Panel 4.2 Pattern Constructions of Video Games
Dawn Stobbart, Lancaster University, UK, “Telling Tales with Technology: Remediating Folklore and Myth through the Videogame Alan Wake”
As the technology used to create videogames evolves, videogame designers are able to tell more complex stories, supporting the understanding that ‘many video games are stories, as well as games’ ( (Egenfeldt Nielson, Heide Smith, & Pajares Tosca, 2008, p. 204) and in these videogame narratives, the stories being told transcend the medium they are created in. This allows traditional themes, structures, and narratives to be remediated and included in videogame narratives, which in turn enable their continued recognition and survival in the 21st century.
In this paper, I analyse the 2010 videogame Alan Wake, a narrative based videogame in the Gothic tradition of Stephen King and Dean Koontz, which makes frequent use of intertextuality in its construction, such as Twin Peaks within its construction. As well as using contemporary examples, the game also uses traditional international folklore in its narrative, with the antagonist Barbara Jagger being recognisable as the Russian folk tale character Baba Yaga, for example. Using the concepts proposed and elucidated by Vladimir Propp and Joseph Campbell, I will first establish that the videogame offers a remediation of several traditional mythical narratives in one contemporary videogame, before going on to use the classifications found in The Morphology of the Folktale and The Hero with a Thousand Faces to place this videogame within the folklore and mythical tradition. The overarching aim of the paper is to show folk tales are being shared, not only by those who know the tales, but by a wider global community who otherwise might never interact with them. These folklore stories are being kept alive by their inclusion into a popular contemporary videogame, breathing new life into tales no longer deemed relevant by a 21st century audience.
Bionote: Dawn Stobbart is in the final stages of PhD study at Lancaster University’s English Department. She has a Ba (Hons) in English Literature and a Ma in Contemporary Literature, and is currently focusing on the way that videogames function as a carrier for narrative and its role within this medium as part of her PhD study.
Tom Brassington, Lancaster University, UK, “Inheriting Traditions: Comparing hero construction and landscape in the Oddworld and Skyrim Video Games”
A scrawny, three fingered, alien cannot exist in a fantastical environment. An armour-clad hero in a country-size industrial complex seems wrong. Skyrim and Oddworld are vastly different places, extending to the point where their landscapes cannot allow the protagonists to co-exist. Why is this?
The video game format is relatively new, implying an openness to experimentation with seemingly incompatible elements. This paper begins to explore why hero construction seems intrinsically linked to spatial construction in video games. I compare Oddworld Inhabitants’ Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee and Abe’s Exoddus with Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, focusing on the construction of the protagonists and the worlds they inhabit. Marina Warner’s ‘Boys Will Be Boys: The Making of the Male’ in relation to Skyrim’s gameplay allows for thorough exploration of her idea that video games allow men to experience hyper-masculinity. Whilst Skyrim allows for full character customisation, certain factors cause the protagonist to be interpreted as male. For example, the player/character interaction due to first person perspective gameplay, and the target demographic being men 16-49. There are in-game factors that suggest a human(oid) preference to character construction, and inclination towards maleness. Is landscape a factor?
Abe, the protagonist of the first two Oddworld games, isn’t customisable. However, the main difference Oddworld has with Skyrim is Oddworld’s distinct politicisation of space. There are overt anti-capitalist themes. The villains are businessmen. They rule the continent of Mudos, having enslaved the other inhabitants. Abe is a former slave. He doesn’t want to be a saviour and gets killed instantly; his only skill is that he can possess enemies. Any suggestion of complementarity between these characters and their original landscapes seems laughable, yet players can quite easily own and play both. The games seem to inherit modes from wildly different traditions, suggesting the importance of cultural and literary inheritance to video games, despite the possibilities this new narrative mode has.
Bionote: Thomas Brassington is just finishing his undergraduate degree at Lancaster University. He is going on to study an MA in English Literary Studies at Lancaster, with a contemporary literature and culture focus. Currently, he is writing his undergraduate dissertation on the image of the paedophile in literature and film.