“In a documentary game, the player’s reaction to the content–both within the game and in the mind–IS the narrative.” -Peter Brinson
Brinson’s assertion about narrative in docu-games as expressed above spoke volumes to me after my experience playing Democracy 3 and Papers Please. First and foremost I learned (if I can use that term) how fragile power structures are within democratic and authoritarian based solely on the apathy and dispassion bureaucracy breeds. In Papers, I found myself eager to deny passage to people as I grew tiresome of stamping passports, regardless of what the impact would be on their (fictive) lives and in Democracy I grew frustrated with the tediousness of government and pleasing constituents that I just performed what was easiest. But I think this speaks to Brinson’s analysis of narrative in docu-games in that the narrative of the game is developed as you come to terms with the historical context, your feelings towards it and the way in which you relate to or fail to relate to the scenario, the people, the consequences.
Fullerton discusses “indeterminacy” as a large theme in docu-games and I feel this stems from the player’s role in reshaping history rather than reenacting it. Take the example of Waco Resurrection or JFK Reloaded in which the player must confront their personal take on the game before engaging. The act of shooting, though it incorporates reenactment, is driven by your decision to try and see a historic moment alternatively and all that flows from that reshapes the dominant narrative (as you see it).
This is probably another reason why docu-games are so engaging because they play on our dissatisfaction or disillusionment with mainstream historical narratives and allow us to search for answers to legitimize our own positions. Take Democracy 3 for example; I was from the get-go driven to prove a socialist approach to government could be effective and that shaped how I played the game before I even began playing it. Therefore the narrative that arose, beyond that which was laid out by the game, spoke more broadly to my political leanings and contempt of right-wing leadership (especially since it took place in the UK).
This week’s readings and games also made me wonder where games such as “Second Life” fit in; are they historic? They don’t play on grandiose historical events but rather the day to day experiences of you, an individual who exists in reality and shapes history in some way. Fullerton states that “We may someday embrace the possibility of simulations which not only visually mode, but behaviorally model aspects of history so that they may constitute evidence.” I would suggest that the point of convergence between docu-games and virtual reality games would be where this behavioral model lies.