Week 3: January 27th Ludology vs. Narratology
In his article, Jesper Juul pursues the debate that is do games tell stories. Juul expands this debate by describing what narrative is. He states that we use narrative for everything, that narratives are present in introductions and back-stories in video games and that video games have similar aspects of narratives.
It has been recorded throughout time that we have used narrative through storytelling and writing. Narrative makes the object more interesting and appealing to the audience. However when playing Tetris, the player does not see the story. Yet when playing Space Invaders, the player already jumps to the conclusion that there are creatures from outer space invading our planet which we must attack. Unfortunately we cannot save the world since another wave of aliens appear after each accomplished level. Juul denotes the saving of the world as the initial state. There are other games such as Half-Life where a player can complete the game. Both games possess different game elements. Half-Life is an action game with a strong emphasis of telling a story where as Space Invaders is an arcade game where the player plays until they lose.
The first game of the week was Every Day the Same Dream. In the game, the character being played goes through a cycle: getting dressed, saying good-bye to his emotionless wife, speaks to the elevator lady, getting stuck in traffic, abused by the boss and then goes to his desk. This cycle repeats until the player does an event that breaks this pattern. The elevator lady gives a hint which is “5 more steps and you will be a new person”. As you do different actions, the elevator will reduce the amount of steps until you reach the final conclusion which is witnessing someone else jumping off the building. This game does not inform the player about the character nor his wife or any other aspect of his life. Nevertheless we still get this feeling that a story is being told. It is told through the actions of the players. Due to these actions, the story can progress and achieve Juul’s initial state.
Going back to Tetris, we ask ourselves why it was so popular even though it does not contain any story or interactive characters. Well just like any other media such as books and films, the user (player) is always acting through the media. We continue to play because the game rewards such as showing us our score by judging our gameplay. Moreover the sound of the game will increase as the speed of the blocks increase. This is another method of the game talking to the player. In spin-offs such as Pokemon Puzzle League on the Nintendo 64, there is an image of the playable character (Ash) versus his opponent as you play Tetris. In these versions, the game uses the images to further establish the story.
Thus video games do tell a story. The player through their actions aids the game to tell the story. Even though two different types of game have different gameplay and elements, they both have a story. Numerous games contain narrative elements whether it’d be cut-scenes or narrative sequence.
- Juul, Jesper. “Games Telling Stories? A Brief Note on Games and Narratives.”Game Studies 1.1 (July 2001).www.gamestudies.org/0101/juul-gts/
- Every Day the Same Dream (Molleindustria 2009)
- Pokemon Puzzle League (Nintendo 2000)
- Tetris (Alexey Pajitnov 1984)
- Taito: Space Invaders. 1977.
- Valve Software: Half-life. Sierra 1998.