Critical Play: Story and Storytelling Games

I used the Everyday Tarot cards as a storytelling game. It was a single player: I shuffled and drew cards, and consulted the guide book for the meanings of the cards. Although it was not really a game, and more of a tool—there was no conflict or objective, and I just tried to make meaning from randomness. 

The invitation to play was pretty elaborate. I don’t know much about formal tarot rules, but I know there are specific ways to shuffle and draw the cards. I tried watching a Youtube video, but for my purpose of telling a story, the whole process is not necessary.

I think the cards were very general, with a lot of room for interpretation. It was useful for coming up with themes and messages for the game, but not necessarily for generating specific plot points. My reading did help me shape my story for P2, and I already had a rough idea in mind. I think the cards were so general and applicable to any situation that they could be used to shape and clarify an existing idea, or to provide prompts for coming up with a story from scratch. 


For the story game, I played Oxenfree. It was a single player game that I played on Switch. You play the game as Alex, and you make conversation decisions that shape the story. 

I play a lot of visual novels and story games, so maybe I’m too used to those formats. I couldn’t enjoy Oxenfree that much because the real-time decision making made me too stressed, which I guess is the point of the game? I would miss a lot of choices because I really didn’t want to cut someone off while they were still speaking. I think the real-time aspect made it feel like I had less agency and meaningful choice than in other visual novels, because I was just following along and going with the flow instead of being able to pause and think about my own decisions. The flow also felt too slow and too fast at times, but I can control the speed in which I experience a reading-based game. 

I did like the voice acting and the sound design. The art was pleasing to look at as well, but I thought it was an interesting choice to make the camera so zoomed out. The characters were very small, which made me feel even more distanced and detached from the characters. I felt like I was not really controlling Alex but rather watching her from afar.

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