In his most recent blog entry, Obsidian Entertainment's Chris Avellone tackles four more fan-submitted questions, the lot of which focus on "emergent narrative".
1) What do you think about the concept of emergent narrative?
1. I think the concept of emergent narrative is stronger than any enforced narrative. I think a blend can work well (and it's what I prefer whenever possible), but I think the stories players create on their own from interesting system mechanics and AI behavior has more weight and meaning than anything a designer tries to do. My favorite example is that no enforced narrative can really trump the story of planting dynamite on victims in Fallout, superstimming people to death, or how a character's 3rd level dwarven fighter with 5 hit points trained 20 orcs into a narrow, funneled corridor and killed them all one by one with a ball-peen hammer, Oldboy-style. The player makes stories like that happen, and those are the stories I hear players talk about most in relation to games, computer game or pen-and-paper games, not necessarily their reaction to specific cued story events or anything the designer or GM tried to force on them.
Note that realization came pretty quickly on in my GMing days, and it's another lesson I learned from pen-and-paper games which still holds true in computer games. The amount of glee the Fallout PNP players had when they did a critical hit against one of the major NPC adversaries early on in the campaign was another reminder - and a reminder to myself to let the gaming session chips fall where they may. Generally, I don't like to make major characters in games sacred and invulnerable unless I absolutely have to.