Archive for August, 2013

Bioshock – First Impressions

Posted: August 30, 2013 in Uncategorized

In comparison to Don’t Starve, Bioshock is rich with story. From the beginning, compulsory cut-scenes helped to introduce me as a player to the story and immerse me in the game world. The protagonist of the game is Jack, and we perceive the world from his level of internal focalization.

The question of who is narrating is very interesting in this particular game. There is not any one narrator informing the story. Rather there are several intradiegetic characters found somewhere within the game space that speak to Jack through radio communications. They structure the game play with tasks and directions and function somewhat as overt, homodiegetic narrators.

I have been playing with different levels of interactivity in the game space, which I will be more precise about in my analysis. Briefly, the basic idea is thus: after surviving a plane crash, Jack makes his way to an underground city called Rapture. He is given tasks through radio transmission by a man called Atlas.

I have been playing several hours and am very interested to see how this unfolds. Unfortunately I seem to be stuck on the Upper Wharf and do not know how to get out!

Advertisements

New Game – Bioshock

Posted: August 29, 2013 in Pre-game

I have decided to start a new game. I had heard of Bioshock before starting this project, and I know something of the story behind it, albeit very little. But I do not know how the narrative is transmitted nor how my level of interactivity with the game affects the story.

I will now play Bioshock with different levels of interactivity and see what kind of results I yield.

Don’t Starve Ending

Posted: August 28, 2013 in Links, Post-game

Apparently, there is an end to the story. Wilson must find his way to Maxwell, the man/demon who transported Wilson to this world in the first place. When Wilson eventually gets to Maxwell and takes pity on him at the end, Maxwell is then freed, but Wilson must unfortunately take his place.

Example of Don’t Starve

Posted: August 28, 2013 in Links, Post-game

Here is an example of gameplay for you to see. This is a slightly older version of the game, but nothing has changed in terms of narrative.

Trailer for Don’t Starve

Posted: August 28, 2013 in Links, Post-game

This might have been helpful to know. From this trailer I can guess that Wilson was transported by the man we see at the beginning of gameplay. It is still unclear to me, however, if there is any other objective to the game than mere survival.

Don’t Starve Analysis

Posted: August 28, 2013 in Post-game

I have advanced to 15 days of survival.

Narrative Transmission in Don’t Starve

If there is a narrator (which is questionable), it is the main character Wilson. According to Genette, Wilson would be an autodiegetic narrator as he is both in the story as well as the protagonist of the story (Lethbridge and Mildorf). Wilson, however, only speaks voluntarily when prompted by necessity or on demand when prompted by clicking on and examining an object. If I were never to prompt Wilson or be in need, there would be no narration at all. The result of this alternative game play would lead then to no narrator. Therefore the freedom of interaction and determination of the player decides whether or not narration is present.

In terms of perception, focalization is external. I watch from above the world as I use Wilson to navigate and explore the game space. But narrator and foculization are made useless in understanding the story or plot of the game because it seems there is no storytelling involved.

According to Egentfiel-Nielson et al., story and plot both “concentrate on describing a succession of events,” but I cannot find that there is any (172). In terms of story, I am still thoroughly clueless. If anything, the only plot is to survive. My theory was that I would come to understand as I explored the game’s world, but, as well as no narration, there not even diegetic elements or cues to help me along as I explore. Non-diegetic music plays and speeds up as a warning signal as danger increases, but this, being external to the game world, only contributes to the atmosphere and not the narrative in any way.

I must say that for me immersion into the world of the game is very weak. I still have no idea why I am here, what happened before, what my goal is (if any), or what will happen as I continue. Actual playing of the game and exploring of the game space has so far yielded no results in furthering my understanding of the story.

After playing many hours and dying several times while experimenting, which starts the game over at day one, I have lost interest. Without story I find the game somewhat monotonous and have lost my desire to continue. I believe that some story beyond the mere premise of survival must exist. I will look for some external material to see if background information exists or if there is some kind of ending to the game.

After two hours of playing, I still understand nothing more about the story than when I started. I know from the character selection menu that my character’s name is Wilson, and that he is a gentleman scientist.  After clicking play, he woke up on the ground with another man standing over him. The man spoke in speech bubbles that had to be read. (From here on out I will also sometimes be referring to Wilson as the character and me as the player as “we” or “us.”) We were instructed to find some food, and then the man disappeared. Who he is and his role in the game is still unclear. There was no introduction or cut-scene, and there is no voice-over narration, only non-diegetic background music.

We were left to explore some kind of wilderness, collecting food and objects along the way. Wilson is able to examine objects and talks to himself as well in the form of speech bubbles. Sometimes there are speech bubbles to prompt us to eat or start a fire when it gets dark. So far there are no other characters to interact with. I do not know why we are here or what we have to do. Gameplay is structured in days. We are wandering around exploring our world during the day with the help of a map and are keeping the fire lit and tended at night.  The only task seems to be to collect and explore. I assume the purpose is as the title suggests – I should not starve.

Don’t Starve

Posted: August 27, 2013 in Pre-game

I am choosing Don’t Starve as my first game for two main reasons. First of all, I know nothing in advance about the game or what narrative might be awaiting me. I only know that there are no rules or instructions.  The advantage here is that I hope to be able to understand the narrative as gameplay develops instead of having any preconceived notions of story from too much research or reading reviews. (The game was actually recommended to me by a friend. Otherwise I would not have been able to avoid knowing some further details.) The second main reason for choosing this particular game is that it is solely in English. My German is quite good, but I do not want to encounter any chance misunderstandings or miss any details caused by problems of language.

The game is downloaded and installed. I am ready to play.

Terminology and Further Reading

Posted: August 27, 2013 in Uncategorized

In my blog I will be using some terminology relating to video games and narritology. For anyone unfamiliar with these terms, below I have provided some links for further reading.

A Summary of Narrative Situations (Stanzel vs. Genette) – http://tu-dresden.de/Members/wieland.schwanebeck/introduction_to_literature/course_2/5b.%20Narrativik%20Erzaehlsituationen.pdf

An Introduction to Literary Studies – http://www2.anglistik.uni-freiburg.de/intranet/englishbasics/NarrativeSituation01.htm#narsit

Concept Definitions for Narrator – http://www.amerikanistik.uni-bayreuth.de/de/teaching/Projekte/Melville/Concepts/Narrator/index.html

Focalization in 3D Video Games – http://lmc.gatech.edu/~nitsche/download/Nitsche_Focalization_05.pdf

Audio Diegesis. From Dev Mag – a game development magazine –  http://devmag.org.za/2012/04/19/video-game-audio-diegesis-theory-2/

About This Blog

Posted: August 27, 2013 in About, Pre-game

My name is Frau Koch. This blog is my personal investigation into narrative transmission (according to Genette) in video games. It is intented as a final project for a university course on New Media. I hope, as time permits, to play at least two different games and compare the experiences.

Please let me be clear – I have very little experience in playing video games. The last video game I clearly remember playing was Super Mario Bros. in the 1980s. I have read a lot recently about literary theory and video games, but I only really know the theory. Now it is time to put it to the test.

My goal here is to examine video games as narratives. How is the narrative transmitted? What is the role of narrator and focalization in telling a story?  How does interactivity change the narrative experience? Are video games an effective medium for story-telling? I hope to find some answers to these questions as I play and explore.

Also worth mentioning – what follows is to be qualitative rather than quantitative research. And, of course, it is based solely upon my individual gaming experience.