I remember…: Telling stories about in-game experiences

On: June 7, 2007
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About Twan Eikelenboom
One of the first Masters of Media to crawl upon this blog (2006/2007)! Still following (and at times contributing) to this great project. Working at Dutch sectorinstitute for e-culture Virtueel Platform. Special interest in stories resulting from new media product use (think: sat nav gone wrong) and independent gaming. Also blogging at http://newmw.wordpress.com


zeldaAs I was playing Zelda: A Link to the Past today on my SNES emulator, something struck me: I had an in-game deja-vu. A feeling as if I had been there before. My mind quickly tried to scan all the options and I found out that I have really vivid memories of various computer games. These experiences are basically stories I could tell to my friends and family at a party. As cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner mentioned in his interesting essay Life as Narrative: all our experiences are in some way structured as narratives, and we remember and learn from these narratives in the future.

What would be an interesting idea is to gather stories from people who have been playing games. How do people tell about games? Often when we hear stories -or when I hear myself talking to others about in game events- I almost feel alienated from the world around me. The surreal words echoing in my head and making me realize the sometimes bizarre situations as I’m telling the story. Let me give it a try here about an experience I had in playing Zelda. This is not a walkthrough or anything like that. It’s just what I’ve been doing this morning from the top of my head.

‘Some old guy I finally found told me to get a pendant in a region east from the big lake. I came across many green and blue soldiers, especially the guys with the arrows were pretty difficult to defeat. I had a lot of trouble finding the entrance, but after roaming around Kakariko village and the mountains in the south, I found out by accident that I had to go through a very narrow, almost hidden, path. Then I came to a desert with some creepy crawlers, appearing and disappearing. I almost died there, but luckily I found a fairy that healed my just in time. After that I went to the desert castle to find the first of the three amulets.’

zldEtcetera. I could probably go on for hours and the memories are quite clear and vivid. I clearly remember some gameworlds like my own neighbourhood: Gothic I & II, Zelda, Splinter Cell, Chrono Trigger, Diablo, Baldur’s Gate and of course Morrowind. Because what got my thoughts started on this topic is a forum thread on stories from Morrowind. Although I don’t know any of these people, I know what experiences they are talking about. Their goals were the same but their memories are so different. What would a psychogeographic approach to computergames look like? Just pointlessly wandering around in Morrowind, not to reach any goals but to create stories of wandering around.

I know there are already quite some theories on game experiences, but what really caught my attention and interest were the stories told about games as if they are a part of the gamers’ daily life. So, what did you do today in the virtual?

Crossblogged on newmw.wordpress.com

6 Responses to “I remember…: Telling stories about in-game experiences”
  • June 8, 2007 at 7:08 am

    heh, lately ive been playing the last two monkey island installments, and my story can mainly be summarized as “lots of frustrating attempts at combining unlikely items”

    And lots of swapping to walkthroughs, too

    I think games like Morrowind or maybe the Final Fantasies series give the best stories. I mean, i can talk about how in Baldur’s gate i had problems with the Nashkel Mines goblins who shot annoying flame arrows at my Necromancer, but in the end BG still has a dominant story of its own and limited amounts of exploratory space (though far less limited that BG II and most non-elderscrolls RPGs that followed)

    What really intrigued me (looking back) was this ugly pink site of some girl who described her Morrowind adventures in diary style. I looked it up a few times for walkthrough needs and found the format charming but slightly annoying. Here it is, and is deserving of a casestudy in itself:


    Here’s some others too. The first one is amusing:


  • June 8, 2007 at 11:42 am

    Interesting views on the dominant story, because Morrowind (and Oblivion, but I’m still not going to start it untill I finish my thesis) of course allows for a lot of free roaming.

    So we could say that when we talk about Baldur’s Gate, we have more similar stories. In contrast with Elder Scrolls, which leaves space for difference in stories.

    But isn’t it true that when I tell my story of Baldur’s Gate, I find different segments more important than another person?

  • June 8, 2007 at 12:29 pm

    yeah, thats true enough

    Theres still plenty of space for different stories, different sites of emphasis, different takes on a same event

    And of course, since it’s baldur’s gate, you can have an ‘evil’ story while i can have a ‘good’ one.

    But the more linear it becomes (halflife, dark messiah of might & magic) the less rich the stories become. I think. Bleh.

    Whats the point anyway :p

  • June 8, 2007 at 6:09 pm

    The point is, talking it about it in the non-virtual just sounds odd and is also subject to mockery from outsiders :)

  • June 9, 2007 at 12:34 pm

    true enough

    we are now exposed as True Geeks™

    Where’s Kücklich when you need him :p he could lend some weight to our games and narratives thing :p

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