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Emergent Meaning and Narrative in the Digital Space

Emergent Meaning and Narrative in the Digital Space
Addressing Tensions in Games and Game-like Media

 “Most people want to be told a story.  Leaving it up to a random number generator is dicey.” – Ed Del Castillo, Producer, Command & Conquer

Storytelling is one of the oldest forms of entertainment in human culture.  Throughout the centuries we as a species have invented many ways to tell ourselves stories, and continue to do so.  In recent years, games have become one of the most popular formats for delivering narrative, but as a new form of storytelling, narrative games face several critical issues.[1]  Although the problems facing this burgeoning medium are not insurmountable, they are uniquely twisted by the fact that games are, by their nature, a participatory endeavor – a transaction between the designers and players where the contact is far more direct than it is in other forms of popular storytelling.  Although as an industry games are growing and are doing much better than older, more established mediums in the marketplace, critical thinking about games, and especially how narratives in games are constructed, is still in its infancy.  There are at least two fundamental unresolved questions in games criticism –, “how do games mean?” and “how do games tell compelling stories?” Answering both of these questions is a much larger task than I am capable of achieving in this essay, but by the end I hope to provide a potential framework for how games mean and from there briefly propose a solution to the narrative question.

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Ludic Epistolary or, Where Have All The Letters Gone?

In this essay, I discuss the evolution of epistolary fiction from its early days in novels through modern incarnations in video games.

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or, Where Have All The Letters Gone?”

Vaccines and Validity

“The human mind seldom arrives at truth upon any subject, till it has first reached the extremity of error.”  – Benjamin Rush, Essays, Literary, Moral & Philosophical (147)

The above quote was written in 1798 by one of the newly-founded United States’ leading citizens.  Benjamin Rush, a Philadelphia physician, educator, politician and reformer was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and founded Dickinson College.  I cite him now for his medical reputation.  One of the premier physicians of his day, he founded the American psychiatry tradition, publishing the first textbook on the subject.  His contributions to the field of medical science are still influential to this day.

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Ringabel and Edea

It’s very cold and snowy and I was bored so I doodled Ringabel and Edea as Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask in my yearly act of fandom.  I honestly could see similar costumes appearing in this game, which has a worrisome preoccupation with the characters playing dress-up.

“Where did you even GET these costumes?”

“The Master Sage, of course.  His collection is… extensive.”

“Today Ringabel, both you AND your clothes are black as pitch.”

“Would you have preferred the Bravo Bikini?”

“Mgrgrgr!”

What I Played in 2013

Here’s what I played for the first time in 2013.  I’ve tried to include absolutely everything.  The list is split into two sublists: games I feel like writing a bit about, and everything else.  If a game is free I have provided a link to the game.  As an aside, did you know that I now have a podcast where we interview people in the games industry?  I bet you didn’t!  You should follow it.  No seriously, you should.

This is a Spoiler-Free Post.

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