click here to skip the menu and go to the page content

rebecca's pocket

about / archive / syndicate

.: April 2009 --> Are computer games a literary genre?

Are computer games a literary genre?

» Are computer games a literary genre? I'm sorry to say that both commenters miss the point. It's true, as Crace argues, that gameplay is the essential element that makes a game good or bad, and that a game can be good without a story. But Crace is wrong to think that game storytelling exists only in cut scenes. Parker believes storytelling in games is important, but, like Crace, seems to conflate cut scenes with the narrative element.

I've been very interested in games as a new narrative form for some years. It is particularly exciting to be watching that form emerge. It's a time of great experimentation - game makers are literally inventing the form, discovering what is possible, and trying to discern exactly what story means in this medium.

But just as a film can't be judged by the standards of a novel - filmic storytelling happens in images, not words, as it must in a book - neither can game storytelling be judged by filmic standards. The very best games embed the story in the action (gameplay) relying as little as possible on filmic scenes to push the narrative forward. Portal is the game equivalent of a perfect short story, with the entire story told through action and environment.

Having said that, I also loved Bioshock (which does rely on cut scenes to move the narrative forward) for its rich, layered environmental storytelling, and its sheer narrative ambition. It's a grand, beautiful, flawed attempt at a game in which the story is of equal importance to the gameplay itself, and I think it mostly succeeds. I have not yet seen Grand Theft Auto IV, but I keep hearing that - despite its well-deserved reputation for violence and debauchery - it provides a deeper storytelling experience than any game that has come before.

 [ 04.02.09 ]



» primary link / supplemental information / internal link

my book

» the weblog handbook
amazon editors' best of 2002, digital culture

recent posts