Like any form of media, games are able to tell a story. Book, films, even songs have the ability to tell a narrative, and arguably, games have the ability to be the greatest story telling medium of them all. The narrative of a game is not merely within the game’s code, it’s narrative is only finally revealed once a player makes a certain decision at a moment in time while playing through the game.
The notion of an ‘alterbiography’ was brought up recently and it seems the best way to describe how an individuals experience of a game differs from the experience of anyone else playing the exact same game. Even games that are essentially linear in nature and have the same ending, regardless of the style in which you choose to play the game, offer each player an ‘alterbiography’. The decision to walk left, rather than right, shoot an arrow or a shotgun, all contribute to the formation and revelation of the game’s narrative for that person playing it.
One of the simplest examples of how a game is never the same twice is that of Pokemon (any edition). I first played Pokemon as a 5 year old and at times remember just feeling overwhelmed, as if I’d never complete it. Of course I did finish it, and being 5 thought that I’d encountered everything within the game that was possible. On a whim I decided to play it again 12 years later and while giving myself a break in knowing I wouldn’t remember everything from the first time I played it, found that I discovered a whole lot more than the first time round. The point is, if someone can play exactly the same game, twice, and still develop a different experience, a different narrative than when they first played it, then the notion of each player having their own ‘alterbiography’ seems like an extremely plausible one.
The story told by a game is never told by the code, it’s formed and only ever fully realised once a player begins taking action within the world of the game and creating their own, unique narrative.