Kathryn Soderholm’s Paper Proposal

Video Game Narrative and Cybernetics

Video games are a new, uniquely interactive narrative medium. While video games have at least some element of a set narrative, ranging from the building tension of a simple game of Tetris to the complex 100-hour narratives of recent Final Fantasy games, the player has a direct impact on the narrative. This impact ranges from simple timing of events or success of play (e.g. Tetris, Chip’s Challenge), to the actions of the character leading to a different set ending created by the developer (e.g. Mass Effect), to the direct creation of narrative by interacting with others in an open-world, multiplayer game (e.g. World of Warcraft).
At the core of their construction, video games are essentially sets of rules by which the outcome of any action of the player is determined. A well-designed game may lead the player to a particular theme or idea, solely through the effective creation of these rules, or “mechanics”. Additionally, the degree to which players feel that they have an impact on the narrative has a strong impact on their emotions. Players may feel more invested in a game because they feel that they themselves are the cause of events; but this feeling can also be manipulated by the developer, by allowing or removing player control at key points.
This talk will explore the ways in which the design and construction of video games has an impact on both the delivery of narrative and the impact on the player. It will use examples from video games from old to new, short-and-simple to long and complex, and independent to major Triple-A titles.

Cybernetic traditions:

  • 7) Art; design; music; literature
  • 1) Computer science; AI; robotics

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