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"From Narrative to Gameplay (And Back) - Studying Transmedial Storyworlds"

"From Narrative to Gameplay (And Back) - Studying Transmedial Storyworlds"



Keynote lecture notes for the University of Cincinnati, "Focus on German Studies" Conference, November 9th, 2013. Features a discussion of polyphony, conflicts and ambiguous heterogeneity in cultural ...

Keynote lecture notes for the University of Cincinnati, "Focus on German Studies" Conference, November 9th, 2013. Features a discussion of polyphony, conflicts and ambiguous heterogeneity in cultural texts and in cultural identities, concludes with an example of transmedial storyworld design from "LEGO the Lord of the Rings" video game.



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    "From Narrative to Gameplay (And Back) - Studying Transmedial Storyworlds" "From Narrative to Gameplay (And Back) - Studying Transmedial Storyworlds" Presentation Transcript

    • From Narrative to Gameplay (And Back) - Studying Transmedial Storyworlds Frans Mäyrä, frans.mayra@uta.fi TRIM / game research lab
    • Outline • Background: cultural research into science fiction, fantasy and digital games • Stories and worlds: what are they? • Narrative vs. game play • Transmedial games and storyworlds • Example: LEGO The Lord of the Rings • Lessons: what is ‘translation’, anyways? • Discussion
    • Background • Studies into the polyphony of cultural texts (and textual selves) since early 1990s • Special interest on the conflicting, divided, hybrid and transformative elements • Studies on: – Demons (daimon, the voice from within, e.g. daimon of Socrates; the daimons/demons of classic tragedy) – Werewolves, vampires (man+animal, human+corpse: the ambiguous temptations and terrors of borderline ‘otherness’) – Cyborgs and computers (man+machine, material+immaterial, borderline ‘otherness’) – Intertextuality and hybrid texts (texts, possessed by ‘other texts’; texts and games as their ‘borderline others’)
    • Demonic Texts and Textual Demons Free download: http://people. uta.fi/~frans.m ayra/Demon_ 2005/ “This book combines the concerns of contemporary literary theory with information derived from history, philosophy and cultural psychology. It summarises the various functions that demonic adversaries and possession phenomena have held for the construction of meaning and identity in various cultures, and then points out some of the important roles that demonology plays in Western literary tradition. The demonic figures are an important way to articulate (often subconscious) conflicts and polyphony of the human condition. Proceeding from Dante’s immobile "Dis" to Milton’s dynamic Satan, and onwards to Goethe’s and Dostoevsky’s contemplation of amorality and modern individual, this study emphasises how "otherness" has gradually become acknowledged as an aspect of the self.”
    • Stories and Worlds • Particularly in fantasy and science fiction there appears a strong link between the ‘worldliness’ and the narrative fiction • Rather than “reading for the plot” (Peter Brooks), some primarily are “reading for the world” • My personal history: reading “everything Tolkien” in order to spend more time in the Middle Earth • Later: playing, reading “Forgotten Realms” (a franchise, D&D campaign setting world, originally created by Ed Greenwood) • The destinies of (rpg game-)characters are tools for exploring vast worlds, e.g. the continent of “Faerûn”
    • Narrative as Virtual Reality • Marie-Laure Ryan (2001) book, Narrative as Virtual Reality: Immersion and Interactivity in Literature and Electronic Media • “Is there a significant difference in attitude between immersion in a game and immersion in a movie or novel? What are the new possibilities for representation offered by the emerging technology of virtual reality?” • Our gameplay experience studies do suggest that such significant differences do exist • However, there are also significant continuities and overlaps between the experiences of enjoying e.g. novel, movie and a virtual-world computer game
    • SCI Model of Immersion • Source: Ermi, Laura & Mäyrä, Frans (2007) “Fundamental Components of the Gameplay Experience: Analysing Immersion” (with Laura Ermi; in Worlds in Play, Suzanne de Castell and Jennifer Jenson, eds. New York: Peter Lang Publishers, 2007)
    • Narrative vs. Gameplay • The early stages of Game Studies involved tensions between “ludology” and “narratology” • Mostly just meant that different researchers were interested in different kinds of games and dimensions of game design • E.g. Gonzalo Frasca (1999) wrote that even while video games may share e.g. characters and settings with narratives, it is important to study them “as games” (i.e. as ludic activities based on e.g. rules and simulation) • Janet Murray’s Hamlet on the Holodeck (1997) often used as cautionary example: (mis)understanding games as “interactive drama”, or narrative?
    • Transmedia and Storyworlds • Transmedial storyworld is an assemblage of characters, storylines and milieu that extends beyond the boundaries of a single medium • Marsha Kinder (1993): “dual form spectatorship”, e.g. child audience for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, positioned both in active and passive modes • Can also be dubbed as “consumerist interactivity” • Henry Jenkins (2006) heralds fragmentary and dispersed character of transmedia storytelling as intellectually stimulating and social • Stimulant for “collective intelligence”, or an efficient franchising & marketing strategy? Both?
    • Example: LEGO The Lord of the Rings • LEGO bricks are the classic, open-ended construction toys • During 1990s LEGO started producing narrativized LEGO products, that were cross-branded with e.g. Star Wars, Disney, or Harry Potter characters, storylines and settings • Playing with traditional LEGO bricks, children take also inspiration from media, popular culture and surrounding society (e.g. building guns, playing “cops & robbers”) • Narrativized LEGO bricks have the media narrative “built-in” to the toy itself • LEGO The Lord of the Rings (2012) is based on the translation of Tolkien’s novel into a movie, then into the LEGO toys, which are coupled with a video game translation of both the play behaviours of LEGO bricks, and the movie visuals & narrative
    • Gameplay Video Example • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OznCAJL0-ZM#t=14
    • What Is ‘Translation’, Here? • Translation of The Lord of the Rings into a character and action focused movie narrative involves substantial alterations and adaptations • Translation of the same material into a video game involves even more substantial changes • Focus moves away from narrative continuity and emotional drama, to overcoming a series of individual gameplay challenges • Overcoming the cave troll or Balrog in the game version might involve repeated attempts, careful preplanning, learning from mistakes and skill development • The game player of LoTR is more like an athlete, than a member of a narrative audience: participating in a training ground, receiving narrative cutscenes as rewards
    • Discussion Time! • (Parts of this talk were based on a forthcoming “Dark Play” book chapter) • More information: • Frans Mäyrä, home page (research projects, publications): www.uta.fi/~frans.mayra • Frans Goes Blog: www.fransmayra.fi • UTA Game Research Lab: http://gamelab.uta.fi