Micro Essay #1: Narratology and Video Games (A Very Tardy Entry)

In Juul’s paper on Narrative, the most prominent counter-argument is that video games cannot always have a narrative as “cannot be viewed independently”, meaning that it must be able to translate beyond a reasonable doubt from one medium to another. I would say that, while translating certain games over to other forms of media would still be troublesome, does not mean that a video game is void of any form of narrative. For example, “Tetris” is cited in his paper as a game with no formal “actor” – But how does one go about describing “Tetris” to a friend? The first point I’d like to bring up is that narrative does not always have to be projected onto us: As the gamer, the one controlling the actions within the world we are playing in, we project our own narrative onto the game. In playing “Tetris”, one can craft a story of their own simply through validating their actions within the game. If there is no goal, no actions must be taken, thus, no narrative is present.

Furthermore, we have games like “Graveyard”, or “Every day the Same Dream”, in which we must piece together the narrative ourselves. Both games use a generic character, the latter of the two titles even has us play a character with no face, who’s goals are not immediately apparent. Through a use of trial and error, we can slowly begin to piece together the narrative of these two characters, having one character walk through a graveyard, to sit on a bench and remember her youth, and another who goes about rewarding the player to do break the “everyday” habit the character engages in to further the story. The importance lies on the events that bring us to the conclusion of the story, a narrative technique exclusive to video games.

Another point worth mentioning is the notion of narrative time in videogames: In the article, it is written that narrative time in a video game is chronological, and happening right now. I believe this statement to be false: Video games have become incredibly intricate with their narrative storytelling abilities – Citing the same examples from above, “Everyday the Same Dream” cannot possibly comply with the narrative ideology: There is a chronological progression happening within the story, but the same scenario is being played in a loop. Does this mean the game is taking place in some sort of extra dimensional space? How does this affect the flow of the story? How can we truly know which order the five events we need to perform to complete the game have to be played in? This is example of a non-linear storyline defeats the assumption that games can only run in a chronological/real-time format


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