A new Android version of “NothingElse”, a short narrative/horror game by indie developer Ivan Zanotti, is out. From a review: “Your relaxing escapism takes a turn for the terrifyingly surreal when you find yourself pulled into another layer of reality that seems to resemble your own… only more warped and unsettling” (link)
Abstract. Ever since scholars in the humanities have studied computer games, the relationship between play and narrative has been a much contested issue. Much dissent stems from incompatible basic assumptions about play and narrative, which, this article argues, can be reconciled by a formalist approach to games and narrative on a structural level. First, event structures and story structures are shown to be central to various theories of narrative. Correlating these findings with Espen Aarseth’s reflections upon nonlinearity, an understanding of narrative revolving around event logic is developed. Building on the theory of games developed by Roger Caillois, the article then develops a model of games in which three layers of structures are governed by three types of rules. The most abstract of these layers arranges game elements in a meta-structure which is based on both ludic and narrative logic. In a final step, nonlinear game structures are explained within this model and categorized in a typology that orders them by the type of agency players can execute.
“Among The Sleep” is an upcoming horror game where you play a toddler looking for his mother: it looks like a very interesting twist on the notions of agency, horror, narrative and very unusual avatars.
Molleindustria just published “To Build a Better Mousetrap”, a game premiered last December at FACT gallery in Liverpool along with the article/talk “Videogames and the spirit of capitalism”.
Author Paolo Pedercini writes «I tried to describe To Build a Better Mousetrap as “Richard Scarry meets Karl Marx” or “Information visualization without information” but it’s really a development of the idea of “playable theory”. (…) The result is somewhat cryptic, dry, and against the current trend of narrative indie games, but some players may recognize a cast of classic characters: the Surplus Value, the Reserve army of labor, the Fordist class compromise, the alienation resulting from division of labor, and one of today’s hottest capitalist contradictions: the decline of employment as result of labor saving technologies a.k.a. “the tendency of the rate of profit to fall”».
1,000 Days of Syria is a video game / newsgame that tells the story of some journalists in the Syrian conflicts. Its author Mitch Swenson describes it as “part electric literature; part newscast; and part choose-your-own-adventure”.
In a recent news article on The Guardian, Simon Parkin wrote about the game: “You follow one of three narratives, that of a foreign photojournalist, a mother of two living in Daraa or a rebel youth living in Aleppo. The story is delivered in disparate chunks and, at the end of each excerpt, you make choices about what to do next: will you attempt to flee the country or stay put? How will you try to pass the time when you’re imprisoned in a dimly lit cell? Each character has three possible endings and, at times, their stories intersect.”
Jonne Arjoranta defended his PhD thesis at the University of Jyväskylä (Finland) with Espen Aarseth as opponent/discussant. His work is titled ‘Real-time hermeneutics: meaning-making in ludonarrative digital games’ and is a study of how ludonarrative videogames, videogames that combine game elements with narrative elements, express and convey meaning. The thesis “uses philosophical tools to analyze meaning in games. The philosophical hermeneutics of Hans-Georg Gadamer is used to compare the meaning-making in games to the interpretation of works of art. The theory of the interpretive process is based on the idea of the hermeneutic circle. Wittgenstein’s concept of language-games is used in examining how games should be defined and how their relations to each other should be understood. These philosophical methods are combined with the study of procedurality, narrativity and players”.
The reasoning follows: if video games managed to become ‘social’, so can books. I disagree on this point, and I think that linear narratives are wonderful things that should give value to their own merits – not chase the characteristics of interactive media. And, likewise, so should video games.
I suppose that we might be witnessing a new trend in the relation between games and narratives. Until now, many game-authors suffered from “narrative envy” (e.g. the tendency to forget the strengths of ludic media in favor of linear narration). I wonder if we’re witnessing a reversal: the rise of “game envy” in traditional book authors.
I do not support this trend. What I propose, instead, is a widespread digital alphabetization and education where authors – regardless of their preferred medium: ludic, linear, transmedia or otherwise – engage in a dialogue with related fields but at the same time remain very conscious of the affordances and limitations of their own.