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"Narratology & Interactive Fiction" by Sherry Jones (April 5, 2015)


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April 5, 2015 - This is my Game Studies presentation for the Metagame Book Club titled: "Narratology & Interactive Fiction."

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"Narratology & Interactive Fiction" by Sherry Jones (April 5, 2015)

  1. 1. #Metagame Book Club “Narratology & Interactive Fiction” Sherry Jones | Game Studies Facilitator | Spring 2015 | Twitter @autnes | Gérard GenetteRoland Barthes Vladimir Propp Ludwig Wittgenstein Dreamfall Chapters: Book One: Reborn
  2. 2. Watch the Live Webcast!
  3. 3. Texts in Focus 1 What is Narratology? ● “Narratology” by Lucie Guillemette and Cynthia Lévesque (2006) (on Gérard Genette) Theories ● “The Narrative Act: Wittgenstein and Narratology” by Henry McDonald Primary Texts ● “An Introduction to the Structural Analysis of Narratives” by Roland Barthes and Lionel Duiset (1975)
  4. 4. Texts in Focus 2 Narrative Patterns and Story Structures ● “Story Structure” by Jon Parise (March 20, 2002) ● “Choose Your Own Adventure Book as Directed Graph” by Sean Michael Ragan (March 7, 2008) Game Studies, Narratology & Interactive Fiction ● “Narrativity of Computer Games” by Britta Neitzel (April 22, 2014)
  5. 5. Guiding Questions Q. What is Narratology? Q. What is the difference between story, narrative, and narration? Q. According to Gérard Genette, what are narrative mood, levels, instance, and time? Q. What is focalization? How does focalization affect our “access” to a literary text? Q. Considering Ludwig Wittgenstein’s concept of “language games,” how would the narrative discourse affect the meaning of the story? Why is the narrator always constituted by the narrative discourse? Q. How can narratology be applied to Interactive Fiction design? Are IFs stories, narratives, or narrations?
  6. 6. Why Study Narratology to Understand IFs? Interactive Fiction (IF) is a narrative work that offers readers the ability to interact with its internal story structure via text commands or interface interactions. To emphasize the spatial quality of game stories, such as those in IF works, Henry Jenkins renames game story structure as “narrative architecture.” Narratology is a field that studies narrative elements and story structures, and has an extensive history that references back to Plato and Aristotle. For Narratologists, a story, a narrative, and a narration are not the same things. The question of what composes a narrative is even more complex. Many game scholars believe that recognizing narrative elements (which compose story structures) can inform the design of new forms of “narrative architecture” in games. -- Jones (2015)
  7. 7. What Are Underlying Narrative Structures? It is important to note that countless narrative forms can exist based on various combinations and configurations of certain narrative elements and patterns. In an effort to discover the underlying structure of a narrative, some narratologists, such as Claude Levi-Strauss, Roland Barthes, and Joseph Campbell, have focused their study on the narrative structure of myths, the oldest forms of narratives. Other narratologists, such as Ludwig Wittgenstein, Gérard Genette, Vladimir Propp, and Roman Jakobson, examined the strange nature of literary language, and how literary language can influence readers’ interpretation based on the design of its levels, patterns, perspective, timing, plot, etc. -- Jones (2015)
  8. 8. What Are Narrative Typologies? Narratologists have created typologies to address the universe of possible narrative elements and patterns that exist in various narrative forms (this is not to say that all narrative elements and patterns exist in all narrative forms). We will examine the narrative typologies created by some of the most influential narratologists. It is through the study of these narrative elements and patterns that we can better understand how narrative forms are created. Toward the latter half of this presentation, we will discuss possible ways that narratology can influence the creation of stories in digital games and IF works. -- Jones (2015)
  9. 9. A Close Reading of “Narratology” by Lucie Guillemette and Cynthia Lévesque (2006) “Cubes Movin Up” by Dave Whyte
  10. 10. Guillemette and Lévesque introduces us to the field of narratology by focusing the discussion on narrative elements and patterns via Gérard Genette’s narratological poetics. Genette, as well as other structuralists, distinguishes the differences between story, narration, and narrative: ● Story - The “series of events and actions that are told by someone (the narrator)” (Guillemette and Lévesque). Essentially, story is the “what” that is being told. ● Narration - The telling process of the story. Narration is also known as discourse, or “how” a story is being told. ● Narrative - The final form of the story. -- Jones (2015) The Story, Narrative, Narration Tetrad
  11. 11. In Genette’s narrative typology, there are 4 analytical categories for examining a story, and each category contains certain narrative elements: 1. Narrative Mood 2. Narrative Instance 3. Narrative Level 4. Narrative Time Each of the 4 analytical categories of elements can influence readers’ interpretation in different ways. The combination of those elements, beyond mere linguistic wordplay, can further affect the readers’ understanding of a literary text. Guillemette and Lévesque (2006) presents a diagram that illustrates Genette’s typology (we will only address a few). -- Jones (2015) Narrative Mood, Instance, Level, Time
