Special Issue "Gaming and the Arts of Storytelling"

A special issue of Arts (ISSN 2076-0752). This special issue belongs to the section "New Media".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 June 2018)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Dr. Darshana Jayemanne

Lecturer, Division of Games and Arts, School of Design and Informatics, Abertay University, Dundee DD1 1HG, UK
Website | E-Mail
Interests: media studies; video games; literary studies; Internet studies; Marxism

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

"…information must absolutely sound plausible. For this reason, it proves incompatible with the spirit of storytelling. If the art of storytelling has become rare, the dissemination of information has played a decisive role in this state of affairs."—Walter Benjamin, The Storyteller.

Storytelling encompasses narrative. As the vogue for "environmental storytelling" suggests in the case of digital games, narrative is only one way in which games tell stories. Concept and environment artists are storytellers. Character designers are storytellers. Level designers are storytellers. Game designers are storytellers. Marketers are storytellers. Streamers are storytellers.

Narrative encompasses storytelling. For literary critic Walter Benjamin, storytelling is a subset of narrative: one that is indissolubly linked with the figure of the storyteller with whom we "Stay awhile, and listen". Newer forms of narrative such as the novel and the information-rich mass media signal a decline in storytelling. Where the storyteller is the advocate for all created beings, informational narratives are focused on this thing, at this time.

What does the incorporation of our bodies into technological matrices and big data systems —such as we see with the rise of gaming—signal for the fortunes of storytelling? Is it time to further historicise the relations between information, storytellers and storytelling?

Storytelling is often a crucial term in scholarly discussions of digital games, even if it appears with some ambivalence. For Ian Bogost, storytelling is a question that needs to be attenuated as games mature: "The true accomplishment of What Remains of Edith Finch is that it invites players to abandon the dream of interactive storytelling at last". For Janet Murray, both humans and computers are co-contributing storytellers, presaging the future "cyberbard and the multiform plot". N. Katherine Hayles insists on an attentiveness to the materiality of which stories are made, and the novelty of digital storytelling brings fresh light to the entire field: "As the vibrant new field of electronic textuality flexes its muscle, it is becoming overwhelmingly clear that we can no longer afford to ignore the material basis of literary production".

We invite 3000–7000 word scholarly articles for a peer-reviewed Special Issue of the journal Arts on the theme of "Gaming and the Arts of Storytelling", with a deadline of 31 May 2018.

An associated conference on the topic will be held at Abertay University, 9 May 2018, keynoted by Professor Espen Aarseth (ITU Copenhagen). Selected papers from this event will be invited to contribute to the Special Issue.

Dr. Darshana Jayemanne
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Arts is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) is waived for well-prepared manuscripts submitted to this issue. Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • conceptualizing storytelling
  • storytelling and the figure of the storyteller
  • storytelling practice in digital games
  • storytelling, games and stylistics
  • "primitives" of videogame storytelling
  • pedagogy and storytelling
  • Indie, casual and AAA; FPS, RPG, MMO, MOBA, adventure: how do different game genres tell stories?
  • What constitutes "game-like" storytelling in other media, and how do specific textual ties and media-specificities affect game storytelling?
  • How has gaming given rise to novel storytelling texts and practices? What is the relation of videogame storytelling to proximate forms?
  • Storytelling, myth and legend: How do these forms appear and interrelate in games?
  • What is the contribution of music and audio as storytelling devices in specific games?
  • What do contemporary storytelling practices in the wider culture have to say about the future of games, and vice-versa?

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Editorial

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Open AccessEditorial “Gaming and the Arts of Storytelling” Introduction
Received: 27 November 2018 / Revised: 28 November 2018 / Accepted: 30 November 2018 / Published: 4 December 2018
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Abstract
The title of this Special Issue of Arts makes use of some ambiguous terms: ‘gaming’ rather than ‘videogames’; the plural ‘arts’ rather than the singular ‘art’. [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Gaming and the Arts of Storytelling)

