Ludonarratives: Narrative Complexity in Video Games

We are pleased to announce the call for papers of the next issue of L’Atalante, under the title of “Ludonarratives: Narrative complexity in video games”, which is open to contributions. Executive Issue Editors: Víctor Navarro Remesal and Marta Martín Núñez.

In recent years, narratives in video games have grown increasingly complex, evolving from serving merely as a context designed to present the rules and mechanics of the game towards the development of much deeper and more complicated structures, plots and characters, and the exploration of new thematic perspectives. Narrative complexity is already a central part of the gaming experience in games like Telling Lies (Sam Barlow, 2019), Life is Strange (Dontnod Entertainment, 2015), What Remains of Edith Finch (Giant Sparrow, 2017), and VR experiences like The Invisible Hours (Tequila Works, 2017). Having moved past the debate between narratology and ludology (Frasca, 2003; Aarseth, 2019), there is a consensus among researchers that video games should be analysed as cultural artefacts that can harbour a complex narrative development as part of their design. In this sense, academics like Brenda Laurel (1986, 1991), Janet Murray (1997), Mary Laure Ryan (2001, 2004, 2006), Henry Jenkins (2004), Susana Tosca (2004), Clara Fernández-Vara (2009), or more recently Hartmut Koenitz et al. (2015), have developed a theoretical pathway that examines the specific features of narratives in interactive digital media, including ludofictional worlds (Planells, 2015), specific forms of seriality (Cuadrado, 2016), and complex entertainment structures (Pérez-Latorre, 2015).

The Notebook section of this issue of L’Atalante proposes to explore ways of understanding audiovisual narratives from the perspective of the narrative design of video games. This narrative design, partly due to the breaks in linearity in digital environments, ties in with contemporary trends in narrative complexity like the mindgame film, which favour ambiguity and obstructed communication (Loriguillo-López, 2019). However, the requirements of the gameplay experience and the agency of players mean that narrative systems cannot operate in the same way as they do in media like cinema, and that specific research is needed to analyse it. In particular, we are interested in approaches that address the narrative complexity that arises both in the layers of structured (scripted) narratives and in emergent narratives (resulting from the gameplay experience), which may be the product of the classical mode of storytelling (Propp, 1928; Campbell, 1949; Greimas, 1987), or of the ruptures introduced by the post-classical mode of narration (Elsaesser & Buckland, 2002; Thanouli, 2009; Mittel, 2015).

Issues that submissions could address include:

  • The elements of classical storytelling in the video game medium
  • Non-linear narrative structures and choice design
  • Ethical video game design and its narrative implications
  • Construction of characters in dialogue with their role as avatars and player identification or interpretation
  • Relationships between game design and narrative design
  • Emergent narratives arising out of the gameplay experience
  • Environmental storytelling and the capacity of art-based narrative evocation
  • Ludonarrative analysis from the perspective of the textual materiality of popular games
  • The spatial-temporal construction of the game world and its narrative effects
  • The influence of the changes and tensions in post-classical cinematic narration—like spatial or temporal fragmentation, time loops, split personalities, the presence of tormented amnesiac characters or unreliable narrators—on the narrative layer of video games
  • Fictional structures of the video game as part of transmedia and media mix projects.

The deadline for article proposals for the “Notebook” section is September the 1st 2020. The issue will be published in January 2021. Contributions in English and Spanish are welcome. You can find the detailed information here.

We sincerely hope that this information may be of your interest. Please feel free to share this call among your contacts. Thank you in advance.

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Ludonarratives: Narrative complexity in video games