The Emotional Impact of Indie Narrative Games

Contextual Essay

Ideation and Context

For this Digital Artefact, I originally came up with the idea to study the emotional impact of lesser-known indie narrative games on the player. I decided to focus on three of my favourite games (Life is Strange, Gone Home, and Journey) and split the video essays into three topics, one per game. These topics were to be ‘Character’, ‘Story’, and ‘Music’, as I felt that these were the major attributes that contributed to a games narrative.

Methodology

The approach I took to studying these games was decided later in the projects timeline, however I ended up structuring it by studying each games ‘Modality’, ‘Technical Strata’, and ‘Technological Context’.

Analytical Framework

Background Research

“We should just start making games that are about narrative ideas instead of games that are about, say, shooting or jumping or flying or driving.”

Writing Video Games: Can Narrative be as Important as Gameplay

I did a lot of research when writing the scripts for the video essays. I looked into articles about narrative in video games such as the one above, as well took a deep look into developers explanations of their games and why they chose to implement what they did.

Life is Strange Developer Diary
Gone Home Developers Commentary

Response to Feedback

Overall the feedback I got was enormously positive. My biggest criticism however throughout the project was the lack of depth in research, as well as the use of class lecture material. I attempted to rectify this in the Beta post as well as incorporated further class material into my analytical framework with the final DA.

Overall Trajectory

The above is the proposed timeline that was shared with the Beta post. As you can see I successfully followed it through to Week 9, however failed to continue as such due to other responsibilities.

Success and Limitations

The scripts for the video essays took longer than expected to research and write, which resulted in this DA being completed a few days overdue. I also found it challenging to research on a topic I had never researched before but due to the feedback from other classmates, I managed to get ideas and tips and that thoroughly helped in the long run. However, overall I am very proud of the final product.

Resources

Howitt, G. (2014). Writing video games: can narrative be as important as gameplay?. The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/culture/australia-culture-blog/2014/feb/21/writing-video-games-can-narrative-be-as-important-as-gameplay.

IAmSp00n (2012). Journey – Gameplay / Playthrough. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bkL94nKSd2M.

Kabraxis (2013). Journey – Meeting A Stranger. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-MTC7p3qRw.

Life is Strange (2015). Life Is Strange Developer Diary – Creating Arcadia Bay. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVkLdxAPPJ0.

lolRenee (2013). Gone Home (Full Playthrough, No Commentary). Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SS5eQmRgBlY.

Marcelus Castle Rain (2014). Gone Home With Developers Commentaries #01. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dyhIGSSt31I.

Remo, C. (2013). See You Soon.

Wintory, A. (2012). Nascence.

Narrative Checkpoint

We’re at the halfway point for this Digital Artefact so here are a few updates since my pitch.

SUBJECT TO CHANGE

The biggest pieces of feedback from my pitch would have to have been the lack of research elaborated on within the post, as well as a failure to incorporate enough relevant material from the BCM215 lectures themselves. I hope to rectify that with this post.

Technological Context

“the independent video game is a form of free expression – not limited by the constraints of a major game publisher, or by what market research dictates. Thus, according to this narrative, the developer invests in the product his or her own ‘original’ creative input. In this view, his or her unique vision of game design is brought into the video game, making it a direct expression of personal, individual feelings and thoughts.”

(Ruffino 2012, p. 115)

From the quote above as well as my pitch, you can probably guess that I want to take a humanistic approach in the research of this artefact. The connection that is made between a creator and their game and simultaneously the game and player, is something of high interest to me, especially in regards to indie narrative games as they provide a unique opportunity for developers to incorporate something ‘personal’ into the game that can potentially be explored in a larger way within this context.

Structuralism Vs Post-Structuralism

My DA is interesting in the way that it doesn’t neatly fit into either the Structuralist or Post-Structuralist way of analysing these games.

On the surface my pitch and beta portray a structuralist framework for analysis, as my focus it to analyse these three games based on elements of their structure: their characters, story, and music.
However, beneath this analysis lies another layer of post-structuralism in which I am examining the affect these elements have on the player as well as their reception and connection to the developer.

I want to further investigate the psychological aspects of why these narratives and features have such an important role within the structure of the games themselves.

Follow for Updates

Twitter: @lu_suey
Insta: @lu.suey
Tumblr: @lusuey

References

GAME FOOTAGE

YouTube. (2019). Gone Home – Launch Trailer. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5KJzLsyfBI

YouTube. (2019). Journey Launch Trailer I Coming July 21 I PS4 Exclusive. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mU3nNT4rcFg

YouTube. (2019). Life is Strange – Launch Trailer. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mpRhaXfvG_0

STOCK FOOTAGE

YouTube. (2019). Sky Clouds Wind Heaven Weather Atmosphere High – Stock free footage. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wB_pv5WUlZU&list=PLx-qGAzjv13c00FYZMLAJm65WjsT3ZmDR&index=7

RESEARCH

Consalvo, Mia 2003. Zelda 64 and Video Game Fans A Walkthrough of Games, Intertextuality, and Narrative. 
Television & New Media. 4(3) 321–334.

