it, among which tell/told. When you say story-tell you just want to reinforce the act of telling, when you don't it's still there, only weaker. So even in "isolation" as you say, story includes telling. I can probably find you the linguistic theory that acknowledges that in one of the books i bought in university, maybe Saussure? You seem to forget that language happens inside minds, and minds work with a network of implied MENTAL references, hundreds depending on cultures, sub-cultures and personal experiences(per word). And these references and implications are always on the move, subjective, vital, shapeless and chaotic.

nobody uses the word narrative because it's perceived too much as proper old-style book. Story instead can be used for other media. Plus narrative is too french, story is more common and more latin.

when you're in a club and someone is about to "tell" you what happened to him, he doesn't go "hey i wanna speak the narrative of what happened to me recently".

"Based upon the use of the word story it is NOT an application of behaviour! Therefore describing it as such is INCONSISTENT".

Again i don't think so. Story can be the application of whatever behaviour you want, even live, or TO experience, and obviously tell. I have no idea why you would negate freedom to perceive stuff however people feel like, language is not such a rigid thing.

Even if there was a linguistic paradox(that i can't see), why should a language be perfect? You want to transform a language, which is something alive and chaotic, into mathematics, which is perfect and "dead".

And more than that, how is this in any way related to my post above? So far you never even mentioned if there's something you disagree with, or the exact connection with what i profess. Just say it clearly so i can explain to you next how you're wrong, teehee.

Darren Tomlyn
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EITHER ACCEPT THIS IF YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND IT OR GO HOME - (and talk to an English teacher - they'll tell you all this if you explain it to them properly).

Colm McAndrews
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lol fine whatever, i stay with my opinion you stay with yours.

Now that we "settled" this either you tell me if you have a direct objection against my posts(cause so far i couldn't see one which means i can't see why you would post here), or you may go show your awesome semantics to someone else that'll prove more productive :)

Jack Garbuz
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This whole business of "story" vs. "gameplay" is basically politics. It is the fear of game programmers becoming subordinate to the script writers and such.

Colm McAndrews
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Absolutely. But it carries grave consequences along with this business sort of professional-dignity war. It's the very existance of a videogame as a unique medium that's at stake. see Alan Wake, it's absolutely minimalistic in the interaction. The common view is that the actual game part is kiddy affair and the mature parts come from movies and visual techniques. It's so wrong it goes beyond what you say, the jurisdictions war. that's why we need an alliance between the two as it will also resolve the war between the two jobs.

That's why interaction has to remember its own strength and bend those outsiders to its will. It has to be firmly restated how beautiful and revolutionary it is to play a story and that thanks to it we have new unbelievable experiences that can't be had without playing.

Jack Garbuz
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Amen. The development of interactive virtual entertainment is the revolutionary entertainment vehicle of the 21st century. IT is, or soon will be as significant as what moving pictures became in the 20th century. I'm a 64 year old gamer, who became addicted to it over a decade ago, but I'm a rarity in my age group. While no longer in its infancy, the industry is just moving into a period of maturation and there are going to be rough issues within the industry, as there has been in every industry. Some people are going to get their feathers ruffled.

But just as there are indies in the motion picture business, that showcase the core capabilities of up and coming directors, actors, and producers, so it will be in this industry, for game designers to exhibit what they can do to enhance the overall experience. But it is necessary to be flexible, and not be dogmatic. Good game designers will make a decent living.