Multimedia Narratives: Digital Bards
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Video games have come a long way since the days of Pong or the first Mario Brothers game by Nintendo in the 1980’s; new technological advances, and the ongoing progression of game development are just some areas that are responsible, in varying degrees, for the somewhat saturated gaming atmosphere of today. It is difficult to imagine a game like Pong having characters with dialogues, or a Mario Brothers game where Mario and his brother Luigi actually talk to each other using emotional language. However, games like World of Warcraft have incorporated complex creative processes to provide an experience which is both similar and dissimilar to what we are used to with regards to more traditional media. This dissertation aims to discuss and analyse various game development motifs that show evidence of some resemblance to other media like novels, short stories, drama, films, etc. Throughout various online sources (such as YouTube and Blizzard Entertainment's websites) we can find numerous examples where a game developer credits Dungeons & Dragons as a major inspiration for game development and story delivery; or of how Tolkien's fantasy archetypes resonated with the art teams behind games like World of Warcraft (from here on abbreviated as WoW). World of Warcraft was chosen as the primary study terrain for several reasons, but two major ones follow: (1) its mostly-predetermined content delivery as a game development methodology, and (2) its mythological and (in many cases) literary inspirations that have been translated into a ludic setting. While the game is often dubbed as a "theme park" game, it is because of this "theme park" nature that WoW is an ideal subject for considering linear narrative threads; threads that often bear striking resemblances to some of our oldest, most traditional narrative media. Furthermore, the Warcraft franchise has a vast library of transmedial materials that accompany or supplement it, or even run parallel to the game itself; all of which offer valuable insights into what the varying media can mean for a single, unified idea or franchise. While Warcraft was initially intended for play in the 1990’s, in 2017 it can be read via children's literature, comic books, young-adult novels, cook books, and (perhaps most interestingly) via a Chronicle series which clarifies and cements the mythological space of the game's world in a written form with accompanying artistic illustrations, which immediately gives the game's world a type of "second life" outside of the game itself. In addition to this, there is a Warcraft film to be watched, audio dramas to listen to on YouTube, short films to view on YouTube, as well as animated comics that blur the medium-based boundaries between the traditional comic book, and the short film. While there are several modern MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Games) that test the boundaries of a given game and the player's agency within it (e.g., Star Wars the Old Republic, Elder Scrolls Online, Eve Online, Guild Wars 2, Albion Online, etc.), WoW was specifically chosen because of its longevity in a fast-evolving technological world and the aforementioned abundance of source materials that exist within the Warcraft franchise. In this dissertation, we will hopefully be able to gain insights into the often-complex nature of games, and possible means for analysing these games in a way that is both just to the media at hand, and meaningful to relevant disciplines.
- Humanities