Narrative Space in Computer Games

Karin Wenz, Assistant Professor of English, University of Kassel

Narrative space in Genette terms is based on the distinction between discourse and story, which leads to the distinction between discursive space and narrative space. While the textual space of discourse is linear and depends on the linearization process of language, the narrative space of story is without such restrictions of unilinearity and we can freely move within the temporal shifts of narrative development. Nevertheless, computer games use narrative structures to organize their worlds. A semiotic structure is projected onto the game to construct a possible world, which plays with traditional literary motifs and structures of time and space. Depending upon the player's response the computer presents more space, more images, more text to explore. While a printed fictional text presents its episodes in one order, the digital space of the computer game removes that restriction. The movement between the episodes and places is dependent on the player's interactions with the game or intrusions into the given space. The player's "reading" experience depends on his or her decisions and interaction. This interaction between author or programmer and game and reader or player and game calls up Bakhtin's dialogic concept or Kristeva's concept of intertextuality, which are fundamental for the concept of narrative space. Fictional works, for example the fairy-tale in its traditional form, as well as its modern forms, such as fantastic literature and science fiction function as source for the intertextual narrative space in Myst.