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Seeds & Petals theory

With emergent narrative, we can experience stories as we create them. The map between experience and creation becomes tighter than other media, where there’s a creation step (writing the script) and an experience step (watching or performing the play). Instead, with emergent narrative, every moment is experienced while it is created.

That’s the advantage of emergent narrative. Now, do other media have advantages of their own? Yes. They can be tightly edited, and they can be tailor-made to traditional story structures (like Save the Cat or kishōtenketsu). And can there be hybrid media, media that have some emergent properties and some pre-scripted properties? Yes. And (whether or not there are emergent properties) can the pre-scripting be collaborative and structured? Also yes.

Much like a comic book has the advantages of readers being able to read at their own pace and of creators being able to work in smaller teams with smaller budgets, and a movie has the advantages of a soundtrack and of a more widely accessible and taught visual language, different media have different properties.

And to me the key to the best emergent narratives was to not try to do narrative, only trying to do setup. That’s when narrative happens. The gateless gate to the storyless story. It’s like, if I want a flower garden, do I put petals in there? Or do I put seeds? Setups, obstacles, dilemmas, problems, conflicts, places, secrets – those are seeds. Tension, release, arcs, character growth, disappointment, elation, defeat, victory – those are petals. My job isn’t to plant petals, it’s to plant seeds.

To be clear, no-one is obliged to work with emergent narrative or even incorporate subsections of emergent non-scripted narratives into non-emergent pre-scripted frameworks.

What is a game?

A game is a protocol for a collaborative effort (or a solo effort, for those who choose to follow rules for themselves). For example, the following activities, among others, can be made into 100% valid & legit games:

And depending on the protocol those games can look very different.

“Each player takes turn writing one sentence” is different from “I write all of Alice’s lines, you write all of Bob’s”.

Ask me about my own favorite jam, however, and it’s gonna be emergent, not scripted.