Experiential Narrative in Game Environments

By Gordon Calleja

New terms for describing narrative stories of characters. I guess this is necessary, I’ve not got enough info on the subject to tell.


Narrative studies is looked down upon (with a slide of “beating the proverbial dead horse?”).

Which games? Most things we call games are not really games. There are families – resemblances to each other but not the same.

Virtual Environments < -> Virtual Game Environments < -> Games.

Will be addressing 3d games and similar things, but not hearts and other ones. So, Narratology – the definitions by Eskelinen is applied directly to literary works. There needs to be one built specifically for game narratives in mind.

Using the name Scripted Narrative and Alterbiography. Separate things intertwined.

How do you distinguish the involvement with the game story? It is not something done just by the game object or just by the imagination. Alterbiographies are about something, someone or a group of things.

Alterbiography of Minatures is higher level control – Medieval Total War 2 taking control of nations not a specific entity, or The Sims, or similar. You leap between different interactions (general, army, commander).

Alterbiography of Entity is the player taking control of one character. Generally a story based game like Max Payne, taking control of Max.

Alterbiography of Self is the control of yourself – generally First Person games, up to the player to set the character out.

Scripted Narrative vs Alterbiography is nicely told in Oblivion – open ended, lots of objects and entities to interact with. Designed to be a rich story generated potential.

Briefly; Alterbiography is assembled from the experiences in the game. The game rules don’t hinder this, but help. This applies to even unseen characters the player is acting as – such as football managers in management games. It can have simulated things. (There were some other bits I didn’t note).


Q – Any alternatives for the name Alterbiography?

Emmative Narrative was an alterative but it doesn’t sound great – it emanates from the players mind and the game. There was also the name assembled narrative used previously.

Trying to avoid emergent narrative, since it is used elsewhere.

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