Games and Narrative: An Analytical Framework

  • Jim Bizzochi


The paper considers the recent academic struggle between "narratologists" and "ludologists", and argues that it was exacerbated by two sources of confusion. The first confusion was differing concepts of immersion as an outcome of mediated experience. "Suspension of disbelief" and "flow" are both immersive states, but they grow out of fundamentally different processes of engagement. The second confusion was the conflation of "story" with the concept of a narrative arc. Interaction necessarily interferes with authorial control over the timing and the details of the narrative arc, and makes it a misleading focus for analysis or understanding of game narrative. The paper maintains that if we ignore the concept of a grand narrative arc, we are free to examine other parameters of story within the game, which may be more limited, but are also more relevant. These narrative components - character, storyworld, emotion, narrative interface, and micro-narrative - are useful channels for focusing a more accurate analysis of the role of narrative within the design of the game and the experience of gameplay.
Foundations and Frames