Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Narrative Aesthetics in Video Games

by Deniz Denizel (Volume editor) Deniz Eyüce Sansal (Volume editor) Tuna Tetik (Volume editor)
©2021 Edited Collection 384 Pages


Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Narrative Aesthetics in Video Gamesis a collection of contemporary research and interpretation that explores the narrative structures in video games and ludonarrative content design in related media. Featuring coverage of a broad range of topics, including narrative theory, game studies, history of video games, and interdisciplinary studies, this book is ideally designed for scholars, researchers, intellectuals, media professionals, game developers, entrepreneurs, and students who wish to enhance their understanding of the relationship and correlation of video games, narrativity, and aesthetics.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Acknowledgements
  • Table of Contents
  • Foreword (Raine Koskimaa)
  • Narrative Aesthetics in Video Games: An Introduction (Tuna Tetik)
  • Storytelling in the Age of Video Games: The Fall of Traditional Storytelling and the Rise of Multidimensionality (George Vasilikaris)
  • Jumanji Brought into Reality: Game as Drama, Drama as Game (Tuna Tetik, Dilay Özgüven, and Ece Arıhan)
  • Fallout: Following the Footsteps of Apocalypse1 (Deniz Denizel)
  • Living Narrative Worlds: Assemblage and Multistability within Ian Cheng’s Emissaries Trilogy (Andrew Bailey)
  • “Mining for Lies”: Enacting the Player Style through Performing Strategies in Archival Narratives (Ágnes Karolina Bakk)
  • Use of Film Language in Full-Motion Video Games (Naz Almaç)
  • Extension through Narrative: Spider-Man 4 in the Context of Representation of the Superhero in Video Games (Tuna Tetik)
  • From Press Start to Prologue: An Analysis of Game Opening Titles (Güven Çatak and İpek Torun)
  • Ludonarrative Dissonance in Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (Yavuz Demirbaş)
  • An Analysis of the Real-Time Strategy Games: The Nineties (Pedro Rito)
  • “Would You Stop Changing My Games?”: Structures of Narrative Discourse in Video Games (Richard Fejes)
  • Last Day of June: Work of Mourning and Narrative Effects (Alessandra Micalizzi)
  • Exploring Digital Games as Post-Human Systems (Oğuz Özgür Karadeniz)
  • Is Monty Python a Role-Playing Game? (Ertuğrul Süngü)
  • From Reverence to Recreation: The Transformation of Indian Epic Figures into Characters in Video Games (Sony Jalarajan Raj and Nithin Kalorth)
  • Video Games as Contemporary Storytelling Machines (Melda Öncü)
  • Narrative Aesthetics in Video Games: A Conclusion (Deniz Denizel)
  • Afterword (Güven Çatak)
  • List of Figures
  • List of Tables
  • Contributor Biographies


Video games are all around us, and recently, because of the Covid-19 pandemic and consequent lock-downs and other limitations to social gatherings, their importance has only been emphasized. There is an undeniable power in games to entertain, to move us emotionally, to challenge, to provide us with spectacular worlds to explore. Playing games is a meaningful activity as such, but games also deliver meanings for players to interpret and to reflect upon.

Much of the allure and significance of games are tied to the stories and story-worlds they convey. At the early phase of game studies, there was a strong need to emphasize the specificity of games as a media form and focus more on their ludic aspects rather than the narrative elements. Today, game studies provide a firm theoretical support for ludonarrative approaches to various media contents. This volume at hand is an excellent example of how this kind of approach can be fruitful also in dealing with films (Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Jumanji, in this case), and interactive TV series (Black Mirror: Bandersnatch).

The editors have managed to put together, as the title suggests, a truly multidisciplinary volume importantly shedding light on the narrative aesthetics in video games. The essays address both best-selling big game productions and indie-developed art games. The authors analyze selected games, but there are also discussions on specific game genres. Importantly, there are also more theoretical takes on the phenomenon of ludonarratives, from placing video games as “post-human systems” to “multidimensional storytelling” and “storytelling machines,” but also redefining the conceptual approaches to the narrative discourses in video games.

There is definitely a need for this kind of update on the narrative aesthetics of video games, and the following chapters are providing interesting and intriguing discussions on the ways video games and other ludonarratives are meaningful in -and for- contemporary culture, and how they convey meanings to their players.

Raine Koskimaa

Professor of Contemporary Culture Studies

University of Jyvaskyla, Finland.

