• Rune Albjerg Andersen
4. term, Interactive Digital Media, Master (Master Programme)
In this master's thesis it is argued how the coupling of narrativity and interactivity on the digital medium, as it exists in computer games, primarily has succeeded in conveying experiences of competition, where the player experiences mastery of a challenge of extra-personal nature by applying his skills. Equally, it is argued how computer games have not succeeded in connecting player actions with stories based on empathy in personal, emotional relationships between characters. As empathic connections can expand the understanding of the surrounding world, the potential for interactively exploring this on the digital medium has not yet been fulfilled. The purpose of the thesis is to examine how such ludonarrative experiences can be created, where the characteristics of the digital medium that enables participation and interactivity, are employed in the service of storytelling based on empathy in personal relationships, creating an experience that can expand the understanding of the surrounding world.

The objective of the thesis is to reach a theory-based solution to this problem. In order to achieve this, a method is applied containing three main phases: Firstly, a problem analysis is performed with the purpose of reaching a deeper understanding of the problem. Next, the state of the art is mapped and analysed in order to determine how existing research has been working on answering the problem. Finally, research from different fields are analysed, combined and applied to this problem with the purpose of reaching a theory-based solution to it.

The problem analysis describes the semiotic aspect of narrativity with the purpose of unfolding the inherent communication problem between author and recipient. The epistemological approach is structuralist narratology where Saussure's structuralism is applied to narrativity. To unfold the issue of how storytelling based on empathy in personal relationships can expand the understanding of the surrounding world, an epistemological approach based on rhetoric is used. Rhetoric research by Fafner is used to describe how this kind of narrativity can be understood as intentional communication, which is achieved through intentional narrative design. To understand how the author incorporates the recipient in this process, semiotic research by Eco is employed. In the last part of the problem analysis, research on digital narrativity by Murray is used to understand and describe the characteristics of the digital medium.

Having a deepened understanding of the problem to be solved, the state of the art analysis is performed in order to determine existing solutions to the problem. Knowing the strength and weaknesses of existing solutions, it is examined how research from different fields can be employed to formulate a solution to the problem. Psychology research by Thompson et al. is combined with interactive drama research by Mateas, with the purpose of understanding how the characteristics of the digital medium can be used to allow a player to perform actions which influences the development of a story, while the actions are perceived as meaningful to the player, and at the same time enables the author to use them in exploring his narrative intent. This leads to the formulation of an agency theory that is part of the scientific contribution of the thesis.

In order to understand how actions performed within a play framework influences the perception of a narrative, psychology research of Apter and Oatley is combined with play research by Huizinga and Caillois. Here it is articulated how the design of the play framework interacts with the experience of storytelling. It leads to the formulation of a form of ludonarrative experience, where the player is susceptible to empathic emotional connections with the characters of a story, while being able to perform actions that are perceived as intentional and meaningful. It is argued how this form of experience enables the interactive exploration of empathic emotional connections of characters in a story, which is part of the scientific contribution of the thesis.

Finally, a unified solution to problem is formulated based on the scientific contributions of the thesis, coined as player-intention illuminating storytelling. It is argued that when the narrative intention of the author depends on the action intention of the player, and illuminates this in an interactive story, then the participatory procedural form of representation, which characterizes the digital medium, can serve a narrative intention that empathically explores personal relationships. When this approach is combined with the formulated agency theory and the ludonarrative form of experience, it is argued that the problem of the thesis can be solved.
Publication date1 Jun 2015
Number of pages80
ID: 213119310