In the publication “Game Design as Narrative Architecture”, Henry Jenkins discusses the approach Ludologists and Narratologists have when it comes to game design and storytelling. He decides to take the middle ground by “examining games less as stories than as spaces ripe with narrative possibility” (Jenkins, 1). Jenkins starts off by stating that not all games tell stories nor all games want to tell a story. The games that do tell stories are most likely going to do it in a way that is different to other mediums, this opens up many different narrative possibilities that are worth exploring. This brings us to a new term: “spatiality”. Jenkins starts off by mentioning board games and how the most memorable experiences that come from these types of games is that of moving around the board. The space in which the player moves and interacts with then becomes an important part of game design and story telling.
Games are often compared to amusement parks except for the obvious difference that there is more freedom of movement in a video game. The idea of an amusement park is to provide an already familiar space or environment in order to bring forth past experiences from other mediums, this is called an evocative space. American McGee’s Alice is a perfect example of a game that Jenkins mentions in which the player is put in a slightly redesigned world of Alice in Wonderland. This game takes place in a more twisted and sinister Wonderland in which Alice questions whether what she has lived through is real or a hallucination essentially making her go insane. This type of storytelling can bring a fresh narrative experience that adds to the original story which people are familiar with.
“You arrive home after a year abroad. You expect your family to greet you, but the house is empty. Something’s not right. Where is everyone? And what’s happened here?” (gonehome.game) These are the questions that arise when the player starts the game called Gone Home. One of the first things that the player encounters is a letter written to the character they’re playing “Kaitlin” that comes from her sister. In the letter she is stating that she will not be able to make it home to see her and to not tell their parents. Once the player enters the house he/she starts uncovering the mystery by interacting with the environment, picking up letters, pictures, books etc… This game relies heavily on what it’s called an embedded narrative, there is no linear path to the story, it is up to the player to interact with the items in the house, in the order they choose to and collect as much data as possible in order to come to a conclusion as to what happened. Evocative Spaces are very present as well; the game takes place in the 1990’s, for people that grew up during this era the house will feel very familiar, old video games, list of old TV shows, and punk rock music are some of the things that can be found scattered throughout the house. These items can bring forth that feeling of nostalgia, therefore creating a deeper and more personal attachment to the characters.
Gone home and American McGee’s Alice are a fitting example on how the mechanic of a game can be used perfectly in conjunction with the space in order to enhance the storytelling. They are both games in which it lets the player think, form and reform a story as they play. It shows that games can be different from other mediums rather than sticking with the traditional ways of narration. As Jenkins says, “in each case, it makes sense to think of game designers less as storytellers than as narrative architects.” (Jenkins, 13)
Jenkins, Henry. “Game Design as Narrative Architecture.” First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game. Eds. Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2004. 118-30.
Gone Home (The Fullbright Company 2013)
“Gone Home: A Story Exploration Video Game.”Gone Home: A Story Exploration Video Game. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Mar. 2017. <https://gonehome.game/>.