Narrative Aesthetics in Video Games: An Introduction

Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Narrative Aesthetics in Video Games includes a collection of contemporary research and particular interpretations that explore and examine the complicated and complex narrative structures in video games and ludonarrative content design in related media. The book covers many definitive and comprehensive chapters on narrative analysis of video games within multidisciplinary perspectives. From Aristoteles to Netflix, the narrative structures and ways of storytelling have been evolved in several media, including verbal stories, theatre, literature, motion pictures, television series, and games. For many years the transformation of narrative storytelling has offered the audience a wide range of positions. Especially, video games and interactive movies provide the player and the audience the active participation in the narrative. In this regard, contemporary video games have become significant assets, which include complicated narratives to enjoy players. Besides, the narrative structures of video games and explanatory demo parts of the games have put the player in the viewer’s position. Ironically, television series and interactive movies have presented a multidimensional chair of both the viewer and the decision-maker to the audience. Each position, including the player, the viewer, and the audience, could be defined as the experiencer of contemporary stories in multiple media due to narrative structures’ rising complexity of each kind of digital content. Therefore, narrative storytelling, contemporary video games, and interactive movies have begun to be merged in particular crossroads.

The book explores these specific junction points of video games through their narrative structures. From the cornerstones of narrative storytelling in Ancient Greek to our modern and high-tech world’s video games and interactive movies, especially on SVODs, both players, viewers, and the audience have been liable to follow a protagonist. Nonetheless, the dynamics are more complicated, and the stage is more crowded than ever. Our experience in narrative storytelling has been changing. The players and viewers have become more active than ever in contemporary video games. Both positions of the players and the viewers have been transformed from the agents who experience the gameplay to be the decision-makers in multilayered narrative structures of video games.

Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Narrative Aesthetics in Video Games specifically focuses on the complex and contemporary narrative structures of video games, the relation of gameplays to narrative structure and enriched gaming ←19 | 20→experience, and the changing position of the players critically and empirically. Even though the book’s main orient examines the video games within a critical and an empirical discourse, various contents and several genres both in video games, and different media related to narrative structures of video games and counterpart experiences are included. The book offers the readers contemporary and critical research on video games, which could be seen as the complex narratives, ways of storytelling in video games, and the narrative contents-offered gameplay experiences in several media.

George Vasilikaris approaches the video game as our age’s one of the storytelling media in the chapter titled “Storytelling in the Age of Video Games: The Fall of Traditional Storytelling and the Rise of Multidimensionality.” The chapter questions the potential shift in modern storytelling norms would be in relation to video game storytelling. Vasilikaris analyzes traditional storytelling and our age’s multidimensionality through the narrative structures of video games to reveal differences and similarities between Aristotelean narratology and video game storytelling.

Tuna Tetik, Dilay Özgüven, and Ece Arıhan analyze the movie called Jumanji (1995) through the gameplay experience of the (Jumanji) board game in the movie and the actual board game, Jumanji, in the chapter called “Jumanji Brought into Reality: Game as Drama, Drama as Game.” They examine the movie’s narrative structure regarding devilish obstacles and challenges in the movie, and the rules and gameplay experiences of the actual board game. The chapter approaches the Jumanji board game in the movie as the movie’s main antagonist through the movie’s narrative analysis with the help of Tzvetan Todorov, Syd Field, and Blake Snyder. They also investigate the actual board game Jumanji’s gameplay to analyze the board game and the movie within the perspective of Janet Murray.

Deniz Denizel excavates Fallout (1997) within the narrative structure of the game, pop culture references, and the contextual relationship with several sources through many concepts from the disciplines of art history, literature, philosophy of science, and postmodern theories in the chapter called “Fallout: Following the Footsteps of Apocalypse.” Denizel scans the ontological layers of Fallout and analyzes the game’s relation to Uchronia, Futurism, Technological Determinism, retro-Futurism, post-Apocalypse, Futurology, Anachronism, Rhizome, Asymptote, Simulation, Infon, Multiphrenia, and the Clash of Civilizations. The chapter would contribute to the field by harmonizing the game’s characteristics on the balance between reality and fictionality.

In the chapter called “Living Narrative Worlds: Assemblage and Multistability within Ian Cheng’s Emissaries Trilogy,” Andrew Bailey explores the effect of the ←20 | 21→automatism and AI on video game ontology and aesthetics by an extended analysis of Ian Cheng’s game art trilogy Emissaries (2015–2017). The chapter investigates the Emissaries’ crucial points, structurally, as a self-playing game and, theoretically, as a living game world. Bailey contributes to the field to broaden a new perspective in the examination of video games as non-human or post-human assemblages, and in effect, work to de-emphasize anthropocentric essentialisms that only allow for games to function as reactive systems that are reliant on human agency.

