Matching Character Adventures with Player Adventures
I have recently done another draft of the story for The Time Project and so I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to have an adventure.
Adventures are an exciting, bold experience in a different place that challenges us. Adventures may expose parts of ourselves that we didn’t know existed.
Adventure stories are usually based around a quest where a character has a strong desire for something. Usually an object like a treasure chest. This is the outer, physical adventure, the journey the characters must embark on to get their hands on the goods.
A character’s outer journey often mirrors some kind of inner journey (to use Michael Hauge’s terms).
At some point, usually at the height of the adventure, these two journeys collide. The adventurer must complete their inner journey in order to complete their outer journey.
In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indiana is on an outer journey to save his father which becomes the larger effort to get the Holy Grail. His inner journey is a bit more up for interpretation, but I see it as about him growing closer to his father despite their differences. This is shown by him literally following in his father’s footsteps in two ways: by following his father’s journal and by trying to catch up to him to save him.
Both Indiana’s outer journey and inner journey inform one another, and are reinforced all throughout the movie. There are many points where the inner and outer journey meet. In the case of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, they are tilting towards one final decision: to keep the cup or let it go. Life or death.
So that’s all well and good, but do characters always have to have an inner journey that results in a change?
Some characters refuse to change even though they have gained insights throughout the course of the story. Others may completely miss having an insight or a realisation, but us readers have it instead. Some characters triumph by not changing, by staying true to themselves despite challenges at every turn. The adventure tests their mettle.
I’ve been thinking about the outer and inner journeys of our characters and how challenges in the game can harmonise or complement their journey. How they walk, how they look at one another, the world, the environment, the myth and lore. When it comes to challenge, I also think about how the game is played because the puzzles are the challenges for the player.
Solving puzzles affects the outer and inner journey of our players. My goal is to connect a player’s inner emotional journey with our game to the physical journey of completing our puzzles. They must either complement or harmonise. What do the symbols in the puzzles mean? How are they a part of the story world? Asking questions like this help me figure out how puzzles can inform the story and how story can inform the puzzles.
I do this because I think part of what makes a good game is one that takes us on an adventure, an outer and inner journey that allows us to have an insight, a realisation.
It makes us feel a bit different for having played it.
Maybe expose parts of ourselves we didn’t know existed.
It’s no small task but that’s what’s keeping me out of trouble at the moment!