How video games turn players into storytellers | David Cage

How video games turn players into storytellers | David Cage


The way we tell stories
has naturally changed since Aristotle defined
the rules of tragedy about 2,500 years ago. According to him, the role of storytelling is to mimic life
and make us feel emotions. And that’s exactly what
storytelling as we know it has done very well since then. But there is a dimension of life that storytelling could
never really reproduce. It is the notion of choices. Choices are a very
important part of our lives. We as individuals are defined
by the choices we make. Some of our decisions can have
very significant consequences and totally change
the courses of our lives. But in a play, a novel or a film, the writer makes all the decisions
in advance for the characters, and as the audience, we can only watch, passively, the consequences of his decisions. As a storyteller,
I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of recreating
this notion of choices in fiction. My dream was to put the audience
in the shoes of the main protagonists, let them make their own decisions, and by doing so,
let them tell their own stories. Finding a way to achieve this is what
I did in the past 20 years of my life. Today, I would like to introduce you
to this new way of telling stories, a way that has interactivity at its heart. Rather than exposing the theory behind it, which could have been kind of abstract
and probably a little bit boring, I thought it would be a great opportunity
to do a little experiment. I would like you, the people here at TED, to tell your own story. So I came with an interactive scene
that we are going to play together. I’ve asked Vicky — hello, Vicky — to control the main character for us. And your role — you, the audience — will be to make the choices. So Vicky and I don’t know
what’s going to happen, because it will all be based
on your decisions. This scene comes from our next game,
called “Detroit: Become Human,” and we are in the near future, where technology made possible
the creation of androids that look exactly like human beings. We are in the shoes
of this character called Connor, who is an android, and he can do very fancy things
with coins, as you can see. He has this blue triangle on this chest, as all androids do, and now Vicky is in control
of this character. She can walk around, she can go anywhere,
she can look around, she can interact with her environment, and now she can tell her own stories
by making choices. So here we have our first choice. There is a fish on the ground. What should we do? Should we save it or should we leave it? Remember, we are under time pressure, so we’d better be fast. What should we do? Audience: Save it! David Cage: Save it? Save the fish? (Video) (Fish plops) DC: There we go. OK, we have an android who likes animals. OK, let’s move on. Remember, we have a hostage situation. (Video) Woman: Please, please,
you’ve got to save my little girl! Wait — you’re sending an android? Officer: All right, ma’am, you need to go. W: You can’t do that! Why aren’t you sending a real person? DC: OK, she’s not really happy. Her daughter’s been
taken hostage by an android, and of course, she’s in a state of shock. Now we can continue
to explore this apartment. We see all the SWAT forces in place. But we need to find
this Captain Allen first. That’s the first thing we need to do. So, again, we can go anywhere. Vicky’s still in control of the character. Let’s see — oh, I think this
is Captain Allen. He’s on the phone. (Video) Connor: Captain Allen,
my name is Connor. I’m the android sent by CyberLife. Captain Allen: Let’s fire
at everything that moves. It already shot down two of my men. We could easily get it,
but they’re on the edge of the balcony — it if falls, she falls. DC: OK, now we need to decide
what we want to ask the captain. What should be our choice? Deviant’s name? Deviant’s
behavior? Emotional shock? (Video) C: Has it experienced
an emotional shock recently? Capt A: I haven’t got
a clue. Does it matter? C: I need information
to determine the best approach. DC: OK, a second choice.
Maybe we can learn something. What should we choose? Audience: Behavior. DC: OK, deviant behavior, Vicky. (Video) C: Do you know if it’s been
behaving strangely before this? Capt A: Listen … saving that kid
is all that matters. DC: OK, we are not going to learn
anything from this guy. We need to do something. Let’s try to go back in the lobby. Oh, wait — there’s a room over there
on your right, Vicky, I think. Maybe there’s something we can learn here. Oh, there’s a tablet. Let’s have a look. (Video) Girl: This is Daniel,
the coolest android in the world. Say “Hi,” Daniel. Daniel: Hello! G: You’re my bestie,
we’ll always be together! DC: That was just one way
of playing the scenes, but there are many
other ways of playing it. Depending on the choices you make, we could have seen many different actions, many different consequences, many different outcomes. So that gives you an idea of what
my work is about as an interactive writer. Where a linear writer needs
to deal with time and space, as an interactive writer, I need to deal with time,
space and possibilities. I have to manage massive tree structures, where each branch
is a new variation of the story. I need to think about all
the possibilities in a given scene and try to imagine
everything that can happen. I need to deal with thousands
and thousands of variables, conditions and possibilities. As a consequence, where a film script
is about 100 pages, an interactive script like this
is between four and five thousand pages. So that gives you an idea
of what this work is about. But I think, in the end,
the experience is very unique, because it is the result
of the collaboration between a writer creating
this narrative landscape and the player making his own decisions, telling his own story
and becoming the cowriter but also the coactor
and the codirector of the story. Interactive storytelling is a revolution
in the way we tell stories. With the emergence of new platforms
like interactive television, virtual reality and video games, it can become a new form of entertainment and maybe even a new form of art. I am convinced that in the coming years, we will see more and more moving
and meaningful interactive experiences, created by a new generation of talents. This is a medium
waiting for its Orson Welles or its Stanley Kubrick, and I have no doubt
that they will soon emerge and be recognized as such. I believe that interactive
storytelling can be what cinema was in the 20th century: an art that deeply changes its time. Thank you. (Applause)