Ágnes Karolina Bakk presents that the genre of story exploration makes use of newly adopted elements from theatre, and significantly its intimacy in the chapter titled “Mining for Lies: Enacting the Player Style Through Performing Strategies in Archival Narratives.” The story exploration games provide the player a relatively passive way to experience the story world even though several dramaturgical conventions create new possibilities to interpret and analyze these games from the perspective of the medium of theatre. Bakk argues that the archival narratives go beyond the interactive cinema through the analysis in the chapter.

In the chapter called “Use of Film Language in Full Motion Video Games,” Naz Almaç examines the ways of film language in full-motion video games based on an analysis of the game titled Her Story (2015). The chapter argues that game developers have tended to merge narrative devices of filmmaking and full-motion video games. Almaç reveals an examination of the video game from the perspective of film theory and the narrative structures of interactive and audio-visual experiences.

Tuna Tetik examines Spider-Man video game in PS4 (with his naming Spider-Man 4) as an impactful narrative content in the expansion of the Spider-Man story-world in the chapter called “Extension through Narrative: Spider-Man 4 in the Context of Representation of the Superhero in Video Games.” Tetik argues that Spider-Man 4 offers the players to experience a re-created and expanded narrative in a familiar but distinctive story-world. With this regard, the chapter analyzes the gameplay of Spider-Man 4 to highlight the specificity of the game within the whole superhero genre in several mediums.

In the chapter titled “From Press Start to Prologue: An Analysis of Game Opening Titles,” Güven Çatak and İpek Torun’s study focuses on analyzing video game opening titles, adopting methods from the categorization of opening-titles both in cinema and television. The chapter demonstrates the interaction between movies and games in terms of game opening titles within the narrative and aesthetic terms. Çatak and Torun present an overview of the development of the film and video game opening titles and analysis of video game opening titles concerning the categorization of opening titles in cinema and television.←21 | 22→

Yavuz Demirbaş approaches the stand-alone movie called Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (2018) in the universe of Black Mirror television series (2011–present) as an interactive motion picture regarding ludonarrative dissonance in the chapter titled “Ludonarrative Dissonance in Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.” Games and stories could be accepted as two distinct and incomputable intellectual properties from a ludological perspective. The chapter examines how Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, as an interactive movie, causes the ludonarrative dissonance by elaborating on different perspectives of ludonarratives. Demirbaş researches a variety of readings of ludonarrative dissonance to analyze Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.

In the chapter titled “An Analysis of the Real-Time Strategy Games: The Nineties,” Petro Rito presents a scoping review related to video games of the genre real-time strategy. The chapter primarily reveals several video games associated with the strategy game genre and real-time strategy subgenre. The study approaches these types of games as dynamic narratives and more complicated content in controlling all elements of the game. Significantly, Rito explores the diversity of the formal elements, which makes up the RTS, identifies some of the initiatives that make use of RTS for research on certain topics throughout the critical analysis of real-time strategy as a particular genre, crucial cornerstones, and development strategies.

Richard Fejes explores walking simulators as a genre of video games closely connected to literary traditions in the chapter titled “Would You Stop Changing My Games? Structures of Narrative Discourse in Video Games.” The chapter presents a triangular structure of the interpretative process. Fejes describes the three main interlocking elements of the meaning-making process, including the narratorial, the actional, and the spatial dimensions. The discussion in the chapter approaches these transgressive instances between each of the three dimensions.

Alessandra Micalizzi presents a narrative analysis of the Last Day of June, a game in which the plot develops around the experience of grief in the chapter titled “Last Day of June: Work of Mourning and Narrative Effects.” The chapter focuses on the game’s pedagogical effects, narrative choices of players, experiencing the grief in gameplay. Micalizzi offers a point of view on the positive effects of mediated and controlled emotional experiences by using a game as a moratory context in the experience of loss.

Oğuz Özgür Karadeniz examines digital games as cybernetic systems that can involve exchanges of audio-visual, tactile, and textual information between human and non-human agents in the chapter titled “Exploring Digital Games as Post-Human Systems.” Karadeniz critically analyzes digital games as post-human systems. The chapter presents a discussion on how this interplay of information ←22 | 23→and signifiers is also ideological as it exemplifies an algorithmic control over access to parts of narrative content that is characteristic of contemporary society.

