Literary Theory


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Literary Theory

  1. 3. Story A collection of related events Plot An ordering of events – applies causality to the story Narrative How the story is communicated to the audience (‘Story’ and ‘narrative’ can also used as a catch-all terms – umbrella terms to describe all narrative constructions and elements)
  2. 4. <ul><li>Story… </li></ul><ul><li>To entertain </li></ul><ul><li>To justify game mechanics (representation) </li></ul><ul><li>To provide goals for the player </li></ul><ul><li>To increase the apparent value of the game </li></ul><ul><li>Ultimately, human brains work in terms of narrative – our brains narrate to us a story of our individual interaction with the world </li></ul>
  3. 7. Narrative Plot Character Setting Theme Story
  4. 10. How Do We Describe Genres? <ul><li>Any way you want…? </li></ul><ul><li>Suggestions: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Game Lineages – lists of games which exhibit the core qualities of the genre </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Taxonomies – diagrams demonstrating relationships between games of different types </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Design Elements – aspects of their content which is shared by games of the same genre </li></ul></ul>
  5. 11. ‘ Game Lineages’ <ul><li>One way to identify a successful genre categorisation is to look at the games which most accurately represent individual genres </li></ul><ul><li>These tend to be the most popular games of that format </li></ul><ul><li>Placing these games in chronological order then creates a ‘game lineage’, which is a basic tool for the appraisal of genre </li></ul><ul><li>If those games share a feature, it’s likely to be fundamental to the genre </li></ul><ul><li>As genre terms change with time, a lineage of this nature allows us to chart the changes in the use of the term </li></ul>
  6. 12. Design Heredity <ul><li>Heredity – aspects transmitted genetically from parent to child, e.g. eye colour </li></ul><ul><li>No genuine heredity in video games – they don’t reproduce; however, we may use the concept as a metaphor </li></ul><ul><li>Elements of games propagate from game to game due to: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The influence they exert of game developers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Desire on the part of the Publishers have to attempt to emulate successful products </li></ul></ul><ul><li>We have described the development of the genre vertical scrolling shoot-em-up via it’s collective set of design features: </li></ul>
  7. 13. Vert Scrolling Shooter Lineage <ul><li>Space Invaders (Taito, 1978) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Left, right, fire </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Xevious (Namco, 1980) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Scrolling backdrop </li></ul></ul><ul><li>1942 (Capcom, 1984) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Power-ups </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Flying Shark (Taito, 1987) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Multiple weapon types, left/right screen scroll </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Raiden (Seibu Kaihatsu, 1990) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Archetypal vert scrolling shooter? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>DonPachi (Cave, 1995) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Manic shooter / bullet maze; advanced scoring system </li></ul></ul>
  8. 14. Taxonomies <ul><li>1. The classification of organisms in an ordered system that indicates natural relationships </li></ul><ul><li>2. The science, laws, or principles of classification; systematics </li></ul><ul><li>3. Division into ordered groups or categories </li></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul>
  9. 15. Design Elements <ul><li>If games are similar, they are similar because they share specific features; If we can identify the feature set a game requires to be considered part of a specific genre, we can describe that genre </li></ul><ul><li>We need a shared language in order to discuss game design features </li></ul><ul><li>We can break games down by specific feature… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Projection (interface, output… 1 st person, 3 rd person side-scrolling ) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Controls (interface, input… light gun games, point ‘n click adventures ) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Game activities (core gameplay… jumping game, shooting game ) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>World layout (structure… sandbox city, dungeon hack ) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Representation (narrative… western, science fiction ) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Story type (narrative… comedy, action ) </li></ul></ul>
