patterns of questing

So far, the quests I’ve done in World of Warcraft have all been of the following types:

  1. Either explore, in one of these ways:
    • Find a person (report to a person, deliver an object to a person, bring me an object from a person)
    • Explore an area (scout an area, report back and tell us the condition)
    • Learn to use a game function, such as buying an item from a vendor.
  2. or slay monsters, with slight variations:
    • Kill X number of a particular kind of monster.
    • Bring the quest-giver an object that is found on the body of a slayed monster.
    • Bring the quest-giver an object that is found in a monster-infested area.

I think the quests (sorry: missions) in Grand Theft Auto could be described in exactly the same way. Can you think of any exceptions? Do all quests and missions in all games follow these patterns?

My human warrior, currently at level 11I’d be interested to know if anyone’s written about this. I know Ragnhild Tronstad’s paper about how quests are performatives, and only become narratives after having been played, when they are retold, and I know Espen Aarseth’s followup paper on Quests as Post-Narrative Discourse (in Narrative Across Media) where he argues that adventure games, often thought of as being more narrative than, say, tetris or chess, could better be thought of as quest games than narrative games, and that that is significantly different. I also found the abstract of L¯vlie’s paper arguing that Max Payne is a counter-example to this.

None of that is quite what I’m interested in, though: I want to think about what on earth makes me prefer certain quests – or series of quests – to others when their basic structure is so simple and repetetive, and when the literary quality of the writing and the quality of the plots tacked onto these basic structures is, to be frank, mostly abyssmal.

I’m thinking it’s to do with the way in which quests cumulate and work together, which unsurprisingly brings me back to blogging and the way we read little capsules rather than grand narratives these days. More or less.

23. September 2005 by Jill

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