Future Cinema

Course Site for Future Cinema 1 (and sometimes Future Cinema 2: Applied Theory) at York University, Canada

New Narrative Flow

Botler’s evaluation of developments in narrative forms is interesting- but I believe it is also generative to recall Barthes’ The Structuralist Activity to understand how myths are repurposed and narratives conveyed. In games such as Doom, interactivity is promoted and events adhere to a kind of flow that the user participates in. However, Doom and many other games borrow from cinema by employing both a cinematic photo-realism to increase immersion, and by borrowing cinematic narrative conventions. This narration essentially breaks flow with cinematic cut scenes and leads to a final point of achievement. In response to Speilberg’s early claims, I believe games have achieved the ability to induce catharsis through emotional responses and engagements at a level similar to film. With developments such as the Unreal 3 Engine which produces lifelike facial features and expressions that allow characters to convey deeper emotions, narratives and identifications have become more emotional. The Last of Us is an example of this development. The issue here is that catharsis is produced by adopting narrative structures that do not produce flow. The flow of these games is interrupted by cinematic cut sequences, and an ultimate conclusion. Personally, once a game ends- after the final level to a concluding cinematic sequence – I feel a sense of lack- where I want to continue but am unable to. I am then left to wander the game world aimlessly as flow was linked to the progression of a cinematic narrative. In order to maintain flow in a game, and produce catharsis, a new narrative structure must be employed that will both accommodate and maintain a constant stream of interactivity.

Wed, February 5 2014 » FC2_2014

3 Responses

  1. cowdery February 5 2014 @ 4:24 pm

    Yes it is true that certain games emotionality is being enhanced by software that allows for more human like facial animation. However this realism is only part of the answer that Speilberg and others were asking. Many animated films that address human realism in a different way still maintain high levels of emotional involvement. Many a tear is shed during Wall E for example. So story itself is capable of moving us, regardless of realism. That said realism is clearly a goal of many games and is linked, in some ways, to immersion. I wonder what kind of non media focused research has been done on Story. What is a story beyond our current structural comprehension? I love the idea of new AR storytelling and games but still wonder – what is alternative storytelling?

  2. Raheem February 5 2014 @ 5:41 pm

    Yes good point- it is story that offers catharsis rather than moments of gameplay. The “realism” could also attempt to maintain a higher level of investment in avatars or characters involved in gameplay.

    Regarding alternative storytelling, Bolter quotes Janet Murray who claims:
    “Interactive narrative would unite the essence of the digital medium with the essence of the human storytelling. It would be radically new and yet affirm the continuity of human nature, the universality of human storytelling.”

    The only game that comes to mind here is Skyrim – there are no cinematic sequences, only gameplay. While the game has its structural limits, it is an advanced open world game that allows for agency in terms of exploration, objectives, and character. There is an illusion of freedom that is truly immersive as it produces the feeling of agency one has when exploring real world environments. Skyrim is relying on expectations one has when engaging with a genre (in this case fantasy) to maintain this sense of freedom as various journeys players take through the game- though unique- will be informed by existing conventions. If human storytelling is based on the retelling of myths- while the narrative is interactive its structure is based on the human tendency to retell myths within ones culture.

  3. skhayam February 6 2014 @ 1:37 am

    Alternative storytelling has occurred somewhat successfully in a few media forms, almost all of which have to resort back to the internet and that has to do with a medium’s ability to replicate and expand. The reason that this system of storytelling works so well on the internet is due to the internet’s ability to create and release new information (whether through user-generated content or content created by the creator), which can be released in real time to an aware audience. This is missing from all (or almost all) other media. I have personally never played Skyrim, but (and correct me if I’m wrong, because I’m not familiar with modern gaming’s online capabilities) there is still a finite amount of time and space to explore. If someone were to spend every hour of every day exploring every part of the game, a time would eventually be reached where the game has been fully explored and every action would be a repeated action. This is not, however, true of something like youtube, which is creating six years worth of video every day.