‘Already Out There’ How Players Understand their narrative in online games

By Esther MacCallum-Stewart

Players effects on game worlds and narratives are pretty limited. This talks about the few ways it happens with limited examples.


Looking at the narrative in online games since it has players manipulating narratives with others. Games encourage experiment in play. It subverts the game text to do machinima, faqs, griefing, and so on.

Online they still in flux between single and multiplayer. When something is given such as a rape quest in Age of Conan you are not sure afterwards what the standards are.

Most online worlds are feudal worlds (even space ones, like Eve Online) – joint narratives between groups halt at this point. “Those people beat us” etc. – how do they come together and understand these worlds? Part of the argument is they probably don’t.

There are examples of even if the players take things away from the game, stuff can go back into it. In WoW there is a quest where an imposter (Onyxia) at court and can be revealed. This character is everywhere simultaneously – and no persistence – kill her at court, in a raid or see her head out side on a pike – all of them are always there. Time is shifting all around and players have no influence in the text.

With Machinima, players do try and explain why some people are not removed from the game world. A machinima has a blood elf try and kill this imposter but fails. There is a love of the story and mythos there.

A lot are upset it doesn’t work and so some give it reason or get annoyed.

So what changes – Wrath of the Lich King adds world changing events, but also permanently removes Onyxia. Assumed that time moved on. Fans were not happy – various complaints. Blizzard bring her back as an anniversary event and so forth.


Q – So how many players care?

There are players who are “I don’t care”. Players don’t have the same level of involvement – they might just want more loot. Completely acknowledge that point.

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