Well, thanks to Netflix’s recommendation feature, I found myself watching Baccano!, the critically acclaimed prohibition mafia-alchemy crime mystery anime, set around three unrelated events with a cast of interesting characters, with excellent character design and complicated yet fascinating plotlines. But what this got me thinking about is MICE!
Just hold on, I’ll explain. Orson Scott Card wrote in a couple of his books (Characters + Viewpoint and How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy) about an acronym he developed for different story types called MICE, standing for Milieu (setting), Idea, Character, Event. They help writers categorize what type of story they’re writing (or reading). Examples: M – Lord of the Rings, I – Post-apocolyptic fiction (Waterworld), C – Sherlock Holmes and Superhero Origin Stories, E – The Raven and Saving Private Ryan’s opening scene. For more info, read one of those books or the first half of this post on my old blog.
Anyway, Baccano is definitely an Event story, about 3 different events told from the viewpoint of about 15 different characters. It got me thinking – why don’t we see games do this? Here’s a very simple example – a heist plot happens from start to finish, and you play the first time as a witness to the heist, then a police member, then the robbers themselves. Hide some information in each section so only once you understand all of them can you piece together the whole plot. Event stories are pretty neat – they work well with narrative framing tricks, they work very well with mystery games and exciting characters. They’d be kind of exactly the opposite of sandbox games – but still interesting! At least, I say so.