The attack of the backstories (and why they won’t win)


This essay adopts a formal model of play as semiosis [18] to explore the often dysfunctional role of backstories within computer game design and play. Within this model, backstories indicate an extended play of contextualization. This definition raises questions concerning the appropriateness of backstories as currently implemented within many computer game designs. For instance, backstories are clearly not critical to all computer game play. And, even when limiting analysis solely to role-playing games, the use of backstories as design tools (as opposed to marketing devices or play supplements) remains problematic. Conclusions concern "pre-narrative" aspects of play--particularly when narrative is defined (e. g., within narrative psychology) as a folk theory of causes.