  12. 12. “Summary of Genette’s Narrative Typology” by Guillemette and Lévesque (2006)
  13. 13. “When a text is written, technical choices must be made in view of producing a particular result in the story's verbal representation. In this way, the narrative employs distancing and other effects to create a particular narrative mood that governs ‘the regulation of narrative information’ provided to the reader (1980, p. 41). According to Genette, all narrative is necessarily diegesis (telling), in that it can attain no more than an illusion of mimesis (showing) by making the story real and alive. Thus, every narrative implies a narrator.” -- Guillemette and Lévesque (2006) Genette on Narrative Mood
  14. 14. “Distance helps us to determine the degree of precision in a narrative and the accuracy of the information conveyed. . . . There are four types of discourse:” “1. Narratized speech: The character's words and actions are integrated into the narration, and are treated like any other event (-distant). Example: He confided in his friend, telling him about his mother's death. 2. Transposed speech, indirect style: The character's words or actions are reported by the narrator, who presents them with his interpretation (- + distant). Example: He confided to his friend that his mother had passed away.” -- Guillemette and Lévesque (2006) Narrative Mood and Distance 1
  15. 15. “3. Transposed speech, free indirect style: The character's words or actions are reported by the narrator, but without using a subordinating conjunction (+ - distant). Example: He confided to his friend: his mother had passed away. 4. Reported speech: The character's words are cited verbatim by the narrator (+ distant). Example: He confided to his friend: ‘My mother passed away.’” -- Guillemette and Lévesque (2006) Narrative Mood and Distance 2
  16. 16. Narrative Perspective refers to the narrator’s point of view (focalization), not voice. There are 3 kinds of focalization: 1. “Zero focalization: The narrator knows more than the characters. He may know the facts about all of the protagonists, as well as their thoughts and gestures. This is the traditional ‘omniscient narrator’. 2. Internal focalization: The narrator knows as much as the focal character. This character filters the information provided to the reader. He cannot report the thoughts of other characters. 3. External focalization: The narrator knows less than the characters. He acts a bit like a camera lens, following the protagonists' actions and gestures from the outside; he is unable to guess their thoughts.” -- Guillemette and Lévesque (2006) Narrative Instance and Perspective
  17. 17. “Writers sometimes also use metalepsis, a process in which the boundary between two narrative levels (which is normally impervious) is breached so as to deliberately blur the line between reality and fiction. Metalepsis is a way of playing with variations in narrative level in order to create an effect of displacement or illusion. This would be a case in which a character or narrator from one level appears on the scene at a higher level, whereas plausibility completely excludes this possibility.” -- Guillemette and Lévesque (2006) Narrative Level and Metalypses
  18. 18. A Close Reading of “The Narrative Act: Wittgenstein and Narratology” by Henry McDonald “Twisting Box” by Dave Whyte
  19. 19. Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) is a prominent philosopher famous for developing a philosophy of language and a philosophy of mind by examining the functions of language. He reveals that “language games” serve as the conditions for the ability to reason, and that logic is implied by language games. Wittgenstein’s theories of language and logic has influenced almost every field in humanities, including narratology. Henry McDonald applies Wittgenstein’s concept of “language games” to explore the function of the narrator on constructing the meaning of a literary text. -- Jones (2015) Wittgenstein’s Language Game and the Role of the Narrator
  20. 20. “Wittgenstein conceived of language at its most basic level as forms of human action.[20] These forms, or language games, could not be rationalized or grounded (McDonald 36). On the contrary, it was the uses of language that provided the conditions of possibility of reason (McDonald 35). Breakdowns in reason, including philosophical difficulties, could consequently be attributed to misunderstandings about how language worked.” -- McDonald Wittgenstein on Language as Human Action
  21. 21. “Despite the concrete, almost observable character of our patterns of language use, they must not be confused with cognitive content or knowledge as found in (classical) scientific explanations. For Wittgenstein, all explanations are themselves part of a logical or conceptual framework; they are not explanations of that framework. Logic is not a type of explanation; it cannot be stated but only shown (McDonald 60). It is what is revealed through or seen in the workings of language.” “That is why Wittgenstein declared that we must take off our conceptual blinders and see through language as explanation to the multitudinous ways in which it worked. ‘Don't think, but look!’ he exclaims impatiently at one point in the Philosophical Investigations(sec. 66).” -- McDonald Wittgenstein on Language Revealing Logic
