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Levine: Integrated, Not Parallel Storytelling Future Of Games

Talking as part of a wide-ranging Gamasutra interview, BioShock creator Ken Levine has been discussing the industry's reliance on 'game, cutscene, game'
Talking as part of a wide-ranging Gamasutra interview, BioShock creator Ken Levine has been discussing the industry's reliance on 'game, cutscene, game' story presentation, suggesting the game-integrated storytelling structure is "where we're going". Discussing the role of narrative in today's video games, Looking Glass and Irrational veteran Levine explained of his recent work on BioShock at 2K Boston: "The meta-question on narrative is, are we going toward this parallel model, which is "game, cutscene, game, cutscene, game"? Because it's a bit odd, if you think about it. It's an artifact from when our world was simple. I talked about wheat and chaff [at Levine's recent GDC talk] -- when we could only render the wheat. The cutscenes take up a lot of chaff space, because of storytelling stuff and little details and subtle emotions. I guess you have to step back and look at and actually really look at... not where we should be, but where we're going. Are we more toward parallel structure, or more toward integrated structure? I think the answer is the integrated structure. It occurred to me that I was fortunate to both make a game during this time period and start formalizing a discussion about this topic. I think it's easier once you have some credibility of making something that demonstrates it." When asked to contrast the Final Fantasy style of lavish cut-scene construction to his approach, Levine additionally noted: "Obviously... think about what it costs us to get to Dr. Steinman, versus how Square would do it. I think we would do it a lot more cost-effectively, and we can do it integrated into the game experience. Now look, I'm not blasting whatever they do. Clearly, they know what they're doing, and they do their own kind of thing. They're the best at what they do and how they do that. The question I'm asking more is what excites me as a game developer? Exploring this space, or exploring the parallel space? The answer may be for any particular game developer, the parallel space. And God bless them. Go forth and prosper. I think, though, that games are uniquely their own media. It's about exploring the integrated space." You can now read the full Gamasutra article on the subject, including lots more detail on specific elements of the game that integrated story in this way, as well as discussion of other game and interactive media formulating story in intriguing ways.

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