Narratology in game studies

From Media Technology and Culture Change

Narratology in game theory is one of two ways of thinking of games. Narratoligists place the importance of computer and video games on telling a story or 'cyberdrama' rather than simply entertainment. The idea behind this academic viewpoint is that games can be a powerful new medium used in a variety of ways. Narratologists believe games can create drama, narrative, education and more within one medium. This medium allows us to not only enter a fictional world, but to live it through the story of another. Many notable narratologists include Janet Murray, Lev Manovich, Richard Grusin, Michael Mateas, Andrew Stern and more. A notable example a game which follows these ideas is Mateas and Stern's creation Facade which is a cyberdrama in which the 'player' creates the narrative through numerous cyber decisions.

Three terms crucial to understanding narratology are immersion, agency, and transformation. Mateas defines these terms in the book First Person. Immersion is the feeling that you are present in another place and accept the logic of that place. Agency is a feeling of empowerment gamers have when their actions have consequences with a fictional world. And transformation is the ability to be someone else and undergo a personal transformation. These terms enhance narratology and make a world and a story gamers can be involved with. Through immersion, transformation, and agency, a player experiences a world and makes decision in that world, allowing for an escape from regular life. Games like Solitaire and Pac Man don't have that same kind of immersion within a world like Grand Theft Auto and the Sims. Ultimately, narratologists suggest that immersion, transformation, and agency are why gamers love games; they like experiencing a story. Ludology in game studies is an opposing view of narratology because ludologists believe people play games for play more than for the story.


Sources: Noah Wardip-Fruin & Pat Harrigan (eds), First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game (MIT Press, 2004)