Journal article Open Access

Narrative Mechanics: World-building through Interaction

Jordan Browne

The narrative potential of video games extends beyond thematic retellings and branching paths of authored stories. Without a doubt, non-linear narrative structures find a comfortable position in games that is congruent with the very nature of the medium. The possibilities of multiple pre-constructed endings, however, are eclipsed by the less structured play that occurs on the periphery of plot points in the second to second interactions of the player - the procedural, experiential development of narrative through gameplay. The agencies of the player can be conceptualised as verbs of interaction; devices that enable players to engage beyond a world’s pre-authored narrative to convey meaning through play itself. Ludonarrative consonance heightens mechanics as functional tools of navigating a text to devices equally as important as existing literary and visual narrative techniques. This paper explores a variety of video games and the intertwining of their ludic and narrative elements, culminating in a case study of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind; a game that can be seen to display traditional approaches to world building, reinforced by mechanics that reveal historic lore, religious practice and socio-political facets of the game’s fictional world.

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