Research

Jump to: Editorial

Open AccessArticle A Redneck Head on a Nazi Body. Subversive Ludo-Narrative Strategies in Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
Received: 13 July 2018 / Revised: 19 October 2018 / Accepted: 19 October 2018 / Published: 6 November 2018
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Abstract
This article argues that Wolfenstein: The New Colossus, a AAA First-Person Shooter, is not only politically themed, but presents in itself a critical engagement with the politics of its genre and its player base. Developed at the height of #Gamergate, the game [...] Read more.
This article argues that Wolfenstein: The New Colossus, a AAA First-Person Shooter, is not only politically themed, but presents in itself a critical engagement with the politics of its genre and its player base. Developed at the height of #Gamergate, the game is interpreted as a response to reactionary discourses about gender and ability in both mainstream games and the hardcore gamer community. The New Colossus replaces affirmation of masculine empowerment with intersectional ambiguities, foregrounding discourses of feminism and disability. To provoke its players without completely alienating them, the game employs strategies of carnivalesque aesthetics—especially ambivalence and grotesque excess. Analyzing the game in the light of Bakhtinian theory shows how The New Colossus reappropriates genre conventions pertaining to able-bodiedness and masculinity and how it “resolves” these issue by grafting the player character’s head on a vat-grown Nazi supersoldier-body. The breaches of genre conventions on the narrative level are supported by intentionally awkward and punishing mechanics, resulting in a ludo-narrative aesthetic of defamiliarization commensurate to a grotesque story about subversion and revolt. Echoing the ritualistic cycle of death and rebirth at the heart of carnivalesque aesthetics, The New Colossus is nothing short of an ideological re-invention of the genre. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Gaming and the Arts of Storytelling)
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Open AccessArticle Walter Benjamin on the Video Screen: Storytelling and Game Narratives
Received: 29 June 2018 / Revised: 4 October 2018 / Accepted: 19 October 2018 / Published: 23 October 2018
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Abstract
Walter Benjamin’s 1936 essay, “The Storyteller” (2006) defines storytelling as a mode of communication that is defined in part by its ability to offer listeners “counsel”, or meaningful wisdom or advice. This article considers the earmarks of storytelling as defined by Benjamin and [...] Read more.
Walter Benjamin’s 1936 essay, “The Storyteller” (2006) defines storytelling as a mode of communication that is defined in part by its ability to offer listeners “counsel”, or meaningful wisdom or advice. This article considers the earmarks of storytelling as defined by Benjamin and by contemporary writer Larry McMurtry and argues this type of narrative experience can be offered via interactive media and, in particular, video games. After identifying the key characteristics of storytelling as set forth by Benjamin, the article proposes and advocates for a set of key characteristics of video game storytelling. In doing so, the article argues that effective narrative immersion can offer what Benjamin calls counsel, or wisdom, by refusing to provide pat answers or neat conclusions and suggests these as strategies for game writers and developers who want to provide educational or transformative experiences. Throughout, the article invokes historic and contemporary video games, asking for careful consideration of the ways in which games focused on sometimes highly personal narratives rely on storytelling techniques that instruct and transform and that can provide a rich framework for the design and writing of narrative games. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Gaming and the Arts of Storytelling)
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Open AccessArticle What Game Narrative Are We Talking About? An Ontological Mapping of the Foundational Canon of Interactive Narrative Forms
Received: 6 July 2018 / Revised: 13 September 2018 / Accepted: 14 September 2018 / Published: 20 September 2018
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Abstract
There have been misunderstandings regarding “narrative” in relation to games, in part due to the lack of a shared understanding of “narrative” and related terms. Instead, many contrasting perspectives exist, and this state of affairs is an impediment for current and future research. [...] Read more.
There have been misunderstandings regarding “narrative” in relation to games, in part due to the lack of a shared understanding of “narrative” and related terms. Instead, many contrasting perspectives exist, and this state of affairs is an impediment for current and future research. To address this challenge, this article moves beyond contrasting definitions, and based on a meta-analysis of foundational publications in game studies and related fields, introduces a two-dimensional mapping along the dimensions of media specificity and user agency. Media specificity describes to what extent medium affects narrative, and user agency concerns how much impact a user has on a narrative. This mapping is a way to visualize different ontological positions on “narrative” in the context of game narrative and other interactive narrative forms. This instrument can represent diverse positions simultaneously, and enables comparison between different perspectives, based on their distance from each other and alignment with the axes. A number of insights from the mapping are discussed that demonstrate the potential for this process as a basis for an improved discourse on the topic. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Gaming and the Arts of Storytelling)
