English 189vg. Video Game Storytelling

Instructor: Vidyan Ravinthiran
Monday & Wednesday, 10:30-11:45 am | Location: TBA

Although this course touches on blockbuster games—“ludo-narrative dissonance” and India’s role in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy; racism, satire, and the white-saviour narrative in the Far Cry franchise; Ayn Rand, US history and the illusion of gamer choice in Bioshock—it’s primarily concerned with indie titles which explore alternative forms of storytelling. More specifically, it’s about games pilloried—rather as free verse poetry is bashed as “just chopped up prose”—as mere “walking simulators”, in which there’s more exploration than action, more narrative than gameplay. These qualities have migrated into bigger titles like Death Stranding, as developers prioritize discovery over destruction, asking us to think differently about our relationship to game environments. We’ll examine the gendered deconstruction of horror-codes in Gone Home, and how the house-exploration theme plays out differently in What Remains of Edith Finch?; consider outsiderhood and English village life in Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture; the connection between pastoral and paranoia in Firewatch; and exploded conventions in The Stanley Parable.