The Play Versus Story Divide in Game Studies

Critical Essays


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About the Book

Since the emergence of digital game studies, a number of debates have engaged scholars. The debate between ludic (play) and narrative (story) paradigms remains the one that famously “never happened.”
This collection of new essays critically frames that debate and urges game scholars to consider it central to the field. The essayists examine various digital games, assessing the applicability of play-versus-narrative approaches or considering the failure of each. The essays reflect the broader history while applying notions of play and story to recent games in an attempt to propel serious analysis.

About the Author(s)

Matthew Wilhelm Kapell teaches American studies, anthropology, and writing at Pace University in New York.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by Matthew Wilhelm Kapell
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 208
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliographies, index
Copyright Date: 2016
pISBN: 978-0-7864-9723-2
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2309-2
Imprint: McFarland
Series: Studies in Gaming

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi

Introduction: The Ludic and Narrative as Dialectic About “What Games Do”  (Matthew Wilhelm Kapell) 1

Kentucky Route Zero: Or, How Not to Get Lost in the Branching Narrative System  (Lindsey Joyce) 17

States of Play in State of Decay  (Andrew Wackerfuss) 28

Game, Narrative and Storyworld in League of Legends (Emily Joy Bembeneck) 41

Narrative-Heavy Games as ­Neo-Gothic Literature: Beyond: Two Souls and the Player/Viewer in Contemporary Cultural Anxieties  (Eric W. Riddle) 57

“Thou Art I”: The Interaction of Play and Narrative in Persona 3  (Mark Filipowich) 69

The Power of Ludonarrativity: Halo as Participatory Myth  (Vince Locke) 86

The Cyborg Game: Narrative/Ludic Fusion in Deus Ex: Human Revolution  (Alexandra Orlando and Matthew Schwager) 97

The Biopolitics of Gaming: ­Avatar-Player ­Self-Reflexivity in Assassin’s Creed II  (Tom Apperley and Justin Clemens) 110

BioShock Infinite: The Search for Redemption and the Repetition of Atrocity  (Amy M. Green) 125

“All that’s left is the choosing”: BioShock Infinite and the Constants and Variables of Control  (Matthew Wysocki and Betsy Brey) 145

A Whirl of Warriors: Character and Competition in Street Fighter  (Nicholas Ware) 158

Ecological Matters: Rethinking the “Magic” of the Magic Circle  (Robert Mejia) 171

Conclusion: Of Lumpers and Splitters  (Matthew Wilhelm Kapell) 187

About the Contributors 193

Index 197

Book Reviews & Awards

“focused essays on a wide variety of games…uesful and readable models”—Choice; “excellent”—Press Start; “This volume is both a polemic and entirely pragmatic. Kapell’s offerings resurrect a dispute most games scholars pretend never happened and makes a convincing argument for not only revisiting but sustaining debate. The twelve new essays presented, grounded in game studies and propelled by insights from other fields, are exemplary. This is essential reading.”—Gerald Voorhees, University of Waterloo