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Open AccessArticle Expansion, Excess and the Uncanny: Deadly Premonition and Twin Peaks
Received: 29 June 2018 / Revised: 3 September 2018 / Accepted: 3 September 2018 / Published: 7 September 2018
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Abstract
The influence of the cult television series Twin Peaks (1990–1991) can be detected in a wide range of videogames, from adventure, to roleplaying to survival horror titles. While many games variously draw upon the narrative, setting and imagery of the series for inspiration, [...] Read more.
The influence of the cult television series Twin Peaks (1990–1991) can be detected in a wide range of videogames, from adventure, to roleplaying to survival horror titles. While many games variously draw upon the narrative, setting and imagery of the series for inspiration, certain elements of the distinctive uncanniness of Twin Peaks are difficult to translate into gameplay, particularly its ability consistently disrupt the expectations and emotional responses of its audience. This paper examines the ways in which the 2010 survival horror title Deadly Premonition replicates the uncanniness of Twin Peaks in both its narrative and gameplay, noting how it expands upon conceptualizations of the gamerly uncanny. It contends that Deadly Premonition’s awkward recombination of seemingly inconsistent and excessive gameplay features mirrors the ways in which David Lynch and Mark Frost draw upon and subvert audience expectations for police procedurals and soap operas in the original Twin Peaks in order to generate an uncanny effect. Furthermore, Deadly Premonition uses the theme of possession—a central element of the television series—to offer a diegetic exploration of the uncanny relationship between the player and their onscreen avatar. In these regards, Deadly Premonition provides a rare example of how the subversive uncanniness of Twin Peaks can be addressed through gameplay, rather than solely through the game’s narrative or representational elements. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Gaming and the Arts of Storytelling)
Open AccessArticle Choice Poetics by Example
Received: 30 June 2018 / Revised: 21 August 2018 / Accepted: 27 August 2018 / Published: 6 September 2018
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (302 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Choice poetics is a formalist framework that seeks to concretely describe the impacts choices have on player experiences within narrative games. Developed in part to support algorithmic generation of narrative choices, the theory includes a detailed analytical framework for understanding the impressions choice [...] Read more.
Choice poetics is a formalist framework that seeks to concretely describe the impacts choices have on player experiences within narrative games. Developed in part to support algorithmic generation of narrative choices, the theory includes a detailed analytical framework for understanding the impressions choice structures make by analyzing the relationships among options, outcomes, and player goals. The theory also emphasizes the need to account for players’ various modes of engagement, which vary both during play and between players. In this work, we illustrate the non-computational application of choice poetics to the analysis of two different games to further develop the theory and make it more accessible to others. We focus first on using choice poetics to examine the central repeated choice in “Undertale,” and show how it can be used to contrast two different player types that will approach a choice differently. Finally, we give an example of fine-grained analysis using a choice from the game “Papers, Please,” which breaks down options and their outcomes to illustrate exactly how the choice pushes players towards complicity via the introduction of uncertainty. Through all of these examples, we hope to show the usefulness of choice poetics as a framework for understanding narrative choices, and to demonstrate concretely how one could productively apply it to choices “in the wild.” Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Gaming and the Arts of Storytelling)
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Open AccessArticle Gaming the Heart of Darkness
Received: 30 June 2018 / Revised: 26 August 2018 / Accepted: 27 August 2018 / Published: 4 September 2018
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Abstract
The history of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness has been one of adaptation and change. The enduring story is based upon Conrad’s experiences in the Congo in the 1890s and was published as a novella in 1902. Since then, the story has been [...] Read more.
