Greedy Goblin

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

e-amateur theater

Amateur theater (amateur dramatics) can be defined as "theater performances in which the people involved are not paid but take part for their own enjoyment"[5] which provides a source of entertainment for local communities and can be a fun and exciting hobby, with strong bonds of friendship formed through participation in community organised theatrical events. Many amateur theater groups reject the "amateur" label and its negative association with "amateurish", preferring to style themselves "dramatic societies", "theater groups" or just "players".
People act in the amateur theater for the enjoyment of being someone else in a story. The script is pre-written, no matter how greatly you play Romeo or Juliet, both will die at the end of the play. The performance have no professional value. If someone want to see a good play he goes and see professionals performing it instead of acting himself. The actors do it for the enjoyment of acting.

My question is: "Are the modern MMOs digital amateur theaters?" I mean you get a scene and other performers. You get a script written by lore-writers and railroaded by supporting actors, the NPCs. You have no power over what will happen. You just play your role and see how the story unfolds. If you fail to do so, the other actors are waiting for you to try again, after all, it's not a paid job, you are not expected to do well. Just as there is no toplist for "best amateur Juliets for the 2016 season", there is no such for "best WoW hero" either. If you are really good, you should become one of the pro actors and live on the money that audience gets you for your stream.

The amateur theater is a good hobby. But it's not a game like baseball or football, which - even when done in an amateur fashion - are done in a competitive fashion. One team wins, other loses (and pay for the beers). Maybe as competitive games are called e-sports, story-driven games should be called e-amateur theaters. This would be both a clear indication that a certain label is not for gamers, but without any negative meaning. There is nothing wrong with acting as hobby. If there would be a strong e-theater community with their own publishers, labels, journalism, forums, we would stop annoying each other. An actor in a game is holding the gamers back. A gamer in a theater ruins the play by trying to win (imagine a Juliet who goes for "and they lived happily ever after" ending).


Anonymous said...

There's no such thing as a "story-driven game." The term "story-driven" doesn't even make sense, since the defining feature of a videogame is that the player IS the story. A "story-driven" game is just a BAD GAME.
Following that, you should see that MMO's aren't bad SOLELY because no single player can make changes that affect everyone else in the world (Everquest was the only game to have live GM events, and even then they were still "railroaded" - they even went as far as outright reverting unintended game-altering actions caused by players), but because the story as played throughout the game is garbage. Quest markers, automapping, pointless NPCs, no difficulty, no player interaction, rewards, achievements, endless grinding: all this stuff led to the absolute destruction and erasure of exploration. You can barely even make houses anymore, and dev help you if you find some way to get into an area you aren't "supposed" to be in.

It should be even more obvious now why "competitive gamer/s" is an even more ridiculous term.

maxim said...

A rose, by every other name, would smell as sweet

The observation that games and amateur theater share the common trait of having the players have their own fun is a true observation. However, games are a much bigger phenomenon than amateur theater, and for a good reason. Basically, games can be amateur theater and can be much more than that.

The best games manage to be both competitive AND amateur theater simultaneously (and then a bit more than that, too).

One could say that your time in Eve was an amateur theater show. I certainly experienced it as something very similar :)

Skeddar said...

"Are the modern MMOs digital amateur theaters?"

Well, you can call it like that if you want to. The main difference is there's no audience, which is arguably one of the main components of a theater being at theater. Also you CAN decide to ignore the script without getting fired/sent away in games. You may not progress in the game, but it's a game after all, not a movie (although depending on the difficulty and decision making required, it might as well be an interactive movie).

Calling some story-driven games without pvp an interactive movie isn't new though, or at least I've heard that comparison before. When is a game a game and when is it an interactive movie? And why aren't interactive movies as popular as games (like Youtube videos and you can click on a link depending on which outcome you prefer)? Is a certain amount of button-pressing required to create an immersion or a positive feedback-loop?

Welcome to philosohpical game design discussions!

S Riojas said...

West Side Story, a more modern version of Romeo and Juliet, see Juliet while not winning (Romeo still dies) she ties out.
Video games are not amateur hour whether it is sand box or on a railroad track.

Why do people re-enact battles when they know the outcome?
Why do people re-read a story when they know how it ends?
Why do they go to see a movie again or watch reruns of TV shows?
Why would you want to play a private server of BC when you know how it progresses?
There is no winning involved in that and in each the outcome is the same in the end. It is done for the enjoyment and often because you catch things you may have missed the first time around.

But for Theater? You need an audience. No one puts on plays for an empty theater so some people enjoy watching friends, family, co-workers, etc, play a part. Not many people sit and watch someone grinding quests in WoW. Not many people sit to watch someone grind missions or, heaven forbid, mine rocks in space. They may watch the grind to get an idea of how to beat something. They will watch to to see competitive elements engage each other such as PvP - skill versus skill.

Anonymous said...

MMOs do not require a enough of a performance to be classed as e-amateur theater. An actor might not write the script, but they still have an impact on the end performance. A MMO fits closer to those interactive movies from the 90s. Click-click- get cut-screen.
However, as maxim says, the agents impact on the story or performance is only a very small aspect of the role filled by an MMO.

Antze said...

You are actually describing the RP part in MMORPG acronym :)

There were and are indeed some multiplayer RPGs where roleplaying was/is important. But for that thing, one thing is needed: different distinct roles. Someone plays a crazy herb collector, someone plays a court lady who never goes raiding, and someone plays a superhero. Vanilla WoW was a place which didn't really encourage such playstyle, but it was possible there. But modern MMO(RPGs) often to present a story in a way when every player is told they are superheroes. So, not a e-theater. "Shared experience interactive movie" - that fits.

"True e-theaters" also still exist, but as niche entertainment. Maybe there's no harm if we rename interactive movies as e-theaters, if it sounds better... I don't really mind.

But that breaks "e-theater style" immersion, if the game clearly shows to you that everyone around you in that big city is also a superhero, holding the same role spot as you, supposed by lore to have killed the same bosses as you.

Gevlon said...

Audience is valid criticsim, but most amateur theaters don't have huge audiences, just family members.

Other players being heroes are not a problem if you never meet them. WoW legion is a single player RPG with an always-online DRM, not an MMO.

I agree that this question is maybe too philosophical to practically matter

Riful said...

amateur theater should probably include all larp and re-enactment groups/events as well. modern mmo's have nothing in common with it. the rp-servers are just a way to say 'less stupid names and less kiddies'.
an external story based game is a visual novel. that can either be a text scroller with some pictures or some japanese style dating sims / adventure games, etc. i think mmo's like wow or guild wars use that aspect.

for role playing, you need less of a technology and more of a strictly maintained culture. ultima online servers were some times small enough with highly active gm's that punish non-rp behavior + a player base that wants and enforces it themself.
eve seems to have the same technological background (large persistent, open world, almost no external story except for some minor gm events) -> yet no rp culture. instead multi boxing and cash cows and external chat and rl extortion, etc.
-> eve went into a direction of the game being an extension of RL and not something different from it.
-> because rp / amateur theater is not an effort less hobby for unwinding. ('ah i'm tired, i'm just gonna shoot some pixels. don't feel like remembering the hobbies and favorite color of my character')
-> no aaa game is financially viable if it has to maintain strict ingame culture because the potential audience is too small / fractured and the admin effort is too large.

Antze said...

Ingame roleplayers need no audience than other roleplayers (only those can properly value your effort anyway). Other players being heroes start to matter if we're still talking about "e-theater" MMOs where some "play with your friends" is advertised and encouraged. Of course, if the game is "massively single-player online", it doesn't matter, but then it's definitely not a e-theater. A theater of one actor?