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Cognitive Intersections: Meeting
Narrative, Semiotics, and Neuroscience in
Video Game Characters
Cody Mejeur
Department of English
Michigan State University
mejeurco@msu.edu
@cmejeur
A Question… Or Two.
What is the relationship between the cognitive and semiotics?
Addition: What is the relationship between the cognitive,
semiotics, and narrative?
Focus: Video Game Characters
Semiotics and Narrative
Signs in games (including characters) come
together
Play between them is narrative
Question of scale?
Analysis of narrative (particularly close
reading/analysis) requires focus on particular
signs and groups of signs
Extract out to larger structures
Always scripted and emergent qualities
Helpful Comparison: Pyramid of Popular Formula
Borrowing…
The Problem of Structure
Does structure actually match experience?
What do structures miss or exclude?
Always building yet another model?
What would narrative look like without structure?
Narrative as less of a structure, system,
taxonomy, etc., more of a force or cognitive
process? Less what it is, more what it does?
Can we design structures that are more fluid,
dynamic, adaptable, experiential?
A Thought Experiment
Striving for Dynamism
Semiotics and Cognition
Cognitive Semiotics and Cognitive Linguistics
Focus on neuroscience of individual letters,
sounds, words
Expanding to compound words, clauses,
phrases, sentences.
How does player use/interact with it?
Communication?
Constructing a Narrative?
Do signs accumulate?
Change over time according to scripted and
emergent relations
Character Sign
Signs and Players
All signs in games, especially characters, have
some relationship to the player
Signs are never fully stable
Always moving, changing
Limits to change, sign must cohere
Force relations within and between signs
Speaking of Player Perception… Narrative and
Cognition
Signs coming together in narrative
Difficulty of studying narrative via neuroscience
Assumption that activity or interface=narrative?
Challenging the Narrative/Play Distinction
Theory?
 Jenkins, Ryan, Walsh, Prince
 Degrees of Narrativity, Embedded/Emergent/Experiential
Narrative
Social Scientific Methods?
 Interview players
 Forums research
 Problem of sample sizes-is this inevitable?
Designing a fMRI experiment
 Test distinction/relationship between
narrative and play
 Problem: Controls, Isolating
“Narrative”
 Choice: Use First Person games
(shooters, exploration, etc.)
 Avoid character entanglements
 Mirror/Mimic Player
POV/Consciousness
 Question of interface
 Alexander Galloway–what
assumptions are built into the
interface?
 What are the narrative and cognitive
implications of the interface?
Screening Questionnaire
 Control for experience, predisposition toward or against
narrative
fMRI Play
 MRI compatible controller
 Eye-tracking, video recording
 Play segments of three games: Halo, Half-Life 2,
Bioshock. Similar play, different narrative
configurations.
Post Scanner Questionnaire and Oral Interview
 Modified Game Experience Questionnaire, Eindhoven
University of Technology
Steps to Experiment
Final Suggestions/Questions
Bringing together Semiotics, Narrative, and Cognition
(inc. Cognitive Neuroscience) can help us understand
video game characters and narrative meaning-making
in games
The reverse is also true: games can change our
concepts and theories
Challenge us to rethink narrative and our reliance
on structure
To what extent is this possible?
What are the benefits and limitations of neuroscience?
What does the study of game narrative look like when
it moves past model-making?

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Cognitive intersections: Meeting Narrative, Semiotics, and Neuroscience in Video Game Characters

  • 1. Cognitive Intersections: Meeting Narrative, Semiotics, and Neuroscience in Video Game Characters Cody Mejeur Department of English Michigan State University mejeurco@msu.edu @cmejeur
  • 2. A Question… Or Two. What is the relationship between the cognitive and semiotics? Addition: What is the relationship between the cognitive, semiotics, and narrative? Focus: Video Game Characters
  • 3. Semiotics and Narrative Signs in games (including characters) come together Play between them is narrative Question of scale? Analysis of narrative (particularly close reading/analysis) requires focus on particular signs and groups of signs Extract out to larger structures Always scripted and emergent qualities
  • 4. Helpful Comparison: Pyramid of Popular Formula
  • 6. The Problem of Structure Does structure actually match experience? What do structures miss or exclude? Always building yet another model? What would narrative look like without structure? Narrative as less of a structure, system, taxonomy, etc., more of a force or cognitive process? Less what it is, more what it does? Can we design structures that are more fluid, dynamic, adaptable, experiential? A Thought Experiment
  • 8. Semiotics and Cognition Cognitive Semiotics and Cognitive Linguistics Focus on neuroscience of individual letters, sounds, words Expanding to compound words, clauses, phrases, sentences. How does player use/interact with it? Communication? Constructing a Narrative? Do signs accumulate? Change over time according to scripted and emergent relations
  • 10. Signs and Players All signs in games, especially characters, have some relationship to the player Signs are never fully stable Always moving, changing Limits to change, sign must cohere Force relations within and between signs
  • 11. Speaking of Player Perception… Narrative and Cognition Signs coming together in narrative Difficulty of studying narrative via neuroscience Assumption that activity or interface=narrative? Challenging the Narrative/Play Distinction Theory?  Jenkins, Ryan, Walsh, Prince  Degrees of Narrativity, Embedded/Emergent/Experiential Narrative Social Scientific Methods?  Interview players  Forums research  Problem of sample sizes-is this inevitable?
  • 12. Designing a fMRI experiment  Test distinction/relationship between narrative and play  Problem: Controls, Isolating “Narrative”  Choice: Use First Person games (shooters, exploration, etc.)  Avoid character entanglements  Mirror/Mimic Player POV/Consciousness  Question of interface  Alexander Galloway–what assumptions are built into the interface?  What are the narrative and cognitive implications of the interface?
  • 13. Screening Questionnaire  Control for experience, predisposition toward or against narrative fMRI Play  MRI compatible controller  Eye-tracking, video recording  Play segments of three games: Halo, Half-Life 2, Bioshock. Similar play, different narrative configurations. Post Scanner Questionnaire and Oral Interview  Modified Game Experience Questionnaire, Eindhoven University of Technology Steps to Experiment
  • 14. Final Suggestions/Questions Bringing together Semiotics, Narrative, and Cognition (inc. Cognitive Neuroscience) can help us understand video game characters and narrative meaning-making in games The reverse is also true: games can change our concepts and theories Challenge us to rethink narrative and our reliance on structure To what extent is this possible? What are the benefits and limitations of neuroscience? What does the study of game narrative look like when it moves past model-making?