Saturday, July 2

Panel 6 Interactive Storytelling (Chair: Carlos Scolari)
10:00-10:45 Jesper Juul (Copenhagen/New York)
 

Abstract

It has long been argued that we behave paradoxically when we willingly seek out art – such as tragedies – that give us emotions that we otherwise find unpleasant. In such cases we may root for the protagonist, and we may on some level hope for a happier ending in which the protagonist survives, the sick get well, and so on, but we also accept that a tragedy must end tragically. Bad things happen, but they are beyond our control.

If we consider how this question plays out in video games, the paradox is doubled: how could a video game have a tragic ending? Why would we spend effort bringing about events that that we would prefer not to come about? It is clear that a player of video games does not need to condone the goals of the game protagonist, but games still tend to ask players to work for outcomes that are considered positive from the point of view of the same protagonist. Several theorists have made the argument that this renders video game tragedy impossible: who would want to play the role of Anna Karenina, struggling to make her commit suicide in order to complete the game?

In this talk I will argue that recent developments in video games show that the interactive nature of video games does not make tragedy impossible, but rather presents an entirely new type of tragedy.

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10:45-11:30 Michael Fuchs (Graz)
 

Abstract

Alan Wake (2010) is a video game that features a rather complex and highly meta-textual narrative that revolves around the titular Alan Wake, who discovers that his latest book manuscript turns into “reality”. This reality is not merely the result of his fiction, but a reality that uncannily resembles Twin Peaks. Alan Wake metaleptically jumps from the level of being the creator of the paradoxically fictional yet real world to being part of that very world and back, as the game plays games with the player by withholding crucial information that is only revealed bit by bit—a narrative technique similar to recent “puzzle films” that offer new forms of pleasure to the “amateur narratologists” (as Jason Mittell calls them) sitting in front of the screen.

The fact that the fictional town of Bright Falls is reminiscent of Twin Peaks presents not the only link between the game and television, since Alan Wake consists of several self-contained episodes within the larger story arch, including “previously on Alan Wake” segments opening episodes two to six. Finally, Alan Wake not only self-consciously remediates various other media (radio, literature, and movies), it also extends beyond the medium of the video game, as a prequel web mini-series was released prior to the game, and the game was adapted into a novel.

My paper will not only investigate the highly complex narrative of Alan Wake, which, from one perspective, is a story about writer’s block and the power of an author’s imagination and thus essentially about “old” media, but also show how through incorporating various media, both in the core text of the game and through ancillary texts, such as the prequel web mini-series Bright Falls, Alan Wake creates a unique blend of various media that both reflects and reflects on our contemporary mediascape.

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11:30-12:15 Marco Caracciolo (Bologna)
 

Abstract

One of the claims of contemporary, post-classical narratology is that narrative involves the presentation of the experience of one or more characters (Fludernik 1996; Palmer 2004; Herman 2009). In previous work, I have argued that such experience cannot be thought of as a stand-alone entity; it is always attributed and—to some extent—enacted by the recipient of a story, on the basis of his or her own past experiences.

In this paper, I would like to explore more fully the relationship between experience and narrative by contrasting the experience of reading a story with that of playing a story-driven videogame. In particular, I will focus on narrative sequences which present a character’s distorted experience (dreams, hallucinations, mental disorders, optical illusions, and so on). The choice of this motif is influenced by Martin Heidegger’s (1996, §32) idea that we become aware of the structure of our experience only when something disrupts the flow of our interaction with the world. Likewise, I will work on two assumptions: first, examining sequences which are likely to disrupt the experience of readers and players can yield important insights into our experiential engagement with stories; second, sequences that present a character’s distorted experience are likely to disrupt the experience of readers and players. My test bed will be provided by hallucinatory passages from Vladimir Nabokov’s The Defense and by dream sequences from the videogames Max Payne and Max Payne 2 (the title of this paper is taken from a player’s posting on a discussion forum on the first game).

Through these case studies, I aim to address the following questions: through what devices do these media (print narrative and videogames) present the distorted experience of a character, and how do they impose these distortions on readers and players? More in general, what are the consequences of the embodied interaction with the physical medium on the player’s experience, and how does the experience it creates differ from the reader’s experience?

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Panel 7 Spatial Storytelling (Chair: Marie-Laure Ryan)
14:00-14:45 Elke Huwiler (Amsterdam)
 

Abstract

Storytelling in theatre plays is one of the least theorized fields in narratology. In Performance Studies, other theoretical categories like “Embodiment”, “Performativity” or “Presence” are more important in analysis, especially when talking about present-day performances.

Yet, when talking about historical theatre, a lot of these other categories are simply not usable in analysis, since they demand an eye witness of the performance. Analysis of written performance witness testimonies and reconstructions of the actual performance of historical theatre is sometimes useful, yet more often than not quite incomplete and speculative. Hence, I would like to suggest narratological analysis as a useful tool to analyse historical performance texts.

Since narratives are a cognitive way of structuring everyday live happenings and processing social knowledge, narratological analysis of drama can tell us about how people of certain historical times tried to give meaning to their world, especially at times when performances were the most widespread form of sharing stories with a big audience otherwise quite illiterate.

In my paper, I would like to establish a theoretical frame for a narratological drama analysis of historical performance texts and apply this drama narratology to Swiss theatre plays of the 16th century.
Thereby, the focus will lie on the spatial dimension of historical storytelling in drama. What can we say today about how space was used in theatre performances of the time? How do stage plans contribute to our understanding of the spatial dimension of theatrical storytelling? And how can we conceptualize the spatial dimension of historical theatre on a textual level?

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14:45-15:30 Erwin Feyersinger (Insbruck)
 

Abstract

Augmented Reality, a “field … in which 3-D virtual objects are integrated into a 3-D real environment in real time” (Azuma 1997), is on the verge of becoming a significant cultural and aesthetic phenomenon. Due to the rapid technological evolution of smartphones, video projectors, video game consoles, and other electronics, it is no longer a “slightly futurological domain” (Ryan 2004). Despite this cultural significance, Augmented Reality is still a widely uncharted territory for the humanities. A narratological theory of Augmented Reality is an urgent desideratum since it offers an enormous potential for unique narrative strategies.

In this paper, I will focus on the use of space in Augmented Reality storyworlds. I will specifically test whether narratological concepts of space can be exported from similar media. Implementations of Augmented Reality merge material and virtual places to create hybrid environments. Due to the mobility of smartphones and head-mounted displays, the whole world is a potential setting for interactive Augmented Reality environments. Diegetic events in these environments are not only determined by general topographical features and architectonic details, but also by historical, social, and cultural connotations of a specificplace. As the recipient is able to move freely within the hybrid environment, the construction of the diegesis is furthermore highly individual and involves a strong feeling of presence. To develop a narratological framework for these and other spatial aspects of Augmented Reality, I will consider narrative theories of computer games, tourism studies, performance art, architecture, alternate reality games, and transmedia storytelling.

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Closing Remarks
15:30-16:00 Marie-Laure Ryan/Karl N. Renner/Jan-Noël Thon

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