The history of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness has been one of adaptation and change. The enduring story is based upon Conrad’s experiences in the Congo in the 1890s and was published as a novella in 1902. Since then, the story has been criticised for racism by Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe and relocated to Vietnam by Francis Ford Coppola as Apocalypse Now, influencing computer games such as Far Cry 2 and Spec Ops: The Line. In examining the adaptations of Heart of Darkness, we can consider how the story evolves from the passive reading of post-colonial narratives through to the active participation in morally ambiguous decisions and virtual war crimes through digital games: examining Conrad’s story as it has been adapted for other mediums provides a unique lens in which to view storytelling and retelling within the context of how we interpret the world. This paper compares the source material to its adaptations, considering the blending of historical fact and original fiction, the distortion of the original story for the purpose of creating new meaning, and reflects on whether interactivity impacts upon the feeling of immersion and sense of responsibility in audiences of different narratives. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Gaming and the Arts of Storytelling)
Open AccessArticle Approaches to Game Fiction Derived from Musicals and Pornography
Received: 26 June 2018 / Revised: 20 July 2018 / Accepted: 17 August 2018 / Published: 27 August 2018
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (218 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This paper discusses the construction of consistent fictions in games using relevant theory drawn from discussions of musicals and pornography in opposition to media that are traditionally associated with fiction and used to discuss games (film, theatre, literature etc.). Game developer John Carmack’s [...] Read more.
This paper discusses the construction of consistent fictions in games using relevant theory drawn from discussions of musicals and pornography in opposition to media that are traditionally associated with fiction and used to discuss games (film, theatre, literature etc.). Game developer John Carmack’s famous quip that stories in games are like stories in pornography—optional—is the impetus for a discussion of the role and function of fiction in games. This paper aims to kick-start an informed approach to constructing and understanding consistent fictions in games. Case studies from games, musicals, and pornography are cross-examined to identify what is common to each practice with regards to their fictions (or lack thereof) and how they might inform the analysis of games going forward. To this end the terms ‘integrated’, ‘separated’, and ‘dissolved’ are borrowed from Dyer’s work on musicals, which was later employed by Linda Williams to discusses pornographic fictions. A framework is laid out by which games (and other media) can be understood as a mix of different types of information and how the arrangement of this information in a given work might classify it under Dyer’s terms and help us understand the ways in which a game fiction is considered consistent or not. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Gaming and the Arts of Storytelling)
Open AccessArticle “Game Over, Man. Game Over”: Looking at the Alien in Film and Videogames
Received: 2 July 2018 / Revised: 9 August 2018 / Accepted: 15 August 2018 / Published: 24 August 2018
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Abstract
In this article we discuss videogame adaptations of the Alien series of films, in particular Alien: Colonial Marines (2013) and Alien: Isolation (2014). In comparing critical responses and developer commentary across these texts, we read the very different affective, aesthetic and socio-political readings [...] Read more.
In this article we discuss videogame adaptations of the Alien series of films, in particular Alien: Colonial Marines (2013) and Alien: Isolation (2014). In comparing critical responses and developer commentary across these texts, we read the very different affective, aesthetic and socio-political readings of the titular alien character in each case. The significant differences in what it means to ‘look’ at this figure can be analyzed in terms of wider storytelling techniques that stratify remediation between film and games. Differing accounts of how storytelling techniques create intensely ‘immersive’ experiences such as horror and identification—as well as how these experiences are valued—become legible across this set of critical contexts. The concept of the ‘look’ is developed as a comparative series that enables the analysis of the affective dynamics of film and game texts in terms of gender-normative ‘technicity’, moving from the ‘mother monster’ of the original film to the ‘short controlled burst’ of the colonial marines and finally to the ‘psychopathic serendipity’ of Alien: Isolation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Gaming and the Arts of Storytelling)
Open AccessArticle Trellis and Vine: Weaving Function and Fiction in Videogame Play
Received: 1 July 2018 / Revised: 1 August 2018 / Accepted: 10 August 2018 / Published: 17 August 2018
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (238 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This paper reviews and synthesizes ideas in the philosophy of play and relevant psychology research in order to address videogame medium specificity, with particular focus on the notion of videogame play as simultaneously “rule-bound” and “make-believe.” It offers the sustained analogy of “trellis [...] Read more.
This paper reviews and synthesizes ideas in the philosophy of play and relevant psychology research in order to address videogame medium specificity, with particular focus on the notion of videogame play as simultaneously “rule-bound” and “make-believe.” It offers the sustained analogy of “trellis and vine” for provisionally sorting through the tangle (the “mess” or “assemblage”) of function and fiction in games. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Gaming and the Arts of Storytelling)
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