Rose, M. (2013). How indies made an impact on a generation of game consoles. [Blog] Indie Games Plus. Available at: https://indiegamesplus.com/2013/11/how_indies_made_an_impact_on_a.

Ruffino, P. (2012). Narratives of independent production in video game culture. Indie, Eh?, 7(11), p.111

IMAGES

Flaticon. (2019). Twitter free vector icons designed by Freepik. [online] Available at: https://www.flaticon.com/free-icon/twitter_124021.

WordPress Swag Store. (2019). WordPress 3″Round Sticker. [online] Available at: https://mercantile.wordpress.org/product/wordpress-3round-sticker/.

The Underappreciated Impact of Indie Narrative Games

Indie narrative games such as Life is Strange, What Remains of Edith Finch, That Dragon Cancer and so on, have become an increasingly controversial and underappreciated form of video game in the past few years. They have however remained one of my favourite genres of games and thus have become my focus for this DA.

I plan on unpacking the structural aspects of these games as well as theorising how the almost sole reliance on narrative within these games affects the player.

Estimated Timeline for DA

From weeks 5-7 I will be posting a summary of each of the video essays to gain feedback on as well as engage with their prospective audiences. This gives you a chance to get involved in this project so be sure to follow this blog as well as my social media which I will link below.

Each of the three video essays will consistent of a deconstruction of one of the aforementioned topics, as well as how it applies to their assigned games (Video 1: Life is Strange etc.) which I will also be including my own gameplay of.

It is important to keep in mind however that this project is still in it’s very early stages of development and is expected to change throughout the development process.

Links Useful for Future Research

Follow for Updates

Twitter: @lu_suey
Insta: @lu.suey
Tumblr: @lusuey

References

Game Footage

YouTube. (2019). Gone Home – Launch Trailer. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5KJzLsyfBI [Accessed 16 Aug. 2019].

YouTube. (2019). Journey Launch Trailer I Coming July 21 I PS4 Exclusive. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mU3nNT4rcFg [Accessed 16 Aug. 2019].

YouTube. (2019). Life is Strange – Launch Trailer. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mpRhaXfvG_0 [Accessed 16 Aug. 2019].

YouTube. (2019). Night In The Woods Trailer – NEW DATE: FEBRUARY 21st. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u17kM8oSz3k [Accessed 16 Aug. 2019].

YouTube. (2019). OXENFREE: LAUNCH TRAILER. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NAhrOoNR4ng [Accessed 16 Aug. 2019].

YouTube. (2019). The Walking Dead: Episode 1 Launch Trailer. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N40uY51s5Z0 [Accessed 16 Aug. 2019].

YouTube. (2019). What Remains of Edith Finch Official Launch Trailer. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0kKF5f8nS0 [Accessed 16 Aug. 2019].

Stock Footage

YouTube. (2019). Sky Clouds Wind Heaven Weather Atmosphere High – Stock free footage. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wB_pv5WUlZU&list=PLx-qGAzjv13c00FYZMLAJm65WjsT3ZmDR&index=7 [Accessed 16 Aug. 2019].

Research

Buckler, M. (2018). A History of the Videogame Narrative. The Amherst Student. [online] Available at: https://amherststudent.amherst.edu/article/2012/10/31/history-videogame-narrative.html [Accessed 16 Aug. 2019].

Consalvo, Mia 2003. Zelda 64 and Video Game Fans A Walkthrough of Games, Intertextuality, and Narrative. 
Television & New Media. 4(3) 321–334.

YouTube. (2019). Fan Questions Answered By DONTNOD. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jPeq1NzxF0 [Accessed 16 Aug. 2019].

Images

Burning in Water. (2019). Burning in Water. [online] Available at: https://cathbarielle1976.wordpress.com/ [Accessed 16 Aug. 2019].

Flaticon. (2019). Twitter free vector icons designed by Freepik. [online] Available at: https://www.flaticon.com/free-icon/twitter_124021 [Accessed 16 Aug. 2019].

Full Bright Company. (2019). Gone Home. [online] Available at: https://fullbright.company/gonehome [Accessed 16 Aug. 2019].

Giant Bomb. (2019). Journey Review. [online] Available at: https://www.giantbomb.com/reviews/journey-review/1900-479/ [Accessed 16 Aug. 2019].

Imcclass.com. (2019). tumblr-logo. [online] Available at: https://imcclass.com/2012/10/04/tumblr-the-new-frontier-of-advertising/tumblr-logo/ [Accessed 16 Aug. 2019].

Instagram Brand. (2019). Instagram Brand Resources. [online] Available at: https://en.instagram-brand.com/assets/icons [Accessed 16 Aug. 2019].

WordPress Swag Store. (2019). WordPress 3″Round Sticker. [online] Available at: https://mercantile.wordpress.org/product/wordpress-3round-sticker/ [Accessed 16 Aug. 2019].