Skip navigation

Jenkins introduces the idea environmental story telling where we view the game designers as narrative architects rather than story tellers. With environmental story telling, the experience can be enhanced in several ways:

Environmental storytelling creates the preconditions for an immersive narrative experience in at least one of four ways: spatial stories can evoke pre-existing narrative associations; they can provide a staging ground where narrative events are enacted; they may embed narrative information within their mise-en-scene; or they provide resources for emergent narratives.

With the example of Star Wars games, as Jenkins points out, the player is already aware of the narrative and plot structure of the story. Though the game, the player has his/her own unique experience of moving through space while at the same time is herded and forced through a specific path that follows the pre-existing narrative. However, there are also games like Myst that we played earlier on this semester where the player is not confined to a narrative structure and the narrative is actually decided by the player him/herself depending on how he/she plays the game. Myst doesn’t have one set ending, there are several ways in which the narrative can go, making different players’ experiences unique. However, despite this perceived freedom to wander and have control over one’s “Fate” in Myst, it is still has many different boundaries that “herd” the player to follow one path or another. For example, a very simple example of this “herding” is that there is literally only a certain physical path the player can walk on, one can’t go through the trees or walk around the cabin or the lighthouse. However, this might be due to its outdatedness and the fact the game was created when technology was just starting to pick up. More modern video games such as Skyrim embody this same type of wandering freedom where it seems like the player is not confined by a pre-existing fate or plot.

I thought it was also a very interesting when Jenkin’s idea of game space and environmental storytelling  was put into context of the Hunger Games in lecture. Hunger Games is a prime example of “environmental storytelling” and the idea that these game makers are not “story tellers” but actually “narrative architects”. In this movie, the contestants are in a real physical world that doesn’t just end in certain areas like Skyrim where the world just drops off into nothing, but the game makers can mold the world as the game progresses. For example, when Katniss wanders too far, they create a forrest fire to drive her closer to the other players. In addition, when they wanted the game to end, the game makers had the ability to insert dangerous animals decrease the day light to make it into a night setting to make it more difficult and dramatic. Thus, the game players in the Hunger Games were quite literally the narrative architects since they dictated certain aspects of how the game would go.

“game consoles should be regarded as machines for generating compelling spaces, that their virtual playspaces have helped to compensate for the declining place of the traditional backyard in contemporary boy culture, and that the core narratives behind many games center around the struggle to explore, map, and master contested spaces”

“Game designers don’t simply tell stories; they design worlds and sculpt spaces.”