3 years ago1,000+ Views
In the study of literature, for those unfamiliar with it, there are different "lenses" by which you can read an interpret a text. This isn't necessarily restricted to literature. In the academic sense, a 'text' can be anything from literature, to music, to film. Across all these different platforms, it is possible to view a text through any number of lenses.
It could be from a deconstructionist lens, a feminist lens, a queer studies lens, and on and on. There are a large number of different ways to interpret these texts. Some of them cross over. Some call for very specific viewings, scrutinizing very specific details.
In the same way, it is possible to examine the texts of video games. Games are constructed, on a narrative level, in many of the same ways as film and literature. There are conventions and tools that game developers use that bear similarities to authors and filmmakers.
A couple of lenses that are popularly employed are the authorial insertion lens and the audience participation/reader response lens. These mightn't be the proper terms for these lenses, but the concept is clear; you can view the text from the implied view of the creator (authorial insertion) and you can view the text from how you believe the audience (the reader) is supposed to interact with it.
Clearly, video games are easily viewed from within the lens of audience participation. As an interactive medium, most games require a pretty involved level of participation from its audience.
There are some games that are very aware of that fact, and so they make that involvement a crucial part of the unfolding narrative. Let's talk about one game in particular that makes heavy use of the audience's participation in the narrative.

(There are spoilers ahead for Metal Gear Solid 3)

Take this scene above. This is a still taken from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. This is the game's climax, where the player-character, Naked Snake, has to kill The Boss, his leader in the FOX Unit. It has been determined at this stage that she has defected to the Soviet Union and has been deemed a traitor to America. Snake is torn about the fact that he must defeat The Boss, as he is emotionally connected to her.
In a brilliant stroke of game design, once the battle with The Boss is over and Snake is victorious, Snake stands over her defeated body, his gun leveled at her head.
Then the game stops.
The game will not continue until the player consciously pulls the trigger, ending The Boss's life. In this instance, there is a perfect blending of audience and protagonist, as you are not so much playing Snake's story so much as you are actively influencing it. The game will remain stopped until you, the player, finally pull the trigger.
This instance speaks to idea of player interaction in games, and it hinges a narrative upon the necessary input of the player. Yes, even without this scene, the narrative cannot continue without player involvement; that's the nature of gaming. However, this moment is the one where the player is left without options for the evolving narrative. You simply have to kill The Boss.
The game forces you to make the conscious decision, knowing the emotional importance of The Boss to Naked Snake. Everything in the narrative, though, has told you that this is a necessary evil. The game takes advantage of knowing the player must kill The boss in order to continue, and it places heavy emotional significance on the moment, involving the player deeply with the narrative of the game.
This is something that films and literature just can't do; they cannot force the audience into the language of the film the way games can. They cannot put you into the narrative so immersively as games, and drive home the emotional relevance of moments like this. In a movie, there is a set level of narrative distance between the text and the reader. Same with books. However, that distance is drastically reduced in games, blurring the lines between narrative and reader. The reader, or player, is an intrinsic part of the narrative, and it takes artistry to recognize and capitalize on that fact.
1 comment
games do have that effect of immersing the player in the story. it's like FF7 when sephiroth kills aeris. even though it was a non interactive event, by the time it took place in the narrative you already had some emotional investment in her character. The way they pulled it off was something I'd never experienced in any other media