Text of Narrative Design and Audio-Visual Style in Video Games
1. WELCOME TO NARRATIVE DESIGN&VISUAL STYLEIN VIDEO GAMES A presentationb y Altug Isigan METU Informatics Institute GATE511 December 29 2010
2. About Me
Ankara . Faculty of Communication; BA, MA, PhD
Scriptwriter, game designer, academic
Teaching a game design class since 2007 (with focus on board game design)
IGDA Game Design SIG ; founding member
Game Design Aspect of the Month ; editor
Global Game Jam Famagusta; organizator
3. A few pics: Protoypes forSaviors
4. Pics, continued:Global Game Jam
5. Pics, continued:Game Design Class
Lets get to the meat of things, right? ;)
Enough about me...
7. Before we start:
Always ask for the meaning of words that you arent familiar withtheres a lot of terminology in here, so dont be a shy engineer! ;)
If you have questions, write them downWere going to have a Q&A session at the end of the presentation, and you can ask them there ;)
8. UNIT 1:APPROACHNG GAMESAS NARRATVES
9. The Ludology-Narratology Debate
Ludologist : Someone who believes games should be studied as games
Narratologist : Someone who studies narratives and believes that games too, can be studied as narratives
Around the year 2000, when a growing number of academics started to study video games, a huge debate broke out:Should games be studied as narratives? Should they be studied by narratologists? A group of game scholars tended to be against narratology and narratologists.They were labelledLudologists.
The Ludology-Narratology debate reaches its peak when a group of Ludologists launched the online journalGame Studiesand criticised Narratology as being insufficient& invasive
10. The Ludology-Narratology Debate
Ludologists claim that games arent stories because...
Stories arelinear , games arenon-linear
Readers arepassive , gamers areactive
Stories are recounts of what happened in thepast , games happennow they have no discourse time, only play time
Hence, they conclude thatwe dont need Narratologyto study games,because games are something entirely different !
11. Approaching Video Games as Narratives
But can we approach games still as narratives?
My answer is:YES!
Here are my reasons :
Video games arefictional worlds . In order to come into existence,these worlds must benarratedby something/someoneWithoutnarrationwe wouldnt know they exist.We also wouldnt know what we are doing in this fictional world.
Video games are a process ofmediation : Hence theres amediumthat brings me news from a world that I wouldnt be able to interface with otherwise.The medium narrates my actions to the game world, and the happenings in the game world to me.
12. Approaching Video Games as Narratives
By the way: MediationandNarrationtakes place even in non-digital games ;)
Think of theDungeon Master(DM) in a typical FRP Session:
The DM is amedium : He brings me news from a world that I cannot access otherwise
The DMnarratesthe events and happenings in the fictional world so that I can position myself and consider my situation.He also narrates the outcome of my very own actions.As a player, I depend on the DMs narration in order to orientate myself and make decisions.
The Video Game is basically a digitalized DM, amedium, that narrates my actions and the fictional game world
In short, Mediation and Narration are inescapable!
13. Approaching Video Games as Narratives
A few words on the passive reader notion:
Contructivist theories , andReader-Response theoryhave found out thata reader is never passive , butactively involved in the construction of the meaning of the text This cancels out Ludologys claim that readers are passiveA reader is pretty much lika a player, only his input is invisible
Any text ,including video games , works only with the active participation of the reader , be it by articulating letters in his mind or by hitting frantically on a keyboard
Since a narrative * is * a reciprocal relation between text and reader that aims at (or results in) signification,the logical conclusion is that any text (written, audial, visual or tactile) must solicit the (interpretative or physical) actions that it wants its readers to carry outIts only that in games the readers actions are often more visible than those of book readers.Hence, reading and interpretation lie at the heart of playing.
14. Approaching Video Games as Narratives
Reading a game text to solicit action:Pong
Game StartThe white dot comes at you
If you fail to bounce it back0-1!
The player interpretes this sequence that she must bounce the ball back to avoid conceeding a goalThe game text has solicited at least one of the actions that it wants the player to carry out
The more such actions the text solicits, the more it enables the player to constructs the narrative, which is To win the game,score more than you conceedNow aconflicthas been established, the action hastelos,and events are connected in terms ofcausalityandchrono-logy
This is the ludic way of narration; all communicated through the game medium.
The highly abstracted world ofPong :a fictional universenarratedthrough amedium !
15. The Video Game As Open Work
Narratives have been described as linear by LudologistsThis is to say that they cant be changed once the writer is finished with his work.There is one single storyline that we will experience each time we traverse the narrative The medium and genre Ludologists think of here are books and novels.
However,Non-Linearityisnt a new concept to literature
Great examples for this are the permutational novels of theOulipomovement George Perec ,Raymond Queneuetc
There is also a wealth of create your own story -type of books
These gave readers a lot of options to interprete/manipulate the text, not just in terms of interpretation, but also plot construction.
Hence the assumption of Ludologists that narratives are linear by nature is wrong.
16. The Video Game As Open Work
But it took some time until in narratology someone came up with a theory of non-linear narrativesIn 1962,Umberto Ecopublishes his bookThe Open Workand speaks about narratives that come to life the moment the reader interferes with them .
Eco calls narratives that develop into various directions based on the decisions made by readers open works .The reader can decide on the content, structure or style of the narrative.The reader isnt any longer bound to a single way of traversing the narrative presented to him.
IOW, the author of the open work gives the readera narrative sandboxto play with and doesnt force onto the reader a single way to experience them.
This gives us a very strong basis to theorize video games from within narratology because when it comes to video games, we basically deal with digitalized narratives that ask for reader input on a variety of narrative layers in order to come to life and be able to progress.
17. The Video Game As Open Work
Another important figure in narratology isClaude Bremond .
He analyzed narratives based ondecision nodesand diagrammed them aslogical circuitsin which the characters need to make theright decisionsin order the story to proceed to the ending that was foreseen by its author.
Diagram taken from ludology.org
18. The Video Game As Open Work
In theory, a character in a story could decide to do whats not good for the story, i.e. he could decide at a decision node to do what brings the story to an unwanted end.Imagine a detective saying in the middle of a story Im no longer interested in solving this puzzle, good bye!
Hence, whenever the character arrives at a decision node, there exists a risk for the story to come to an end.Therefore, Bremond calls every decision node (or switch) in the logical circuit of the narrative an area of risk .
However this is apotentialriskThe author will make sure thatthe conditions in the fictional world make the characters chose whats good for the storyThe character choses to do what the author wants him to do, but it feels like he has chosen it by his own free will in response to the conditions surrounding him.This brings us to the notion ofFate!
Theillusion of fateis achieved by using a principle in dramaturgy calledneccessity A good writer will make it look like it was fate, and not his power as the author of the story, that made the character chose whats good for the story.
19. The Video Game As Open Work
So what happens to the areas of risk when it comes to games?
They are no longer potential risks but now bear areal risk !
Because ultimately, as much as the author makes sure that necessity is in its place,a player can always decide not to do what was expected from him ! Its now the reader/player who has the final word.
This makes it a really difficult task for the game designer to m