Drama is defined as “A serious play of human conflict.” This is especially apt for video games.The basic conflict of protagonist (player 1), deuteragonist (player 2) and the antagonist is at the core of life, drama, and games. Whether it’s a Wii bowling game or a online multiplayer strategy game, conflict, and it’s resolution, is also at the core of game mechanics.
It is the same mechanic that has driven mankind forward in the religion, sciences, arts, and humanities. It is this innate conflict of life which has been at the core of human pondering for almost as long as recorded history. The ancient Chinese drawing a dualism in approaches to conflict resolution between Sun Tzu, with life as a series of conflicts which can be overcome by a skilled tactician to achieve his object of desire, and Buddha, with life as suffering (conflict) and the way to overcome it as a secession of desire.
Conflict renders life in the present. Through it’s being mankind gains purpose and meaning through the chaos of change. Too in the realm of story, in the realm of drama, conflict acts as the very catalyst which drives human life forward. A classical 3-act narrative structure is driven by an active protagonist seeking to achieve an object of desire, and the conflict which arises out of action to achieve that object. The pattern repeats until a final climatic conflict occurs that drives the protagonist to a penultimate action to achieve his object of desire. This is resolved in the denouement, which gives or takes the object of desire to the protagonist, in all or part, depending on the degree of irony.
In that, games become systems to understand conflict and it’s resolution in the drama of real life. An old friend of mine once told me that his British father would say: “We don’t have wars in Europe anymore, we have soccer.”