  10. 17. Key Texts <ul><li>Aaseth, E. J. (1997) Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature , Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press </li></ul><ul><li>Murray, J.H. (1997) Hamlet on the Holodeck , New York: Free Press </li></ul><ul><li>Atkins, B. (2003) More Than a Game , Manchester: Manchester University Press </li></ul>
  11. 18. Literary Theory <ul><li>Literary Theory can not be applied to all games… </li></ul>
  12. 19. Games as Text <ul><li>Text – (used to refer to) a sequence of coherent sentences </li></ul><ul><li>Text – A cultural object that can be “read” and meaning extracted </li></ul> Accessed 21/08/08 13:30
  13. 20. Games as Text <ul><li>Linearity of a game text. </li></ul><ul><li>Games must be played in a linear order to unfold or construct the narrative, unlike books the reader can not choose a start point within a games narrative structure. The participation in the narrative is essential to progress it. </li></ul><ul><li>(I would argue that all games are linear) </li></ul>
  14. 21. Games as Text <ul><li>Games as Ergodic Text </li></ul><ul><li>Cybertext is a concept that focuses on the “mechanical organization of the text”. Ergon (work) Hodos (path) the reader or player must make an effort to traverse the text, not just in understanding it but also in constructing or unfolding it </li></ul><ul><li>Aaseth, E. J. (1997) Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature , Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press </li></ul>
  15. 22. Games as Text <ul><li>Fictionality: Creating a Fictional World </li></ul><ul><li>“ The computer game… can also be a form of fiction making” </li></ul><ul><li>Atkins, B. (2003) More Than a Game , Manchester: Manchester University Press </li></ul><ul><li>Literary Theory has a long history of the study of the relationship between the real and fictional worlds </li></ul>
  16. 23. Games as Text
  17. 24. Diachronic Narrative <ul><li>“ Most games have a story written on the package, in the manual, or in intro-sequences, placing the player's playing in the context of a larger story (back-story)” </li></ul><ul><li>Juul, J Games Telling stories? Game Studies 0101, , accessed 11/10/08 </li></ul>
  18. 25. Synchronic Narrative <ul><li>“ The synchronic story - what happens in the game, the “story” made by the player - is “purely kinetic” </li></ul><ul><li>Burbank, H. Stanford Undergraduate Research Journal, May 2003 (Volume 2) </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
  19. 26. Games as Text <ul><li>Exercise – Think of a game that you have played, it is best if it is one that you have played recently. Write a short description of the Diachronic and Synchronic Narratives of the game. </li></ul>
  20. 27. Key Terms <ul><li>Poetics – The study of literary conventions and rules </li></ul><ul><li>Hermeneutics – The study of literature’s meaning, what signifiers mean within the text </li></ul><ul><li>Aesthetics – The study of literature’s effects </li></ul>
  21. 28. Poetics <ul><li>Literary Theory – Shift from “ Normative Poetics ” to “ Descriptive Poetics ” </li></ul><ul><li>Normative Poetics – The rules for writing, normally outlined by a scholar that state how a specific text must be written to create a desired effect (prescriptive), goes back to Aristotle </li></ul><ul><li>Descriptive Poetics – Guidelines derived from a comparison of texts (retrospective) </li></ul>
  22. 29. Poetics <ul><li>Silicon Knights founder and president Denis Dyack states “In short, we need to develop a Poetics for the games industry, a universal theory of game development, a theory that can provide a blueprint or foundation from which we can build our craft.” </li></ul><ul><li>Dyack D, </li></ul>
