What's My Motivation? Video Games and Interpretative Performance
ABSTRACT The interpretation of character motivations is a crucial part of the understanding of many narratives, including those found in video games. This interpretation can be complicated in video games by the player performing the role of a player‐character within the game narrative. Such performance finds the player making choices for the character and also interpreting the resulting character actions and their effect on the game's narrative. This can lead to interpretative difficulties for game narratives and their players: if a decision to act is made by the player, is it that the player's own imaginative reasons for acting warrant some narrative interpretations and exclude others? To answer this I argue that we need to investigate (a) the interactive ontology of video game narratives, (b) the notion of game playing as interpretative performance, and (c) the player‐character, an artifact through which performance is focused in narrative games. Doing so shows there to be at least two problems with the notion of the correct interpretation of narrative games. Neither of these problems entirely negates the normativity of game narratives, however, and so players are left with the problem of how they might decide which of the possible playings are warranted. I end by making some practical suggestions for the thoughtful and narratively interested game player.
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