Rockstar Pushes Mainstream Video Game Narrative Envelope, Again

on Friday, Sep. 13th

Rockstar, the maker of the "Grand Theft Auto" series, is known for taking big risks with their video games. The latest installment of the GTA series–"GTA V", due next Tuesday–is no exception.

The storytelling leap the developer is taking, focusing on not one but three different protagonists, may be their biggest risk yet. In an interview with Polygon, studio head Dan Houser explained how the technique opened up a richer storytelling palette.

"This isn't anything to do with the story or the narrative, but does tell the wider story of these people because they're all living their own lives," Houser said. "Any moment you could go and see what they're up to and it relates to what point you're up to in the real story. You just get a real feeling for them as existing outside of you controlling them, so that just kind of added this great ambient storytelling quality and fun to it."

While serialized stories like that found in "Game of Thrones" explore multiplicity of perspectives, it is a technique that has rarely been seen before in interactive fiction. Narratives entwined with games rely upon the game-player's own sense of agency to inform the protagonist, after all. To potentially set a player against their own perceived self-interest and still have that be a satisfying experience is quite the challenge.

Yet it is practically the next logical step for interactive narrative of any form. One that has the potential to push the limit on how far an audience-participant is willing to stretch their sense of empathy.

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