Tropes as Platform

April 19, 2009

Where’s the power?

For those who have been fortunate enough to not encounter it TV Tropes, it’s a wiki that indexes storytelling devices as they apply to just about everything ranging from all forms of pop-culture to real life. Unlike the other wiki as Wikipedia is referred to there, they admit that they are much more informal.

What makes this interesting to think about is that the TV Tropes site seems to actively go against the grain of having any authority, at least publicly. They don’t  promote or feature content, nor do they actively moderate what does or doesn’t count as notability, depending on Wiki Magic to fix pages that lack or let them get deleted.

Nor do they seem to have much in the way of rules; claiming them to be more like guidelines. Their guide to good style can be summed up in the opening quote, “Be aware of these conventions, even if you choose to ignore them.” TV Tropes seems to be more strict on what makes a good or bad example (as that is the content of their site), but even then, they leave it up to users and readers to edit the pages.

Their use of user-provided content seems limited to the site itself. This isn’t a popular website with a book-deal. They use generated content to make their site and have content.

Mostly, their authority comes in the rules used to define user/visitor interaction, and even then they’re much looser than a normal internet online forum. For one thing, “becoming known” on the wiki requires a user name and a password. No email-address provided. And the general guideline seems to be, keep the personal interaction and commentary to the forum and discussion page, and the examples on the example page. So while social interactions are “defined” they’re really not controlled or governed.

I’ve also been thinking about how the Trope model applies to museums and other informal learning institutions. What would an “Exhibit Tropes” site look like?

First, it would be user or visitor centered. This can’t be the insititutional voice of any single institution or even a single organization (such as the American Association of Museum). Not only would the lack of control be unfeasible for an institution, but Exhibit Tropes would likely serve the purposes of visitors or scholars outside individual museums than employees within the museum, or a museum itself. Even if it did become a resource in the museum industry, the model would push most of the power and responsibility to the contributors instead of a higher administrative authority.

Second, and what makes this interesting for me, it would start allowing for the creation of Meta around exhibits. How are natural history museums and science centers presenting the story of dinosaurs? What are common threads, and what makes every exhibit unique? What techniques are becoming “tropes” in the museum world, techniques that frequent museum visitors could identify in several exhibits? What if visitors came together to create a central index of ‘exhibits’?

Obviously, this would be much harder to create than TV Tropes, simply because pop-culture/fandom and story-telling in general inspire very passionate pepole, whereas museums do not seem to invite the same sort of dedication, but still… the idea dances around.

Inspired by this post from Nina Simon:

What does the ultimate “game 2.0” look like? How will it balance creative acts with other forms of player participation?

As someone who does play video games, this question interests me.  I attempt answer this, not as a designer of games, not as a creator of games, but as a (not hardcore) player of games.

What would a successful game 2.0 look like from the perspective of a player?

  • It would allow for  satisfying play activity on all levels of participation.
  • As more players use the game, the player experience should improve.
  • The user generated content won’t just be creatures or levels, but actual ways of playing a game.

Satisfying play activity for all types participants:

Games are inherently active. While it’s possible to just watch a game, play is really the key verb. In my vision of an ultimate game 2.0, a ‘creator’ player would have the option to create and share new content if they wish to do so, but there would also be enough structure already existing within the platform so that a ‘joiner’ or ‘spectator’ player could start up the game and play with either developer-provided or player-provided content, without having to delve into other mechanics.

Experience improves as the player-base grows:

This is simple. The more players who play the game, the better the experience should generally be.  This can be user generated content within the game, but this also extends to resources and information provided by players outside of the game. I can already think of several MMORPGs (Massive Multi-player Online Role-Playing Games, for the unfamiliar) that have fan created forums and wikis dedicated to talking about the game and sharing experiences and strategies.

User-generated content will include activities:

Games are ultimately about action.  The game is not the level, but the process of getting through the level. The game is not finishing the quest, but the process of doing the quest. The game is not winning the chess match, but the series of moves on the way to winning. I think any game 2.0 needs to allow users not just to generate nouns such as creatures, levels, or quests, but verbs as well.  In my ultimate game 2.0, creator-players would be allowed to use the gaming platform to create their own games and sets of rules, which other players could then adopt and modify for their own purposes.

Thinking about it, Spore doesn’t sound like a Game 2.0 to me. It certainly uses web 2.0 technologies to allow users to connect to each other and share creations, but the actions themselves are dictated by the company. How freely are players allowed to use the tools to develop their own games and activities?