Narratives of Being There (2013)
Narratives of Being There: Computer Games, Presence and Fictional Worlds
Teun Dubbelman (PhD Dissertation)
Narrative game designer, or simply narrative designer, is a role in contemporary computer game development. The narrative designer is responsible for designing the player’s experience of a game’s fictional world. This study delves into the practice of narrative design from the perspective of embodied presence. In comparison with books, movies and other media, the medium of computer games excels in offering the media user the feeling of being a physically present participant in the fictional world. When exploiting the merits of embodied presence, narrative designers are challenged to express fictional worlds without disrupting this feeling of “being-there”. Close-ups, flashbacks, ellipses and other narrative devices–common to other audio-visual media–cannot be employed to the same extent. This study reconceptualises and apposes the notions of presence and narrative by critically expanding on Presence Theory, phenomenological media theory and narratology. Drawing from insights and practices in game, film, performance, architecture and literature studies, the study subsequently proposes alternative narrative devices, more compatible with the interactive and spatial nature of computer games, enabling designers to express fictional worlds while maintaining the player’s feeling of embodied presence.