Comparing theories in narrative involvement

‘To explain the relationship between the different types of routes that we may encounter in a mixed reality performance, we introduce a core distinction between canonical trajectories, which are prescripted and embedded into the original structure of the piece, and participant trajectories,  which are defined by participants and are emergent and unpredicatable.’ Benford, S Giannachi, G (2011). Performing Mixed Reality. London, England: The MIT Press. 54.

This offers an interesting argument for what can be considered a key difference between more traditional performance and that of mixed reality, routed in interactivity, with some given elements of narrative. Narrative, in this case, could be identified as ‘trajectories’, as a more fluid term for the unfolding events of a given performance, as not all is predetermined.

Compare this with a game design perspective from Gordon Calleja, and there is potential for overlap;

‘In the majority of game environments, there is a story the designers want to impart to players. This can range from a very simple introduction to the game world along with an indication of the higher-order goals designed in the game system to more complex narrative situations involving multiple characters and plot twists. In many cases, players can decide to engage with the entirety of the scripted narrative or focus on the more goal-oriented tasks that push the game forward.’ Calleja, G (2011). In-Game. London, England: The MIT Press. 120-121.

He then goes on to state;

‘Alterbiography is the ongoing narrative generated during interaction with a game environment. It is neither solely a formal property of the game nor a property of the player’s free-roaming imagination. Our challenge is to account for this form of narrative generation without broadening its scope to game experience in general. Alterbiography is a cyclical process afforded by the representational, mechanical, and medium-specific qualities of a game , and actuated in the mind of the player.’ Calleja, G (2011). In-Game. London, England: The MIT Press. 124.

This could be seen as an equivalent way of thinking from Calleja, in the context of game design, and the experience derived from a player’s engagement with the game design.

Both areas clearly identify that for a player/participant in either field there is a level of given narrative, that is fixed and designed into the fabric of a work, but that there is also an individual’s personal interaction with that environment which is led by them, and ultimately presents choice, which can possibly generate different reactions, as a result of interaction.

An argument could exist, however, that the perspective offered from the area of mixed reality performance offers a much more fluid sense of personal engagement. In comparison Calleja states ‘Alterbiography is a cyclical process afforded by the representational, mechanical, and medium-specific qualities of a game , and actuated in the mind of the player.’ which describes the limitations placed upon a character in virtual worlds based on the parameters of the game design, which vary, but inevitably are bound by the original intended game design, unless mods are considered.

Mixed reality, therefore could offer a more fluid form of narrative, as the level of engagement with the work created is much more dependent on the decisions of the participant, and in a ‘real world’ environment, more flexibility is offered in terms of decision making (note: not of kinetic movement and physical laws). However, the next entry on this blog will explore, Calleja offers up opinion on how these given elements and player decisions may exist in a beneficial relationship with one another.

To conclude, it can be argued that the idea of narrative, and personal experience shaping that, is a common theme between these two areas of thinking. This will be explored further as this study continues.





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