Firstly, what is the substance of ‘good’ narrative?
Experience? User-story? Be that a user of any system, closed or open. The human mind is the creator of story, since the beginning our not so simple act of perception has had us telling ourselves stories over and over again, in an effort to understand, to believe, and to create fundamental assumptions so one can simply live. From moment to moment the human mind ties together seeming coincidence into a meaningful ballet of destiny; all things interwoven into a tapestry of purpose. Good story, good narrative, allows us to remember the meaning of being, our own being in this place. To believe in something that is ethereal, the triumph of will over darkness, change over stagnation, love over hate. A good narrative designer creates a tapestry that allows someone to believe cognitively, without overt thought. Therein the substance of a ‘good’ narrative is the seemingly unattainable, the belief in the viewer/user/player of an otherwise delusional perception.
What is the highest ideal we can have for a game in relation to narrative?
My definition of that high ideal would be a compelling interactive story experience which provides the illusion of unlimited agency and satisfactory archplot within the limits of current technologies. By that token, I again say that day is upon us. In the user-story drawn from the opinion piece in Gamasutra by Chris Plante, he alludes to this idea that somehow through Crackdowns limited agency he feels unlimited empowerment. Most of the RPGs I played in my youth had a similar effect, though not with the same cinematic glory.
What similarities would this ideal narrative driven game have to a film?
All good films regardless of genre do one thing, they satisfy the audiences cognitive needs. Like any good film, an ideal narrative driven game would be a streamlined temporal experience which fills ‘all’ narrative holes and leaves one as an audience member feeling satisfied, not for blowing things up, but cognitively satisfied in the belief that one understands a whole experience. While anti-structure and minimalist plots may allow a digression from the norm of the good guy, in the end, everyone wants to be superman. In my eyes GTA IV is hitting the mark, while Niko is not your traditional Übermensch by any means, in today’s world the good, the bad, and the ugly, aren’t so clean cut.