The Role of Non-Avatar Characters in the Interaction Between the Player and the Videogame
Videogames have been a recurring topic in the academic world for the last decade, and their importance is growing as time goes by. Videogames, as text, have attained a degree of maturity that allows researchers to focus on what they are and how they work. Since the early days of Game Studies, there have been two main points of view. The first one, lead by the narratologist Janet Murray, portrays videogames as ‘new way of storytelling’. The second one, called Ludology, tries to distinguish games from films, claiming that videogames are not storytelling and that they should be analyzed and judged by their own features. Although it is common to perceive the relationship between the two as a debate, they can also be seen as complementary, and they both agree that what makes videogames different is their interaction. Rouse describes gameplay as ‘how the player is able to interact with the game-world and how that game-world reacts to the choices the player makes’. Huizinga talks about a ‘magic circle’ that is created during the play of the game, when the player accepts the rules and the fiction of the game. I consider that videogames could be analyzed as a two-level structure, in which the first one is the core fiction (consisting of traditional game elements, such as goal, repertoire of abilities and outcome) and the second one is the ‘extended’ fiction (made of traditional narrative elements, as time/place, narrator and characters). The second level is built upon the first, and can add three functions: embellish the videogame, communicate it (explain the rules to the player) and transform it. Some of these elements have already been studied (as ‘time’, where Jesper Juul, one of the main ludologists, distinguished between play time and fictional time). Also the characters can be separated into two groups: the avatar (the characters that the player controls, and, to some extent, the representation of the player in the fictional world of the game), and what in gaming world are called non-playable characters (NPCs). (To use a more specific and academic term, I call them non-avatar characters, that is, the ones that the player has no direct control over.) Rune Klevjer made a deep and useful study of the first but, to date, there is no relevant work about the second. Thus the goal of my thesis is to discover the role of the non-avatar characters in the creation of that ‘magic circle’ that Huizinga talks about.