Ertuğrul Süngü questions how the movie called Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) works as an RPG by discussing and analyzing the movie’s RPG elements in the chapter titled “Is Monty Python a Role-Playing Game?Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a well-known and unique example of surreal humor performed by the popular British comedy group Monty Python. Süngü examines the characterizations in the movie, the narrative structures of the movie related to both RPG and live-action role-playing game, the connection of the comedy group’s sense of humor to storytelling on the edge of different mediums.

In the chapter called “From Reverence to Recreation: The Transformation of Indian Epic Figures into Characters in Video Games,” Sony Jalarajan Ray and Nithin Kalorth specifically analyze several video games like Asura’s Wrath, Unrest, Hanuman: The Boy Warrior and Gurubhakt Ekalavya, and other mobile-based flash video games are popular in Indian and overseas markets. They prefer to refer to India as a repertoire of myths and traditions. The chapter argues that there is a dramatic change in Indian epic figures into characters in video games. The chapter includes a critical analysis through these kinds of video games with theoretical approaches of Carl Gustave Jung’s myth and unconscious, and Claude Levi-Strauss’ structural study of myths theory of decoding myth.

Melda Öncü prefers to define video games as our age’s storytelling devices in the chapter titled “Video Games as Contemporary Storytelling Machines.” The chapter includes the developments in the video games’ narrative structures and the unique features of video game storytelling. From postmodernism to post-industrialism and the digital age, video games are analyzed regarding interactive narrative structures to reveal the position and potential of video games as contemporary storytelling machines.

Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Narrative Aesthetics in Video Games aims to contribute to the field to broaden new perspectives and understandings by contemporary research, critical and empirical analysis in the chapters. As editors, we present our kindest gratitude to our authors for their comprehensive and contemporary studies in the book. Besides, we will be pleased to inspire new research and contributions of our readers in the field of game studies and narratology.

Tuna Tetik

Doctor of Cinema and Media Studies,

Bahcesehir University, İstanbul.

←24 | 25→

George Vasilikaris

Storytelling in the Age of Video Games:

The Fall of Traditional Storytelling and the Rise of Multidimensionality

Abstract: Storytelling has always been an intrinsic part of human nature even from ancient times, as people considered it to be a way to unite through common experiences. Through the course of time, people strived to tell intricate stories in more elaborate ways, continually seeking ways to idealize the narrative methods and media. Consequently, as societies progressed so did the storytelling methods; constantly evolving and reaching unprecedented levels of immersion. This chapter will provide insight on video games as a storytelling medium, addressing the ways they can be “read” and how they managed to gradually detach themselves from previously existing media, thus indicating a potential shift in modern storytelling norms. To do so, the chapter will provide an empirical analysis of four video games, each corresponding to a stage of the Greek Tragedy, in an attempt to weave the Aristotelean Theory into video games, while construing their differences and similarities.

Keywords: Video Games, Narrative, Philosophy, Greek Tragedy, Aristotle, Mimesis, Diegesis, Catharsis


Plato, Aristotle, and the Homo Narrans

Storytelling has always been of great importance for humankind and an essential part of its nature even from primitive times (Yılmaz & Ciğerci, 2018, p. 1). Throughout the years, technology provided us with various media to satisfy this need including books, music, cinema, and more recently, video games. This chapter will delve into the long history of storytelling and compare the ways stories were narrated in the past, while also drawing parallels with the contemporary storytelling medium of video games in an attempt to weave them together with the Greek theory of tragedy and illustrate how they managed to detach themselves from traditional storytelling norms and provide a new holistic experience.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2021 (June)
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2021. 384 pp., 26 fig. b/w, 10 tables.

Biographical notes

Deniz Denizel (Volume editor) Deniz Eyüce Sansal (Volume editor) Tuna Tetik (Volume editor)

Deniz Denizel who received a BFA in Photography from Dokuz Eylül Univ., is a Res. Assist.in the Cartoon and Animation Dept. and a graduate in Game Design at Bahçeşehir University. He is a photographer, curator, author, editor, and reviewer on photography, film, and video games. Deniz Eyüce Şansal is an art historian, translator, and independent researcher, who received a MA degree in History of Art from the Univ. of Barcelona, and a Ph.D. in Cinema and Media Research from Bahçeşehir University, where she worked as a full-time instructor. Tuna Tetik received his Ph.D. from Bahçeşehir University, Cinema and Media Research program, and directed an award-winning short documentary. His research interests are superhero comics, video-on-demand services, and video games. He is lecturing courses on digital editing and film production.


Title: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Narrative Aesthetics in Video Games
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386 pages