Great report from GDC from International Hobo's Chris Bateman, Only a Game: GDC: A New Vision for Interactive Stories, (thanks Kim!). Locked dead on to my own obsession, as someone who is interested in writing, interested in games, interested in the skill of writing for games. Or interactive entertainment as we call it at the BBC.
The thing that strikes me is that game design/writing should be done in very close cahoots. Someone like David "God of War" Jaffe seems to be a good example of someone who understands the great story-telling of movies and great game design of..er...games.
Whilst Aristotle (has anyone actually read The Poetics? Did it really help?), Joseph Campbell (and his modern Hollywood parser, Christopher Vogler) and Robert McKee might help on the script editing side of the work, in truth, the whole notion of games as films is only part of the story.
I thank Raph Koster for drawing my attention to the work of Mihalyi Czikszentmihalyi on Flow. The happiness we get from a good game is related to the notion of being at one with a system, near-mastering its controls such that interacting with it becomes second nature. This is the pleasure of play in its truest sense. The same pleasure we get from engaging in sport, playing music, doing excellent shopping. It's a performance buzz.
This is not quite the same kind of pleasure we get from movies, TV, theatre, literature. This is a cathartic (thanks Ari!) pleasure, a generation and dissipation of emotion by vicariously, voyeuristically undergoing an experience.
Certain game genres can give us a cathartic bonus, but great games don't have to. Very abstract, non-story games still work because we get into the flow of Tetris etc.
Therefore I posit, that it would be more helpful to think of games as being more like music (or shopping) than films. Designing a game has more in common with designing a musical instrument, writing a game is like providing a killer piece of music to play with that instrument and the joyful experience of playing the game is a combination of mastery of the instrument and journey through the score.
I hear that Raph has left the Sony building. I look forward to hearing what he's going to do next.