The Evolution of Narrative in Video Games – A Theoretical Framework

My term project looks at the evolution of video games and how they have succeeded in expanding beyond their primary demographic of hard-core gamers at the expense of traditional media.  The three most important developments in this space have been the introduction of narratives in game design, more powerful computers, and diffusion of innovative technologies like the Nintendo Wii and Microsoft Kinect.  Theories from Christensen and Fidler will help support my argument in the present and future sections of my paper.

The video game is growing.  To do so, it has to expand beyond its core user group by shifting their attention to undershot and overshot markets that were previously ignored – namely female gamers and adults, which it has done in part through narratives that appeal to their sensibilities.  Christensen’s theories on how companies successfully target these markets will be important to examine in the context of my argument.

At the same time, video games are contending with old media of television and movies.  Christensen’s theory on new market disruptions will help explain how old media companies have responded to this disrupter.  A big part of the film business has been to make movies based on video games.  Some companies acquire start-ups or develop competing businesses.  I will apply Christensen’s thinking to how studios such as Sony and Warner Bros. have used their expertise in storytelling to the upstart medium of video games.

Fidler will influence my understanding of how old media might change to contend with the increasing time people are playing games and demanding more interactivity with their entertainment.  One harbinger of a potential shift is the growth of 3-D films to give audiences a more immersive experience.  While this technology still does not make the movie-going experience interactive, it has forced filmmakers to re-evaluate how they create their stories and perhaps will evolve into something we cannot yet imagine.

My timeline has remained fairly true to my original thinking.  Though I thought that I would spend more time exploring the rise of video games in the 1970s, I will likely just touch on a few key developments from that time period before concentrating on the introduction of basic storylines such as Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda.  Then I will look at the cinematic cut-scenes that became more ubiquitous in the 1990s and early 21st Century.  My future will concentrate on the newer technologies that allow for a deeper, more immersive experience.

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2 Responses to The Evolution of Narrative in Video Games – A Theoretical Framework

  1. Hi, Josh – you might also think of the evolution of gaming – at least in the big company sense – as a form of sustaining innovation. For example, Second Life came from outside the what I think of as the “big guys” (Sony, Nintendo, MSFT) – right? Would it be too cynical to offer that the big guns (big money entertainment) co-opted the innovators?

  2. Pingback: Project Methodologies « COM546 : Evolutions

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