The Tribulations of Adventure Games: Integrating Story into Simulation Through Performance

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

This dissertation aims at positioning adventure games in game studies, by describing their formal aspects and how they have integrated game design with stories. The adventure game genre includes text adventures (also known as interactive fiction), graphical text adventures, and graphic adventures, also referred to as point-and-click adventure games. Adventure games have been the first videogames to evidence the difficulty of reconciling games and stories, an already controversial topic in game studies. An adventure game is a simulation, the intersection between the rule system of the game and its fictional world. The simulation becomes a performance space for the player. The simulation establishes how the player can interact with the world of the game. The simulated world integrates a series of concatenated puzzles, which structure the performance of the player. Solving the puzzles thus means advancing in the story of the game. The integration of the story with the simulation is done through the performance of the player. The game design establishes a specific set of actions necessary to complete both the game and the story, and this set of actions constitutes a behavior that must be restored through performance. The player can also explore the world and its workings, which is necessary to solve the puzzles. By solving the puzzles, the player restores this pre-set behavior. The simulation in adventure games may not be evident because of a historical shift in the level of abstraction, which determines how the world is implemented in the game mechanics. Adventure games have increasingly curbed the agency of the player in the world, in order to facilitate completing the story of the game. This move to a less fine-grained interaction has affected different aspects of game design, from reducing the number of possible actions to limiting the interactivity of non-player characters. The dissertation discusses how adventure games have integrated story with the performance in the simulated world of the game. This integration is further evidenced by how they apply to the four basic elements that bridge story and game design: space, player character, non-player character and time. The qualities of these elements help us understand how the player performs in the simulation, and how that performance is designed. Analyzing the properties of the simulation in adventure games helps draw comparisons with other videogame genres. The rich history of adventure games can inform the game design of other videogames, particularly in relation to the creation of fictional worlds, strategies to script the interactor, and design of non-player characters. Department: Literature, Communication, and Culture

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Jill Walker Rettberg