❋ “Last month, I brought up how games that lack a cinematic style of narrative still rely on narrative – specifically, culturally ingrained narratives that are more basic than the massive framework of story most films and novels …”
❋ “…improvement is especially important for the social narrative I want to examine most, the American narrative. The narrative of the self, composed of our own memories and the stories that other people tell to us about us, relies on cultural narrative to bolster its weight and reality. The American narrative is often one of self-improvement – themes of dominance, competition, and knowing and increasing one’s own strengths are prolific and inherent to most of our lives. Roleplaying mechanics effortlessly tap into this drive, giving us a chance to prove ourselves in a digital universe. We experience a virtual ascent that can be as compelling and fulfilling as a job promotion or winning a pick-up game of basketball and, depending on how social the game is, experience this ascent in the eyes of others, as well.
Look at the myth of the self-made man who grew up with nothing and achieved everything in the field of his choice. It’s an especially American tale; we’re obsessed with class fluidity, even if our systems are less successful at facilitating it than they might be. This same narrative is expressed in every RPG mechanic. Nobody starts at level 20; everybody begins at level 1, on the same basic level, and they will often make meaningful choices as they grow and develop that will determine their identity and long-term success. Most expressions of leveling up are nothing less than the American ideal – World of Warcraft is a better expression of America’s social values than America has ever been.”