The Diverse Worlds of Computer Games: A Content Analysis of Spaces, Populations, Styles and Narratives

Brand Jeffrey E. Knight Scott Majewski Jakub
2003 DiGRA '03 - Proceedings of the 2003 DiGRA International Conference: Level Up

The Diverse Worlds Project analysed 130 computer and video games (CVGs) to understand their textual landscape. Titles were sampled from the five gaming platforms dominant in 2002. Blending the quantitative content analytic tradition and the Bordwellian approach to formal film analysis, characters, settings, narrative and stylistic factors were studied in four units of analysis including box, handbook, opening cinematic sequences, and game-play. “Diverse Worlds” contradicts the popular stereotypes about CVGs presenting exaggerated, violent characters in simplistic, formulaic, worlds lacking in aesthetic nuance and texture. Games are painted using a vast array of visible features and locations. Narrative structure and progression varies depending on genre and goes beyond “shoot the bad guy.” Graphic stylisation tends toward a mid-point between animation and photo-realism with the latter more often used for rendering environments and the former for characters. Limitations of character representation include the use of stereotypes found in traditional mainstream media. An earlier version of this work was presented at the International Ratings Conference in Sydney, Australia, September 2003.


The Narrative and Ludic Nexus in Computer Games: Diverse Worlds II

Brand Jeffrey E. Knight Scott J.
2005 DiGRA '05 - Proceedings of the 2005 DiGRA International Conference: Changing Views: Worlds in Play

To examine relationships between narratological and ludological elements in computer games, we undertook an empirical study of 80 contemporary titles. We drew inspiration from Jenkins’ 2004 paper on dimensions of narrative architecture and Aarseth, Smedstad and Sunnanå’s (2003) paper on a typology of ludological factors in games. Although these two groups of concepts have not been fully explicated, we defined them in concrete terms, citing example game titles. We intersected six groups of narratological factors with seven groups of ludological factors and present the data in this paper. Of the four dimensions of narrative architecture, evoked was most problematic and of the typology of ludological factors, topography and pace of time were least useful. The nexus between narratological and ludological factors is most obvious in the relationship between embedded and emergent narrative and player structure, determinism and strategic objective. We present implications, many game examples and future research ideas.