Breaking the game: the traversal of the emergent narrative in video games

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Pedro Cardoso
Miguel Carvalhais


In video games the player’s actions shape the narrative of their personal experience, molding what otherwise would be a linear course. This emergent narrative is in a state of constant transformation, dependent on how the player influences it. This paper explores how the players traverse ergodic media such as video games and how narrative emerges from the interactions between them and the system. In a previous text we have proposed three types of traversal in video games (Cardoso & Carvalhais, 2013): 1) that in which the player has the ability to choose between mutually exclusive paths; 2) that in which the player has the ability to expand the narrative; and 3) that in which the traversal is determined by the disposition of the other actors in the game world towards the player and each other. This paper intends to further contribute by adding another one: 4) a type of traversal that is rooted in the exploitation of any flaws and glitches in the system, allowing the player to traverse the game through an overlooked side of the algorithm, journeying through a world of unpredictable behaviours and events, that may ultimately break the game altogether.

Keywords: Agency, Ergodic Media, Glitch, Narrative, Video games


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