Games, Gamers and the Narrative Space

My Role: Principal Researcher (2012-2015)

Status: This research is concluded (for now), but to a great extent informs my current PhD research into transmedia fan communities.


The role of narrative in video games has been highly contested and often challenged by video game scholars. The source of these debates can be traced to the hybrid nature of video games as both participatory and immersive. What exactly are these artifacts, if not stories? As a video game enthusiast I find the topic of more than passing interest. As a researcher, I noted that video game scholars often ignore the perspective of gamers, those actually engaging with the artifacts in question. In 2012 I undertook a pilot study of user-generated reviews for Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Skyrim was chosen strategically as a game that was not only acclaimed by critics and gamers alike, but also because of its fusion of seemingly opposing elements (e.g., open world exploration and linear storylines). I wanted to understand how the players understood and defined concepts such as gameplay, immersion and narrative in relation to their experience of the game. Through a content analysis of reviews, I developed an emergent model for understanding “narrative space” in video games: the sphere of activity in which the carefully designed affordances of the game and the gamers’ interactions conspire to co-author the overall experience of the game.


‘The Controller is Mightier Than the Pen!’ Narrative Space in Video Games. Words, Worlds and Narratives: Transmedia and Immersion. Eds. Eric Forcier and Tawnya Ravy. Oxford: Inter-Disciplinary Press, 2014. [Link] [PDF]

Pen, Sword or Controller? What Gamers Think of Narratives in Games. 1st Global Conference: Immersive Worlds and Transmedia Narratives, Salzburg, Austria, November 13, 2012. [Link] [PDF – Handout]

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