Ask me to speak up when needed, ask questions whenever something is confusing--I'm happy to be interrupted. General Overview: Plot vs. Narrative Elements of Narrative Narrative Continuum Games and Narrative
Plot vs. Narrative • Plot and narrative are often used interchangeably, but they don't necessarily operate as such. • Plot refers to the pattern of events in a narrative; the sequence of events: the causal chain of “what happened and why.” • Princess was kidnapped. • Hero finds out. • Hero must rescue the princess by completing these tasks. • If hero completes task, princess is saved.
Narrative • Narrative is the larger narrated story. This can exist without a plot or as a larger system in which plot exists. • Narrative does not necessarily require a causal chain. Could be a history of events or sequence, technically the level progression in Tetris could be a narrative.
Narrative Generally though, narrative means: Plot+ Surrounding Context
Narrative Continuum • Understood in the broader sense, there are weaker and stronger narratives along a narrative continuum. • Narrative and plot elements that build together into one larger, more complex story. Digressions, side stories, alternate narratives, additional characters, cultural/social references, intertextual references, and other elements can be included within the overall narrative continuum that builds towards the overall narrative movement.
What Makes Narrative • Internal elements can contribute to the overall narrative: visuals, text, sound, cutscenes, paratexts, metaphors (interface metaphor for computing narrativizes computer usage) and icons (crosses symbolize Christianity and so carry with them abundant cultural meaning) • External elements can also contribute to the overall narrative as with paratexts: game books, game websites (ARGs, I Love Bees), game comics, game films/shows (Aeon Flux)
General Game Narrative Elements • Story: characters, setting, plot, genre • Visual style • Controls (survival horror, point and click: like a novel or a film can determine what/how other elements work) • Sound: diegetic (narrative), nondiegetic (soundtrack) • Frame work (game book, game extras—The Suffering and documentary and designer commentary; game genre/series)
Simple Narratives • Many FPS and puzzle games use little or no narrative. This can be useful to streamline game play. Interface metaphors work similarly.
General Uses of Narrative • Can add an extra dimension to game. • Can also hinder the game by shifting focus. Microsoft Bob, Grim Fandango (playing a movie or novel phenomenon)
Uses of Narrative • Narrative can add an extra dimension to all computing, metaphors shape ad campaigns, user reception and comprehension, can add meaning outside of what seems to be on the surface of the software, can question the software itself and seem to break the technological constraints (MGS and Psychomantis, Eternal Darkness, Virtual Valerie)
Simple Narrative Example: Super Mario Brothers • Introduces basic characters and world. • Allows for basic framework that can be altered.
Medium Complexity Example: Max Payne • What makes it work? • Gameplay is fairly straightforward FPS-esque, with bullet time added in; • Standard saving/avenging girl Western film/film noir narrative style; • Cut-scenes: done as a graphic novel, questioning under drug influence. Adds commentary to the basic game narrative that exceeds the game confines.
Highly Complex Game Narrative: Final Fantasy Series • Story: multiple characters, multiple objectives, plot twists, multiple genres (technology and magic) • Intertextual references to Japanese history (forgetting, orphans, and reluctance to fight) and to other cultures (summoned beings). • This allows for transcultural values and ideas to be transmitted, creates a richer game world for players, creates a longer more complex system for interaction.
Highly Complex Game Narrative: Grand Theft Auto III • Story: multiple characters, multiple objectives, plot twists, multiple genres (sandbox format allows for racing, sniping, vigilante, cab driver, and other mission styles with the overall plot) • Radio references real world radio, and parodies it • Amoral world as parody of real world • Paratext map aids in game play • Results in a rich game world that affords multiple styles of play and that players appreciate because of openness. Contextualizes different play styles.
Across the Continuum: Uses • Narrative adds context, and context allows users to see and remember meaning and function. • Plot could be a sequence of actions to accomplish a task, narrative makes those actions make sense and allows those actions and the sequence to have additional relevance. • Popular media often talks of interactivity as openness, while that is one aspect of gaming, another is contextuality. Can limit choices if it makes sense to do so based on the narrative/character. Standard text-based “a hero wouldn't do such a thing.” • So narrative adds relevance and context, and can steer users towards a goal, and can expand meaning for them.