Blog Question 10
Power play is radically different from conventional game play mechanics, in which there is a specific goal for the player to achieve, and the option of choices is deemed as one key part in achieving interactivity. However, in power plays, it seems that the players concede all control to the puppet masters. Their only choice is to play or not, and they follow the command of the puppet masters ‘behind the curtain’ even though they have not clear idea what the objectives of following the instructions. Thus, we shall conclude by saying that power play is not much different from performing a pre-defined narrative by voluntary players, and the system seems to be not interactive at all.
However, conclusion is derived from a over-simplified game mechanic in power plays. The puppet masters are not in the full control of the power plays. Although the players have no direct options to what instructions they will follow, they have the freedom to interpret the instructions, and that causes the puppet masters to rethink their roles in power plays, when player’s actions differ dramatically from their expectations. McGonigal experienced it once in the Go game. Thereafter, during the experimentation of ‘I love bees’, the puppet masters actually anonymously observe the online discussions of players, and adjust according to game rules if the player’s interpretations of the player deviate far away from the expectations.
In fact, I would comment that this mechanism allows a higher level of interactivity. Although the players and the puppet masters are not face to face, computers and technologies become the interface between them, and essentially they are engaged in the listen-think-speak cycle to interact. In traditional games, either programmed artificial intelligence or game masters who could only abide by the rules of the games are responding to the players. As they are confined by the rules of the games, the extent of interactivity given by them is low. In fact, I would consider the option of choices as a pseudo-interactivity, a token added by game designers to achieve some characteristic of interactivity, whereas puppet masters and players are interacting on a higher human intelligence level.
McGonial also mentioned that the joy of power play comes from the excitation of public performance. Power play is essentially a narrative. In traditional drama players, the directors and actors rehearse before they put up the performance. In power plays, the puppet masters direct the play in real time, while the subsequence directions also depend on how the players play it. Technologies become the tool to facilitate the process to happen. After all, games and narratives are essentially human activities. The current ‘interactive narrative games’ place too much emphasis on the interface – the computer, while conceding the human touch. Power play, on the other hand, provides some new thoughts on how the elements of narrative and play can coexist in a gamel.