  22. 22. “[For] the study of fictional narrative discourse . . . the primary object of criticism is not ‘the story,’ but what is presupposed by any story, the narrator. The narrator may be regarded as a form of action that constitutes the conditions of possibility of the narrative. As Genette's work has made clear, all narratives are in the first person, whatever the point of view of the [narrator,] so that the primary ‘condition of possibility’ of any narrative is a person doing the telling. Even if we often, for psychological or other reasons, ignore the presence of the narrator while reading, that presence is nonetheless a logical presupposition of our reading a narrative in the first place.” -- McDonald Narration as a Narrative Act
  23. 23. “The narrator, however, must be conceived not just as a personal presence but as a form of action that operates at a level radically disproportionate to the action of the story. The narrative act has, indeed, a status independent not just of the content of the telling (story and characters), but of any final meaning of the story. The association of the latter with "the author" is nowadays considered naive; but it is in fact no less naive to associate such meaning with ‘the narrator.’ For what we call the narrator is not a fixed entity capable of dictating a determinant meaning but is rather the discourse produced by the act of narrating, a discourse which makes meaning and cannot designate it.” -- McDonald Narrative Discourse Constructs the Narrator
  24. 24. A Close Reading of “The Hero’s Three-Part Journey” by Michael Webster (Lecture) A Closed World
  25. 25. Vladimir Yakovlevich Propp is a Russian Formalist who identified plot components that exist in Russian folktales. In Morphology of the Folktales, Propp presents 31 functions (plot components) that are present in folktales, and showed sequences in which the 31 functions can be arranged. Besides Propp, Arnold Von Gennep and Joseph Campbell have also examined the structures of folktales and myths, and developed their own morphologies. Michael Webster explains: “Propp defined a ‘function’ in a story [as] an event interpreted ‘according to its consequences’. In other words, a function is a plot motif or event in the story. Propp claimed that the sequence of functions is limited and that the functions always occur in the same order. According to him, a tale may skip functions but it cannot shuffle their unvarying order (Webster).” -- Jones (2015) Narrative Elements - Functions
  26. 26. “The Hero’s Three-Part Journey” by Michael Webster
  27. 27. “Dramatis personae: (seven roles which any character may assume in the story) 1. the Villain, who struggles with the hero; 2. the Donor, who prepares and/or provides hero with magical agent; 3. the Helper, who assists, rescues, solves and/or transfigures the hero; 4. the Princess, a sought-for person (and/or her father) who exists as goal and often recognizes and marries hero and/or punishes villain; 5. the Dispatcher, who sends the hero off; 6. the Hero, who departs on a search (seeker-hero), reacts to the donor and weds at end; 7. the False Hero, who claims to be the hero, often seeking and reacting like a real hero.” -- Michael Webster Propp’s Dramatis Personae
  28. 28. “1. One of the members of a family absents himself from home. 2. An interdiction (ban) is addressed to the hero. 3. The interdiction is violated. (The villain usually enters the story here.) 4. The villain makes an attempt at reconnaissance. 5. The villain receives information about his victim. (The villain gets an answer.) 6. The villain attempts to deceive his victim by using persuasion, magic, or deception. 7. The victim submits to deception and thereby unwittingly helps his enemy. (Hero sleeps.)” -- Michael Webster Propp’s 31 Functions of the Folktale - Preparation
  29. 29. Click Here to see the rest of Propp’s 31 Functions as discussed by Michael Webster
  30. 30. A Close Examination of “Story Structure” by Jon Parise (March 20, 2002) + “Choose Your Own Adventure Book as Directed Graph” by Sean Michael Ragan (March 7, 2008) Various shapes by Dave Whyte
  31. 31. “Story Structure - Diamond Branching” by Jon Parise (2002)
  32. 32. “Story Structure - Petal” by Jon Parise (2002)
  33. 33. “Story Field Structure” by Jon Parise (2002)
  34. 34. “Story Structure - Circular” by Jon Parise (2002)
  35. 35. “Story Structure - Circular” by Sean Michael Ragan (2008)
  36. 36. A Close Examination of “Narrativity of Computer Games” by Britta Neitzel (April 22, 2014) The Stanley Parable
  37. 37. Before we address Britta Neitzel’s article on the “Narrativity of Computer Games,” I would like to include a brief note regarding the “narratology vs. ludology debate.” During Summer 2014 session of the Metagame Book Club, I addressed the debate between Narratology vs. Ludology, specifically, on the controversy of whether or not games are stories. Given that this presentation frames the discussion of digital games, including Interactive Fiction works, through the lens of narratology, it would be necessary to revisit the Narratology vs. Ludology” debate as context for current, renewed interest in applying narratology to game studies. -- Jones (2015) A Brief Note on Narratology vs. Ludology
