How Did Video Games Become a New Form of Literature?

Games, like other works of art, whether it is cinema or literature, often go further than worlds or the plot because they interact directly with the gamer. This type of storytelling is called metanarrative or metafiction and implies the ‘fourth wall’ – a special place in the space-time continuum, where the line between fiction and reality is blurred.

Storytelling in Video Gaming

The goals of a direct appeal to the gamer can be very different, as well as the methods of their presentation. Video games in this regard are somewhat different from their closest analogs: in literature, the narrative is limited to textual form, visual creativity is limited to pictures, and cinema, in addition to the above mentioned, has sound, editing, and other components of film language.

In video games, storytelling is more complex due to the presence of gameplay. Games should be considered primarily as a kind of a system based on rules and tasks. Media can be divided into simulation and representational, and it is easy to guess that the first category includes games, and the rest of the traditional media belong to the second.

The main difference is the ability of the simulated game system to respond to external stimuli such as button presses. This is a different level of interaction between a work of art and a person, which means that storytelling in video games is somewhat special.

The active interaction of the gamer with the rules, tools, and challenges opens up more opportunities for creators to metanarrative but also does not exclude traditional techniques.

Categories of Video Gaming Stories

Generally, there are four versions of fiction that are used in video gaming:

  • Emergent manifests itself in those cases when the game is somehow recognized in its fiction: either directly through dialogs or somehow indirectly. For example, in Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Deadpool uses his health bar as a weapon.
  • Immersive is linked to the position of the gamer. If NPCs in the God simulator are aware of its abilities, such a metanarrative can be considered immersive. It utilizes the position of the gamer to involve them in the story and make it more immersive.
  • The third option is internal. For example, when one character says: ‘Don’t you think that we are just villains in a video game and are waiting for the main hero to defeat us?’
  • The last one is external when the video game creators themselves break through the ‘fourth wall’ and leave messages. Although information exists in the video game world, it is not perceived by the heroes.

If we consider video gaming as a way of storytelling, its popularity is explained by the benefits over all other forms like spoken language, literature, theater, and cinema. Video games provide a literal involvement in the narrative; the person in the video game is not a listener or viewer but an actor and the main character of the narrative, and this does not require any effort or preparation on their part.

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