Column: Are Video Games the New Great Medium for Telling Stories?

Oliver Campbell writes on The Escapist: “Video games are so young that we’re only now beginning to understand what they can do. Do not misunderstand me when I say that video games are the final frontier of storytelling. Games allow us to live the experience, but this current incarnation is just the first step onto that unexplored frontier. Like other expressive storytelling arts, games have struggled, and will continue to struggle through a long period of growth in order to reach their full potential. We’re hardly done with the medium, in fact we’re just beginning”. Continue reading

Game: Separated

“Separated”, by Rxi, is a moving tale that casts players into the role of a monster incapable of communicating with humans. After being awakened by fireflies of the crypt, the Monster will have to explore a city just looking for answers, and it is not conscious of looking like a freak, making people run away screaming every time it tries to communicate. Marco Alba writes: “Separated is a game that explains in a few minutes what racism is. A bedtime story that should be played by every child. Prepare your handkerchiefs and played Separated”.

Get the game at http://ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-33/?action=preview&uid=16007 and read Marco Alba’s review at http://www.giocoindie.it/separeted/

Paper: Narrative Tools for Games: Focalization, Granularity, and the Mode of Narration in Games

“Narrative Tools for Games: Focalization, Granularity, and the Mode of Narration in Games” is a paper by Jonne Arjoranta at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. From the abstract: “This article looks at three narratological concepts—focalization, granularity, and the mode of narration—and explores how these concepts apply to games. It is shown how these concepts can be used as tools for creating meaning-effects, which are understood here as cognitive responses from the player. Focalization is shown to have a hybrid form in games. This article also explores the different types of narrators and granularities in games, and how these three concepts can be used to create meaning-effects. This is done by discussing examples from several games, for example, Assassin’s Creed III, Skyrim, Fallout: New Vegas, and Civilization”.

Read the paper for free at https://jyx.jyu.fi/dspace/handle/123456789/46553

Game: andmaybetheywontkillyou

andmaybetheywontkillyou is a performative empathy experience about being poor and Black in America. Participants must journey to the local corner store in their own neighborhood while deflecting various micro-aggressions as well as harassment by law enforcement. Choose to speak out or remain silent and deal with the consequences of your choices. andmaybetheywontkillyou was developed at UC Santa Cruz through the Games + Playable Media Graduate program, under the advisement of Brenda Romero. The title was inspired by a series of tweets by Ijeoma Oluo, and the accompanying blog post for The Stranger (linked below). The project was created in response to events that have recently become the subject of national conversation: the deaths of Black Americans as the result of police action, the subsequent protests, and in some instances, riots.

Learn more about the game at http://press.rainb.ro/press/sheet.php?p=andmaybetheywontkillyou

Article: Leigh Alexander about “Passengers”, a game about migrants

Leigh Alexander writes: “Creator Francois “Nerial” Alliot and collaborator Arnaud De Bock felt the human lives of the migrants themselves could too easily be lost in the ethical debates about asylum and human smuggling. In their new game Passengers, you play a smuggler bringing people to Europe. You can select what kind of watercraft you pilot and what kind of bribes you accept, and how many people to bring on board—these factors affect your own profits and level of risk. On your journey many of your passengers will die, you’ll attract the attention of the coast guard, run out of water, or worse”. Continue reading

PhD Thesis: Survivance: An Indigenous Social Impact Game

Elizabeth Aileen LaPensee earned her PhD at Simon Fraser University, supervised by Ron Wakkary. She wrote a dissertation entitled “Survivance: An Indigenous Social Impact Game”. From her abstract: “Social impact games are on the rise as a means of encouraging social change through gameplay. This dissertation describes the outcomes of playing Survivance (http://www.survivance.org)—an Indigenous social impact game that honors storytelling, art, and self-determination as pathways to healing from historical trauma caused by colonization in Turtle Island (North America). The research addresses a gap in studies that specifically explore the impact of social impact games while uniquely merging Indigenous and Game Studies scholarship”.

Learn more about the Survivance game at http://survivance.org/ and read the thesis at http://summit.sfu.ca/item/13984

Syllabus: P.Pedercini (Molleindustria) on storytelling and games

Paolo Pedercini (Molleindustria) is teaching an Experimental Game Design class at Carnegie Mellon University, with an emphasis on the complex relationship between storytelling and games: from point-and-click graphic adventure games to AI-driven interactive narratives. There’s a section using Twine entitled “Ludology & Narratology. Branching narrative from Borges to the Hypertext.”

Browse the syllabus – with a long list of suggested games – at http://mycours.es/gamedesign2015/

MS Thesis: Time Pressure As Video Game Design Element And Basic Need Satisfaction

Irem Gökçe Yıldırım’s thesis examines the relations between time pressure, autonomy and competence. In an experimental design, time pressure is manipulated to establish two conditions (no time pressure in control group and time pressure in experimental group) by implementing countdown mechanics in a 3D survival shooting game. Mediating effects of autonomy and competence on the associations between time pressure and intrinsic motivation, flow, engagement, performance and enjoyment are also observed.

Thanks to Giovanni Caruso for blogging this.

The thesis can be freely downloaded at http://etd.lib.metu.edu.tr/upload/12618994/index.pdf

PhD Thesis: Identity Transformation and Agency in Digital Narratives and Story Based Games

Josh Tanenbaum’s PhD thesis proposes a reimagining of two of the central pleasures of digital media: Agency and Transformation. The first of these pleasures – Agency – is a concept that has received significant attention in the discourse around games and storytelling. The second pleasure – Transformation – has received comparatively little deep investigation.

Read the full thesis for free at https://theses.lib.sfu.ca/thesis/etd8879