Games & Narrative

One of the main things that Jenkins points out is how difficult it is for a game to have a compelling story while also maintaining core game play elements. You either have a game with extremely fun game mechanics and a lacking story or an enchanting narrative that’s essentially a movie you can click on. Why do you think that is? Other than the examples give in the text do you think there are other ways to overcome this dilemma?

Another interesting point that Jenkins makes is the way he view games. Instead of comparing it to traditional communication mediums like movies or books he chooses to compare them to roller-coasters. This is because like an amusement ride the majority of the narrative in a game is derived from the world not unlike the props used around a ride. Do you agree with this sentiment? If not, what medium would you compare games to (assuming we should compare them at all)?

These aren’t questions but just some thoughts I wanted to share after reading the text. I think a lot of the narrative issues which games have stem from the fact that they are so interactive. Compared to movies or literature, games requires the player to use many more senses in a way that immerses them. Because of this, a good videogame narratives must make use of each sense in a way that is interesting to the player. This is a daunting task that is arguably much more difficult than filming/writing a movie.

Also I think an example of a great game with amazing narrative is the Stanley Parable. Here’s the trailer 

5 thoughts on “Games & Narrative

  1. I think that it’s really hard to make something that has the fun game mechanics and the enticing narrative because narratives typically have a beginning and end that are mostly predictable. This takes away from the autonomy of the user thus making the game boring and less compelling. Other than the examples in the text, I think a good way to overcome this problem is to realize that a video game can never really tell a full story like a film but it can expand on one. I think it’s okay to have multiple story endings and ideas open for users so that it’s not boring but still narratively interesting.

    I agree with him in the sense that video games replicate narrative spaces from popular media genres that already exist and expand on them. For example, the Shreck ride, Back to the Future ride, ET Ride, and so on do not retell the narratives that we already know. They just replicate the spaces from the film, they expand on them and make them a whole new world, and they give people the autonomy to experience the world as their own. My favorite example of this is the ET ride at Universal Studios where visitors give their name to the passport people in the beginning and everyone changes their name. It gives kids a certain autonomy and makes them feel like they are personally going on the journey to help ET. This is the same goal that immersive video games have.

    Also, the Men In Black ride at Universal Studios lets people use other senses such as touch (to shoot the enemy aliens) hearing (the alien noises from a first perspective), and smell (of fire ). This makes the ride a lot more immersive, which I believe many video games (like Wii games) do as well.

  2. I don’t agree with this idea that you can either have a game with really fun game mechanics or a captivating narrative. I do think there are examples of games in which one took over the other, but games like World of Warcraft, Skyrim, Shadow of Mordor, and Destiny bring a very elaborate story and a captivating gameplay. I don’t think that a story having a beginning and an end make the game more boring, and often in games with a very good narrative it is not evident exactly how the game will end. For instance, in God of War, the end of the narrative was nothing that players expected and thusly lead into a series of other games that picked up from the “ending.”

    I would compare video games to books. In a book you imagine the world that is being depicted, but you are in some ways the protagonist because we have insight to what they are feeling and thinking as they experience the things around them. A very similar thing happens in video games, but instead of imagining the world you are controlling the protagonist as you are walking through that world. Your experience is the experience of the protagonist and certain events happen in the game that lead you to make certain decisions in the game.

    I also agree with that final point you made. For instance, Titanfall, was a game that brought a completely new interactive style of gameplay, but completely abandoned the narrative and only allowed for online competitive play. As a result the game somewhat tanked because players were lacking narrative. And I agree that a gamer needs all of his senses to be involved for them to become completely immersed in a game. They need to be able to think just as much as they use their fingers.

  3. Based on your first point about the difficulty in incorporating a compelling narrative with awesome game-play mechanics, I think this is so hard to do because how video games are structured in relation to film and television. Film and television have many more genres, and I think this makes creating content easier because there are much narrower pathways to follow. I might just be lacking video game knowledge, so correct me if I’m wrong, but it feels a lot harder to classify video game genres because there’s a lot broader range of creativity involved, making it harder to put games into very specific categories.

  4. Based on your point about the difficulty in creating a compelling narrative while incorporating awesome game-play mechanics, I think this is so difficult to do based on the structure differences between video games and other mediums like film and television. There seems to be much more structure in film and TV because there are so many genres that place films and series into very narrow, specific categories. I may be lacking video game knowledge, so correct me if I’m wrong, but I find it a lot harder to put games into classifications because there is a much broader range of creative content and creative platform spaces within games.

    Also, I think the audience plays a huge part in this dilemma. It blows my mind how video game producers create storylines and game interactions that are relative to a general audience base, that people can connect to and have a pleasurable experience no matter the age, gender, race, background, etc.

    I think the comparison to roller coasters was very helpful in helping me understand how much the aesthetic of the space impacts a person’s experience. Content alone may not do enough for the audience to really connect. This makes me think of film in how there is always background music playing during extremely important scenes. This brings multiple senses together, just like how you feel the impact of riding a rollercoaster while seeing visuals and hearing sound effects.

  5. Without changing peoples’ perceptions of what makes a successful narrative, I think it will be difficult to make a game that combines the traditional storytelling structure with enthralling game mechanics. However, games like Skyrim and Destiny and others mentioned above are definitely getting closer to that – the article is from 2005 so I think it would maybe read a little different if those types of games were around then. I like the idea of spatial games like those and games that go past the “choose your own adventure” type of interaction, where it’s just a bunch of prerecorded information. It would be difficult to have a game that’s live and interactive, but that would be at least one response to complaints that even rpg games can seem stale.

    The roller coaster metaphor Jenkins talked about and relating narrative video games to RPG board games like Dungeons & Dragons are definitely the two mediums I would compare video games to, before anything else. There are elements of film in some games, as well, and I think that we could see interesting results if people expanded it.

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