Of narrative, Roland Bathes posits ‘ narrative is international, transhistorical, transcultural: it is simply there, like life itself‘ this statement that found reference in Jan Simons ‘ Narrative games and theory’ is of particular interest in relation to ‘casual games’ , the physical /virtual binary and how we use interactive media in the pursuit of telling our own stories.
In last week lectures the topic of casual games in relation to addiction came up at several moments. These games are labelled ‘casual’ because they are often simple, social games with basic interface and tasks that offer quick bite sized gratification with users moving quickly though stages/levels. It is arguable that games such as these do not offer much in terms of narrative or characterisation, in a few cases users may pick and customise an avatar but the majority of narrative is sourced via ‘ real world’ connections the player has already made outside of gameplay. An example of this was mentioned in a previous post by cjmcanuto (https://videogamesftvms2014.wordpress.com/2014/02/07/friends-for-sale/) about the Facebook application ‘Friends for Sale’ upon which I would like to elaborate.
In this game users buy and sell their friends via a pet store. Virtual money allows players to purchase pets ( A.K.A their friends), if your virtual allotment runs short you can top it up with physical world currency via your credit card. If this becomes not possible you can have the pets you own perform tasks such as ‘ Unclog the toilet’ , ‘Date’ and ‘ Flirt’ in return for cold hard virtual dollars. This seems like a crazy inversion of newsfeeds littered with images of cats/cute animals .
But beyond that, immersion in these games is found by way of narrative construction via users already existing interpersonal connections. This is an interesting feature because it means that despite the game design being incredibly simplistic the narrative experience of such a game can be very complex and meaningful. The notion of diegetic immersion in such a game is obvious in this case, intra-diegetic immersion could be assumed non-existant , however I feel it is just transparent, as the player does not have to suspend their disbelief to become immersed in a world that is not their own, the experiential world of the game is simply an elaboration on their own, physical world connections.
The virtual and video games in particular are often discussed as tools of escapism used by digital natives to placate loneliness while they forget the responsibilities of their physical existence. However, social games such as these may not offer the development of new narratives but serve as another example of ways in which we use social media to tell ourselves the stories of our own lives.