  38. 38. “The spectrum of approaches in this debate, the so-called Ludology vs. Narratology Debate, ranged from euphoric affirmations of the new possibilities of storytelling (Murray 1999) to outright denial of the narrative quality of computer games (Eskelinen 2001). . . . On the one hand, this criticism [toward the view that computer game is one possible form of future storytelling] had a ‘political’ dimension motivated by the fear that established disciplines such as literary or film studies would incorporate computer games into their own territories, treating them as derivatives of literature or film. On the other hand, this critical position argued that computer games are first and foremost games, and that methods developed for the study of literature and film are insufficient to deal with their specifics (Aarseth 2004b: 362).” -- Britta Neitzel (2014) Narratology vs. Ludology: Key Issues 1
  39. 39. “Both positions—simply treating the computer game as narrative or negating any relation between narratives and games whatsoever—are too narrow in scope. In the first case, there is a danger of overlooking differences between games and narratives. The second position, by contrast, risks disregarding similarities between computer games and narratives. Not every game has the same structure, computer games being structured differently from ball games, for instance. Common to both positions is that they one-sidedly isolate one single dimension to the exclusion of all others, an approach which fails to acknowledge the specifics of the computer—namely, the fact that the computer is a hybrid medium that integrates various forms and media—and in so doing dissolves distinctions between them (cf. Thomsen ed. 1994).” -- Britta Neitzel (2014) Narratology vs. Ludology: Key Issues 2
  40. 40. “Computer games show a wide variety of forms and genres. They can be subdivided into abstract and mimetic games: games of skill (Geschicklichkeitsspiele), which demand dexterity from the players; and puzzle games (Denkspiele), which demand cognitive skills and decision- making. These groups overlap. Some games use abstract graphic elements that have to be arranged in a certain order or assembled like a puzzle. In other games, with abstract graphics, the dexterity of the players is important, as when the game elements have to be thrown or shot. Related to the latter are so-called shooters, which demand dexterity in a representational game world.” -- Britta Neitzel (2014) Degrees of Narrativity in Games - Abstract vs. Mimetic
  41. 41. “As to the narrativity of computer games, it is also important to consider whether the player’s role is to direct a single game element (anthropomorphic or otherwise) or a group of elements. While computer role playing games, (action) adventures and action games fall in the first category, various sorts of sports games, (economic) simulations or strategy games (in which teams or armies are directed) belong to the second.” -- Britta Neitzel (2014) Degrees of Narrativity in Games - Players
  42. 42. “When the interest lies in the narrativity of computer games, it is common not to include all types of computer games. Different genres of computer games have different degrees of narrativity. Thus most abstract computer games lack narrative qualities (Ryan 2006; Aarseth 2004b), since narrativity presupposes the presence of ‘characters, event, setting’ (Ryan (2006: 182).” -- Britta Neitzel (2014) Degrees of Narrativity in Games - Degrees
  43. 43. “The progression of the virtual story in (action) adventure games is programmed according to a narrative structure that Todorov ([1971] 1971) has called the mythological story structure (cf. Neitzel 2000).” “Games with a mythological structure provide players or their avatars with a clearly defined aim that marks the end state of the game (e.g. ‘Rescue the Princess!’). The path to this aim can be arranged differently from one game to another. A classical narrative can use a linear path to this end: starting at the initial situation, a linear chain of events and actions leads to the end of the story. A game organized like this offers a very limited degree of freedom for the player: she does not have any choice, which makes the game rather boring, or, more precisely, there is no game at all because a game must offer at least two options.” -- Britta Neitzel (2014) Degrees of Narrativity in Games - Myths 1
  44. 44. “As in myths, no clear origin can be identified. It has often been observed that these multiple stories and story fragments add to the narrativity of computer games (e.g. Ryan 2006; Jenkins 2004; Pearce 2004).” -- Britta Neitzel (2014) Degrees of Narrativity in Games - Myths 2
  45. 45. “The second underlying narrative structure that can be found in (action) adventure games is the gnoseological structure, a form that does not provide the players with a clearly defined aim (cf. Neitzel 2000). Todorov ([1971] 1971) defines the Parsifal-saga as the prototype of a gnoseological narrative. These narratives are about the search for meaning and, in contrast to mythological narratives, have an ending that is unforeseeable from the beginning of the narration and tends to point back into the past. This becomes obvious in Todorov’s second example, the detective novel, in which the protagonist tries to find out what had happened.” -- Britta Neitzel (2014) Degrees of Narrativity in Games - Myths 3
  46. 46. Questions?
  47. 47. Lecture By: Sherry Jones Philosophy | Rhetoric | Game Studies @autnes Writings & Webcasts Link to Slides: