Mark of the Ninja as Narrative Play

Posted: February 18, 2013 by zachbruno in Uncategorized

Mark of the Ninja as Narrative Play

Within Unit 3 of the book Rules of Play, the author sets possibilities for how “play” can manifest itself. For example, it can be social, experiential, pleasurable, meaningful, amongst other possibilities. Although Mark of the Ninja could certainly fit into more than one of these categories, I chose to analyze Mark of the Ninja in its narrative aspects.

According to our book, a narrative must include situation, character, and form characteristics in order to be a fully functioning narrative. In Mark of the Ninja, the situation (the series of events that change over time) is set with cut scenes, aural narration, and by visually indicating the players progress by moving from one room to another. The character (the system of representation in which the narrative is conveyed) of Mark of the Ninja is represented in as many ways as the situation is represented. The characters are all dressed/behave in a way that we perceive to be standard practice of ninjas. The ninjas also talk to each other referencing honor by saving their ninja brethren. The form (the repetition of the character) is of course consistent, as the game characters do not suddenly switch personalities, dress, or behavior.Image

The narrative structures of games can be can be divided into two main categories of Embedded and Emergent. Embedded structures are the narrative queues that are pre-established within the code of the game and manifest themselves in such forms as cut scenes or outcomes that are absolutely necessary for the game to advance. Mark of the Ninja uses both of these structures to compliment each other. The game both allows a certain amount in freedom of choice, but also limits the amount of outcomes from situations, and also occasionally forced the players hand into a situation. As the player finishes a level, a cutscene takes over and establishes the direction the story will be heading in once again. In the level that I just played, the player was given a choice of taking a piece of equipment necessary by force (killing the guard) or by stealing it from him without him noticing. The choice in this situation directly affected the gameplay. I chose to kill the guard, which resulted in his heart rate monitor to set off an alarm and the entire facility was alarmed to the fact that he had been killed. Needless to say, the rest of the level was very difficult.ImageImageImage

Both the goals and the uncertainty in Mark of the Ninja help to keep the narrative both thrilling and progressing at a steady rate. There are two types of goals in the game. First there is the unchanging overall goal of the entire game. The character that represents the player must find and rescue his ninja master, and find the one responsible for killing all the plants that create the sacred tattoo ink. This goal does not change during the gameplay. The other type of goals that appear in this game, are the goals of each level, and even more specifically, the goals that one must complete just to pass through one room. These types of goals appear frequently but also disappear similarly as quickly. For example, in order to pass through some rooms, it is necessary for the player to disable alarms, dodge lasers, and avoid dogs that can smell you.

The uncertainty is also a key component to the upkeep of interest in the plot. Often within the cutscenes between levels, the video will include a new challenge that will be presented to the player in the next level, so that the player’s success in still uncertain to him or her. In the latest level that I played, the last cutscene showed the boss handing his chief security guard a gun and told him to kill me personally. All that I am left to assume is that this new threat will be more challenging. Perhaps his abilities for detection are greater, perhaps he is far more accurate with his weapon than the other guards, or maybe I will not be able to kill him in one hit like all the other guards. I know that I am intrigued to continue to play to prove that I can defeat him.Image

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