October's topic is on the subject of the denouement in gaming. Already the round table has provided somewhat clear calls to action that more and better denouements are needed in games, and provided good examples of both good and bad denouements. As is my temperament, I'm inclined to play devil's advocate and provide voice to the underrepresented sides of the argument (regardless to my own opinions on the deeper subject matter). On this matter I've decided to discuss whether or not the traditional story-telling arc's resolution/denouement applies to games at all...

The ending has not yet been written.

You probably don't need much help from me to hear those words in a specific voice from a specific game introduction. Sometimes this sentence fragment from Myst is a cliche and sometimes this sentence fragment is a mantra. Given the Myst game was an experiment, a baby step towards richer storytelling by a company that had developed up to that point talent in ambience and worldbuilding, but not storytelling, I can't help but think of that line as lampshade hanging as well.

Myst, arguably, left the majority of its resolution to its sequels and books. Much of the interpretation and larger storytelling of Myst is delegated to the player, and thus to communal storytellers spread across fora and mailing lists.

It is certainly easy to describe this as the norm for storytelling in games. The Halo series barely has patience to provide useful briefings to players, it shouldn't come as a surprising that it basically skips debriefings. The games survive on the pace of the action and the pretty scenery is rarely more evocative than "pretty" for most players. There are, however, those people that seek out the written fiction that flesh out the story and along with the sequels provide some sense of resolution, to those that need it.

In terms of worldbuilding: a true, literary denouement, whether it is playable or not, may in fact be counter-productive. If the point is to build a mysterious land full of questions, resolving most of them in a straightforward manner by game's end may kill the mystery or the wonder. I would imagine that inhabitants in a mysterious world rarely get straightforward resolution of their actions.

To be blunt, the sense for a need of resolution can sell books and can sell future games. But far be it from being a purely capitalist statement, because "sell" isn't always the correct verb. When done well, worldbuilding invites players to homestead and potentially become fans. Fans will continue to repudiate that they are the true storytellers in games, will continue to tell their own stories set in the game world they engaged with.

Is it possible that for games, almost uniquely, the resolution/denouement is the realm of the fan?

For other possible endings: