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Choice Poetics by Example

Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA
Computer Science Department, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA
Computer Science Department, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695, USA
Computational Media Department, University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA 95064, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 30 June 2018 / Revised: 21 August 2018 / Accepted: 27 August 2018 / Published: 6 September 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Gaming and the Arts of Storytelling)
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Choice poetics is a formalist framework that seeks to concretely describe the impacts choices have on player experiences within narrative games. Developed in part to support algorithmic generation of narrative choices, the theory includes a detailed analytical framework for understanding the impressions choice structures make by analyzing the relationships among options, outcomes, and player goals. The theory also emphasizes the need to account for players’ various modes of engagement, which vary both during play and between players. In this work, we illustrate the non-computational application of choice poetics to the analysis of two different games to further develop the theory and make it more accessible to others. We focus first on using choice poetics to examine the central repeated choice in “Undertale,” and show how it can be used to contrast two different player types that will approach a choice differently. Finally, we give an example of fine-grained analysis using a choice from the game “Papers, Please,” which breaks down options and their outcomes to illustrate exactly how the choice pushes players towards complicity via the introduction of uncertainty. Through all of these examples, we hope to show the usefulness of choice poetics as a framework for understanding narrative choices, and to demonstrate concretely how one could productively apply it to choices “in the wild.” View Full-Text
Keywords: choice poetics; poetics; narrative games; choices; player goals; roleplay; complicity choice poetics; poetics; narrative games; choices; player goals; roleplay; complicity

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Mawhorter, P.; Zegura, C.; Gray, A.; Jhala, A.; Mateas, M.; Wardrip-Fruin, N. Choice Poetics by Example. Arts 2018, 7, 47.

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