Paper Topic

November 13, 2008 | 1 Comment


Oof…so I’m back into World of Warcraft after like…8 months. Don’t know how that happened, but there’s an expansion with a new area and a new level cap of 80. Blizzard is really just printing money by now, but I’m enjoying the new level cap, my guild welcomed me back no questions asked, and the new areas are beautiful.

I played a demo for Left For Dead, a new survival horror game by Valve. The game is certainly applicable to our class because of its unusual choice of narrative layers…something I believe is innovative in the videogame genre. It’s pretty difficult for me to explain, but Left For Dead is a cooperative survival horror game with the action always portrayed as very cinematic—the scenarios are explicitly scenes from a horror film, the camera angles are all shots, the instructions are given by a director, and the characters are all actors. Players are controlling a actor in a zombie horror film, but since it’s a videogame, the gameplay is still real…it’s pretty interesting

So – now, a more fleshed-out paper proposal….

My paper is about how video game immersion, agency, internal logic, gameplay mechanics, etc. (and now advertising, paratextual community and creations, and marketing) affect the Ludology vs. Narratology debate.

My essay will address issues I’ve always had concerning the binary nature of classifying or categorizing anything in media studies…I’ll write about how there’s a ludology/narratology spectrum upon which games lie.

An example of the scale:

“Pure Narratology”



Fallout 3


Final Fantasy

Metal Gear

Halo series

Defense of the Ancients

Unreal Tournament/Counterstrike

Mirrors Edge

Soul Caliber, Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter

Katamari Damachi


Pure Ludology”

Another genre I’m considering adding is historical fiction games like the wave of WW2 shooters and how they teach players to reimagine/renarrate historical events.

In terms of answering how where a game lands on the spectrum affects engagement or consumer digestion, I might address how games are evolving into a more complicated medium – perhaps the medium is on the verge of splitting into two distinct styles?

Ludology points will include the importance of gametime (comparison to episodic tv, discussion of pause/save features), multiplayer game logic (complicated strategies of DOTA, MMOs, first person shooters) zero-story games (and whether they actually exist…even Katamari Damachi goes to the trouble of providing backstory and unique aesthetic style), gameplay clichés (boss fights with repetition and weakness, level building, etc). Gameplay and grahpics often seem to be a primary focus of game developers…moreso the plot direction and size.

Narratology points will include immersion, interaction, and empathizing with character, cyber dramas and meta-narratives (videogame conventions, universal, shared human truths and language and their connection to storytelling), backstory and creation of believable fictive worlds, the difference between interactive storytelling and interactive fiction, and the meta- and micro- narratives of multiplayer and massively multiplayer games. Games always seem more pleasurable when they have “something to say.” Developers go to great lengths to create complicated and interwoven backstories and motivations for fighting and shooting games.

Some sources:

Books –

First Person-New Media as Story, Performance, and Game.

Persuasive Games-The Expressive Power of Videogames.

Internet –

Wikipedia for each of the games

Primary Research – Games played extensively (to completion) include Metal Gear Solid series (and their evolution from a balance between narrative gameplay to more-narrative), Final Fantasy series (especially FFVII’s narratology), Psychonauts (playful, inventive story over gameplay), Storytron ( an example of pure interactive storytelling), Facade (Narratology/interactive Storytelling), and WoW (player-created stories in a pre-conceived fictive world), fighting games (Soul Caliber IV, Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter), multiplayer shooters (Counterstrike, Unreal Tournament, Halo series)

I have also observed a friend interact with the various forking branches of Fallout 3 (Narratology/interactive fiction)


1 Comment so far

  1. Jason Mittell on November 20, 2008 9:43 am

    This is a good topic with a clear focus and argument. I think you can extend your argument to explore not just categorization, but the impact & significance of this spectrum – how do games that are more narrativized or ludic shape engagement, appeal to different types of players, promote various gaming communities, etc.?

    There were some gaps in this proposal, as it seems that WordPress ate your homework… And please post a bibliography for feedback. Good luck!

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