Juul, J. (2001). Games Studies 0101: Games telling Stories? Game Studies: The International Journal of Computer Game Research, 1(1). Retrieved from

arguments for games being a narrative form:
1) We use narratives for everything.
2) Most games feature narrative introductions and back-stories.
3) Games share some traits with narratives.

reasons for games being a non-narrative form:
1) Games are not part of the narrative media ecology formed by movies, novels, and theatre.
2) Time in games works differently than in narratives.
3) The relation between the reader/viewer and the story world is different than the relation between the player and the game world

the only truly problematic point seems to be the issue of time; but

non-linear storylines: time travel in games:
Portal (2007); plays with time and space

Machinima; using the game itself to make film
achron (2011); time travel
chronotron (2008); what you do affect the other level
prince of Persia (2003-2005)
day of the tentacle (1993)

“…that something can be presented in narrative form does not mean that it is narrative.” (??)

“…this experience is so strong that most people will involuntarily change bodily position when encountering interactivity, from the lean backward position of narratives to the lean forward position of games.”
But surely this is an artifact of the HCI, not a property of games vs. narratives; we lean forward because of the compulsive attraction to ‘jump through a window’ into a virtual world – “when encountering interactivity”? – would we not look around if we found ourselves in that world? Are we not already there?

What is game; Logical puzzle, a set of rule.

“The classical argument for the existence of narratives is then the fact that a story can be translated from one medium to another”

“This transposability of the story is the strongest reason for arguing that narratives are indeed structures independent of any medium.” (Chatman 1978, p.20)

“A story can then be recognized by having the same existents (with the same names) and the same events; this is what we usually mean by talking of “the same story”.”
However, what does ‘same’ mean in narrative? Same story is entirely different from same narrative. Narrative structures have repeated throughout mythology and history with different existents and events, yet can be recognized as based on similar essential themes.

_characters also tend to become more developed in ‘game to narrative’ translations, ‘interactive dynamism’ increases in the other direction. …….Seems more related to limitations of current technology than any inherent immutability of form.
“there is no such thing as a continuously interactive story”
(sure there is – isn’t life a story?)


Narrative is understood as a relationship between two different time streams (see Christian Metz). It has a kind of orbital interaction with its adjacent partners, but does not on its own constitute ‘story’ which is the thread assembled in the experiencing mind, about which the author in any case knows little; the author is the first experience of  a particular contextualization of narrative elements (dare we call them logons?).
By this definition, gaming and story-telling have both the element of narrative resident within them, and in any case the development of an embodied culture around games pre-supposes narrative development.


Writing ‘narrative’ is the making of conceptual associations; a story is a record of the path an embodied participant traces through sequences of narrative. Although I live in a rule-based world, I make choices, inferring or assigning narrative, and fashioning the story of my existence on paper, or in-game. Is the re-reading of a novel any less variant than the degree of interactivity afforded by a finite ludology? I suggest not:  new meanings, associations, and threads of linearity are drawn from the interactive re-experiencing of both text and HCI.
If it is true that gaming so far has not evidenced strong, or any, narrative structure perhaps that has more to do with economic concerns over the ludological aspects of game play. Just because games ‘don’t’ have narratives, doesn’t mean that they can’t. It seems not irreconcilable that through the remediation of objecthood to electronic impulse of rule-based game theory and practice new understanding about the possibilities of ‘play’ may be introduced as the remediation of lead blocks to hyper-text has equivalently recontextualized the possibilities, but perhaps not the nature, of story-telling. For a new form to emerge it is necessary to investigate the ways in which these two activities, game playing and story-telling exhibit emergent behavior. As games become more autonomous, stories will be told about and within the virtual world as they are …

The author, the experiencer-observer-recorder, (“Don’t recreate the world, feel the world” DiPaola) will become the ubiquitously reconfigured self-embodiment of an individualized Hertzian perception. If we can imagine a sufficiently advanced technology, we might predict the dissolution of the individualized organizer whereupon the networked story is endlessly re-contextualizing itself.

About Suk Kyoung Choi

artist / researcher

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