Games are perhaps more dramatically interdisciplinary than any other form of storytelling. Those games that do tell stories are examples of how digital creations reach humanistic concerns. In being so fundamentally digital, there is a mathematical component to games–whether under the hood or nakedly visible–that other forms of storytelling simply lack. In the process of creating a game, part of the use of data sets is in managing the math, but that is by no means all that they are good for. Data sets of the internal attributes of a game can help streamline the direction of a project in any number of ways.
Remember how we used pivot tables in class. We used them primarily to reorganize qualitative bits of information, but not so much to analyze numbers. We even specifically had to uncheck “show totals” because we weren’t dealing with numbers. I hypothesized that incorporating rows as well as columns would be useful only if we were dealing with numbers.
In that dimension, I can see data sets and pivot tables being a useful tool for me in managing my own independent game projects. Without this tool, the fine-tuning of the numbers is perhaps where I’m the most out of my depth in my own projects; however, a data set may well clarify how player stats at various levels actually balance against enemy stats, opening new pathways for me to characterize both the player and enemies. Even in messing with the math, the goal of the game remains humanistic.
Just as we used data sets in class, however, I can see use for them in the more qualitative, more immediately humanistic elements of my game design. My current project is in many ways more of a JRPG (which doesn’t require that I be Japanese, as JRPGs and WRPGs are basically distinct characteristic genres); I do, however, intend to incorporate some more WRPG-typical dynamics in the form of dialogue options that lead to varying results within the story. Linear dialogue writing typically takes place in a document, but non-linear writing may be well suited to a spreadsheet, and thus, in the spirit of documenting the effects of dialogue choices, a data set.
(An example of dialogue choices at play in a WRPG.)
Part of what I’m planning with dialogue options is the possibility for the main character to establish a romantic relationship with one of three other characters. The dialogue options that will affect the likelihood of each relationship being possible will the further spread apart than most effects of dialogue options. Because of this, a data set format for a script can help organize what, where, and how frequent the dialogue options encouraging each romance is. This will hopefully help balance the likelihood of the main character being able to form a relationship with each potential partner.
What I’ve examined here is mostly how data sets can apply to my own game, but there are so many other people and groups making so many more types of games. The possibilities across all of these projects are so much more than what I’ve mentioned here as applying to my own project.