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Storytelling - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Storytelling. academic colonization.

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academic colonization

“Outside academic theory people are usually excellent at making distinctions between narrative, drama and games. If I throw a ball at you I don't expect you to drop it and wait until it starts telling stories. On the other hand, if and when games and especially computer games are studied and theorized they are almost without exception colonised from the fields of literary, theatre, drama and film studies. Games are seen as interactive narratives, procedural stories or remediated cinema”

(Eskelinen, 2001, n.1

Games vs narratives
games vs narratives?

  • The player can tell stories of a game session.

  • Many computer games contain narrative elements, and in many cases the player may play to see a cut-scene or realise a narrative sequence.

  • Games and narratives share some structural traits.


  • Games and stories actually do not translate to each other in the way that novels and movies do.

  • There is an inherent conflict between the now of the interaction and the past or "prior" of the narrative. You can't have narration and interactivity at the same time; there is no such thing as a continuously interactive story.

  • The relations between reader/story and player/game are completely different - the player inhabits a twilight zone where he/she is both an empirical subject outside the game and undertakes a role inside the game.

(Juul, 2001, n.1

But aren t all these experiences literary
but... aren’t all these experiences literary?

All coterie members are dead press esc to load saved game
all coterie members are dead, press ESC to load saved game

“Our fixation on electronic games and stories is in part an enactment of a denial of death. They offer us a chance to erase memory, to start over, to replay an event and try for a different resolution. In this respect, electronic media have the advantage of enacting a deeply comic vision of retrievable mistakes and open options.”

(Janet Murray)

“The charm of a text is that it forces you to face destiny”


catharsis is impossible

Storytelling is not only about linearity

Storytelling is not only about linearity

Storytelling is not opposed to interaction


A person has a problem ⃗ tries to understand it ⃗ makes a choice (usually difficult) that changes understading and resolves the difficulty.


Essential:What? (Plot) Who? (Character) Why? (Causality)

Optional: Where? (Descriptions) When? (Temporality)

Emotional release


Narrative:What? (Plot) Who? (Character) Why? (Causality)

  • plots?

  • characters?

  • causality?

do games have...


Essential:What? (Plot) Who? (Character) Why? (Causality)

  • Quest

  • Adventure

  • Pursuit

  • Rescue

  • Escape

  • Revenge

  • The Riddle

  • Rivalry

  • Underdog

  • Temptation

  • Metamorphosis

  • Transformation

  • Maturation

  • Love

  • Forbidden Love

  • Sacrifice

  • Discovery

  • Wretched Excess

  • Ascension

  • Descension

The 20 master plots of all time, by Ronald B. Tobias

Adventure games
Adventure games

  • Playing for the plot

    It is not the same to read about a detective´s work than to play the detective´s role, in a way to be the detective. Most adventure games cast the player in a detective´s role under various guises: the detective of Deadline, the mistery-writer "Shattenjäger" of the Gabriel Knight series, the curious traveller of Myst, the journalist of The11th Hour... Something has happened (usually a crime, assault, disappearance or any mysterious deed the programmers can think of), and the player must investigate in order to learn what. She must look for a plot behind the apparently meaningless terrible acts in order to reconstruct the story from clues that she finds at the crime scenes and the interviewing of the non-playing characters. The main character/player usually has a motivation: to find a lost girlfriend, to free somebody, to write a book, etc.

genre fiction


  • Explore the world

  • Objects

  • Puzzles

  • Dialogues

Jonas Heide Smith


  • Deistic narration

  • Better Ais (characters + actions)

  • Multilinearity (beyond myst), more branching

  • Narrative decision points at key moments


Essential:What? (Plot) Who? (Character) Why? (Causality)

  • Simple world interaction: move, talk, inventory...

  • Simple battle (you are attacked, you respond)

  • QUESTS: Goal + obstacles = resolution

  • -Simple exchange (NPC asks to obtain item...)

  • Breach of contract (same but reward is withdrawn)


Essential:What? (Plot) Who? (Character) Why? (Causality)

Narrative mode:

Reader constructs scenarios imaginarily.

“The characters in a film, book or play are the people that the film, book, or play is about.”

Collins English Dictionary

Dramatic mode:

Viewer watches unfolding scenarios.

You are
you are...

“You are Blade Runner Ray McCoy, engaged in an adventure uniquely your own. But what you don’t know each time you play is whether you --or anyone else-- is human or replicant.”

Westwood’s Blade Runner official website


Illusion of control

Characters in games
characters in games...

- are part of a frame narrative (Half Life)

- are “the goal” of the game (any RPG)

- “live” a story (adventure games)





We construct characters
we construct characters...

  • through description

  • through their actions

    • symbolic

    • naturalistic

    • relationship to reality

  • through relationship to space

  • through other characters’ view

  • through a name


“Optional”:Where? (Descriptions) When? (Temporality)

  • Scenery (Gerrold) / Look and feel (Rollings, Morris)

  • World: Physically/Geography/Nature

  • World: Philosophy/Basic idea for existence

  • World history

  • World sociology & economy

  • World rules (program)

  • Why would player want to be/play in that world? What makes it particularly compelling?


“Optional”:Where? (Descriptions) When? (Temporality)

Jesper Juul, 2001.

Readings for next session
Readings for next session

  • Muramatsu, Jack. “Computing, Social Activity, and Entertainment: A Field Study of a Game MUD” (

  • Baron, Jonathan. “Glory and Shame: Powerful Psychology in Multiplayer Online Games”(

  • Yee, Nicholas. “The Norrathian Scrolls”. ( Just for browsing