  23. 30. Poetics <ul><li>Genre: </li></ul><ul><li>Abstract, Adaptation, Adventure, Artificial Life, Board Games, Capturing, Card Games, Catching, Chase, Collecting, Combat, Demo, Diagnostic, Dodging, Driving, Educational, Escape, Fighting, Flying, Gambling, Interactive Movie, Management Simulation, Maze, Obstacle Course, Pencil‐and‐Paper Games, Pinball, Platform, Programming Games, Puzzle, Quiz, Racing, Role‐Playing, Rhythm and Dance, Shoot ’Em Up, Simulation, Sports, Strategy, Table‐Top Games, Target, Text Adventure, Training Simulation, and Utility </li></ul><ul><li>Wolf, M.J.P. (2001) “ Genre and the video game”, The Medium of the Video Game, Austin TX: University of Texas Press </li></ul>
  24. 31. Hermeneutics <ul><li>Hermeneutics (inside the game) </li></ul><ul><li>Hermeneutics in digital games is deeply rooted in the process of playing, through interactions with the game the player can start to interpret the embedded signs in the game to determine their meaning and understand the fictional world. In a game this is the internal semiotic domain (as discussed last week) </li></ul>
  25. 32. Hermeneutics <ul><li>Super Mario: </li></ul>
  26. 33. Hermeneutics <ul><li>Hermeneutics (inside the game) </li></ul><ul><li>Hermeneutics is referred to by Ted Friedman as “Demystifying” as the rules of the game reveal the set of rules that typically govern the in-game world and remove the challenge. </li></ul>
  27. 34. Hermeneutics <ul><li>Hermeneutics (of the game) </li></ul><ul><li>“ [t]his tension created between the fidelity it displays towards the historical field, and the liberties that are then taken with how a form of historical narrative may be constructed, can be seen to reflect wider changes in the way popular culture has approached questions of historical representation” </li></ul><ul><li>Atkins, B. (2003) More Than a Game , Manchester: Manchester University Press </li></ul><ul><li>(referring to Close Combat) </li></ul>
  28. 35. Hermeneutics <ul><li>Hermeneutics (of the game) </li></ul><ul><li>A game (as we have established) is a text, to be read and examined to extract meaning. As a “cultural object” it does not stand alone but sits within a wider culture (or cultures) . A game is designed for a demographic but may be played by users outside that demographic. </li></ul><ul><li>“ American Army” will mean something different to an American Teen to an Iraqi. </li></ul>
  29. 36. Hermeneutics <ul><li>Hermeneutics – Intertexts </li></ul><ul><li>Games can be but within a context, they may reference Film, Art, Musical Styles and Fashions, Historical Texts etc. these additional texts that are used to give the studied text (in our case the game) context and these references are called intertexts. Games may reference many texts and other media and genres to create an intertextuality. </li></ul>
  30. 37. Aesthetics of the Game <ul><li>Can a game make you cry? </li></ul>
  31. 38. Aesthetics of the Game <ul><li>&quot;You can’t put emotion into games… Games are just code, they just sit there - the emotion is in the player&quot;. </li></ul><ul><li>Margaret Robertson, Edinburgh Interactive Entertainment Festival, (2006) </li></ul>
  32. 39. Aesthetics of the Game <ul><li>Aesthetics looks at how a text elicits an emotional response from the reader / user / player, with a game this is usually visual but also auditory and can be the twists and turns of a narrative, or character development etc. </li></ul><ul><li>(and through other areas covered in later lectures on film studies, Mise-en-scene, sound etc. but for the moment we are looking at literary theory) </li></ul>
  33. 40. Aesthetics of the Game <ul><li>It looks at how the story and narrative are constructed to engage you emotionally with the game, it looks at the emotional responses to the narrative, or segments of the narrative and how they play out in the game to engage the player emotionally. (not just cut scenes) </li></ul>
  34. 41. Aesthetics of the Game
  35. 42. Aesthetics of the Game
  36. 43. Murray, J.H. (1997) Hamlet on the Holodeck , New York: Free Press
  37. 44. Something interesting… <ul><li>Exercise – Individually I’d like you to write something interesting about a game. It can be any game, of any genre, from any country, on any platform, from any production company/house, aimed towards any target audience, be a narrative based game or a non-narrative based game, a casual/serious or otherwise game. You don’t have to write about any of these things though (if you don’t want to). You need to write something interesting about a game you have played. </li></ul><ul><li>There is a word limit of 500 words </li></ul><ul><li>You will present your outcomes to the class. </li></ul>