Some deep reading over on Gamasutra on game design and narrative (courtesy of Company of Heroes narrative designer Stephen Dinehart) could be my next graduate school adventure.
The feature, Dramatic Play, analyses the intersection of interactive media, drama and games as well as the classic tenants of play and storytelling that make or break a video game. Dinehart says that Aristotle's original notion of dramatic play — that's interactive drama where you experience a story instead of just hearing about it — has bled into games like World of Warcraft, Dead Space and his own Company of Heroes.
These games seek to immerse the player in a dramatic role play, whereby they assume the role of character in a different time and place, and whose actions and presence having meaning in the world as designed.
Dramatic play is the new niche these games expound upon, a paradigm that is the focus of interactive narrative design, a craft that meets at the apex of ludology and narratology and conjoins the theories into functional video game development methodologies.
Heavy stuff, but very interesting — the kind of thing that would make an awesome dissertation topic in a Rhetoric Department at some research university. I mean if we're all on the same page that games are interesting and important and worthy of respect, we have got to get more academics on the case. That, or clone people like Ian Bogost.
Dramatic Play [Gamasutra]