video games as narratives

Narratives are stories. They can be conversations between people that tell us information or they can be just actions that reveal a situation or happening. Creating a narrative is what keeps things going. Without narrative, everyone would be wandering around aimlessly and without purpose. We can find narratives in movies and video games but they are not the same.

In a movie, the time is around 2 hours to tell the whole story; for a video game, time is infinite. In a movie, you have no control over what is going on in the scene and you cannot change it; a video game you control everything and even can defy gravity. In a movie you have more than one perspective of the camera placement; in a video game, you are for the most time in first person camera control. The list can go on and on.

When we play video games we are creating a world with people that we may be familiar with but do things that we tell them to do. When you are talking about a story made by a video game you have yourself playing one character and then either other people playing characters or the computer faking the characters. The player is then disconnected from the real story because you can jump into another character and create the narrative completely by playing all the characters. Another thing different about the world in the video game is life. There is no aging, no consequences, and multiple lives. The game can have you playing for hours if you have multiple lives because you are less tempted to stop if you are doing well on the level you are playing or if you have more chances to beat the game.

Favorite games that tell narratives: Goldeneye or any game with levels and based on a movie, Crash Bandicoot, and Super Mario 64.



3 Responses to “video games as narratives”

  1. There are of course similarities and differences between video games and film. With the growth in popularity of video games, do you think this is because games are acting more like cinema narratives? Or do you think that the popularity is due to the advancements in the industry itself?

    It seems that some avid gamers (I know this from being corrected by my former roommate) that games based on cinema are not as desirable; however games that “act like” cinema in regards to storytelling are the best. This might be due that cinema has been the standard for telling visual stories, and games becoming more like what we are used to seeing, is more familiar?

  2. nicksporter1 Says:

    I would say video games are acting as VIDEO GAME narratives. It is true that video games partake much of the strategies and tropes of cinema. The story updates are always laden with melodrama and intense music, it is always a story of some sort of conquest (triumph of the underdog; saving the world, etc.) much as the story lines in films follow.
    The definition for ‘story’ provided in the article about games is very broad. The purpose seems to be set out at the beginning of the piece to describe the WAYS in which narrative can be applied to these different mediums, as is referenced by the title, “stories for eye, ear and muscles”. I think the key is to look at how the particular medium is affected in the body. For games, this payoff is bodily (muscles). There IS satisfaction that comes from the broad and usually badly rendered story arcs, but the believability of the emotion comes from the satisfaction of completing tasks which are realized in the muscle memory. Many times, the satisfactions from games actually comes from simply getting better at such repetitive actions, and perfecting your characters story or moments of action.

  3. This all really relates to the question of what we consider a narrative. As the linear narrative of video games opened itself to a 3 dimensioned space, the way the story was told changed completely. This feels like a more realistic endeavor within the platform, but also, as Nick mentioned, it’s taken on its own form of narration as well.

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