I think I get some of what he's saying, but he's using a broadsword instead of a scalpel. I think he's saying that games don't necessarily have to TELL the story, don't have to dictate the only way a story can go, because a game is not necessarily the best medium for that. For a specific, author-driven, preset plot, books and movies are better media. For an open-ended, player-driven narrative, some games do a very good job - because the developers don't tell the story. They set the world in motion and let the player choose how it goes. That is, arguably, one reason why games like Skyrim and Deus Ex are so compelling and replayable.
That's more or less what I got out of it as well. And to be honest, I've noticed the same trend. Instead of coming up with games with new "rules" and game mechanics, game developers are more often just using the same rules and mechanics (more or less) and writing a new story. I think where the appearance of contradiction comes from is that he has a hard time really explaining the difference between a game with a sequence of actions required to get through the level/game/whatever, and a game where characterization is highlighted, but the story is just as linear.
I've commented on the same sort of thing in a couple of roleplaying related threads in the past. I don't consider what most games today call "roleplaying" to actually be roleplaying at all. It's someone else writing a story for the character and me having to follow along with a limited set of choices. It's kinda hard to explain, so I totally get that Jaffe had a hard time getting it across.
A way to look at it is that a game like Doom had *zero* roleplaying in the modern game sense of the word. But if you think about it, I could imagine myself as any sort of personality whilst wandering through the complex shooting demons. My character is dropped into an environment with a set of rules and objectives and obstacles, but within that framework, I'm free to decide what I do and am totally in control of my interactions with the world around me.
Many games today are similar in terms of mechanics (more advanced, but similar in concept). However, game developers have added character based storylines. But those character driven parts, while adding depth, actually usually reduce the freedom of the player to create his own. Instead of me being presented with a character with various stats, I'm presented with a choice of characters with stats, but also personality. I can't be anything I want. I have to be one of the characters they've created. And my choices are limited to those the developers thought of for that character, and the results of my actions are also defined based on what those same developers/storywriters thought that character should experience based on their
vision of the character and the story.
This is why he makes a distinction between games with player-author characters (you're handing a character with stats and are free to do anything you want), and developer-author characters (your character has a story that must be followed in some way). And he's warning about the problems inherent in the second form. I'm not sure that this means there's no room for those sorts of games, but I kinda have to agree with him that I personally find those the least interesting to play. While it seems contradictory I feel like a lot of games lose something by adding all that character stuff in. I'd much rather the game just have a set of rules that govern how the world reacts to your choices, and let the player decide what they want to do.
At least that's what I think he was saying. Not sure if I was any more clear about it than he was though.
OH! As for the weekend. I re-affirmed my assessment that PF Changs is about the most awful Asian restaurant in existence. Gah! Honestly don't understand why anyone likes that place, but every few years someone will drag me there because they really want to go there and I'm always left with the same crappy impression. Bad food. Bad service. Bad decor. And nothing remotely resembling actual Asian cuisine. Edited, Feb 21st 2012 3:55pm by gbaji