Annotated Bibliography #7

Another two-fer.

Jing Chen. “Refashioning Print Literature: Internet Literature in China.” Comparative Literature Studies, vol. 49, no. 4, 2012, pp. 537–546. JSTOR,

Thinking about this one now, I am not even sure what was my initial reasoning for snagging this one. Ultimately, I feel I can blame that whole idea of casting a wide net to find as much as I possibly can. This article, while interesting, is entirely off-topic from what I am working on.

Hey, this is how research works. They can’t all be winners.

Walsh, Richard. “Emergent Narrative in Interactive Media.” Narrative, vol. 19, no. 1, 2011, pp. 72–85. JSTOR,

Now this article is more along the lines of what I am exploring in my thesis. This article is all about the concept of the emergent narrative in interactive fiction. The author, Richard Walsh, however, proposes that emergent narrative is not so much a unifying force between interactive media and narrative studies, but rather affects the “larger understanding of narrative sense making” (p. 72). The article spends a few pages defining the concept of emergence in different capacities, such as biological and metaphysical concepts.

The core of the argument is that emergent narrative is not the result of a simulated environment, such as a game, but can be useful semiotically. Semiotics, which I typically link with the work of Ferdinand de Saussure, revolves around the interpretation of signifiers (sound-images) and what they signify (concepts). In this case, the emergent narratives generated by an artificial environment in a game world are likely to be unsatisfying without interpretation of a figure who adds to the narrative, ie. the player. The game, for example, is just a simulation of coded behaviours in reaction to internal impetus, it is up to a third figure to see these representations of interaction to forge them into a compelling narrative through interpretation and the attaching of meaning. The larger issue of why emergent narratives in games are weak, at best, is that there is a lack of coded events that are “narratively legible” (p. 81). Moments could be created in game play that invites the player to recognize narrative in play, such as conventions and plotlines that are more obviously recognized. Essentially, what I have gathered through my reading of the article, is that emergent narratives in electronic media, such as video games, need to highlight the tropes of narrative as they occur. This of course necessitates a game being able to recognize when these moments occur. My own personal belief is that this would be incredibly hard to design.

This is an admittedly heady article, but I feel it could be useful as part of my proposal as I do have an interest in emergent narratives. In particular, I would like to talk about the possibility of creating a literary world where players/readers can jump in and out of stories and directly affect them, with the literary world reacting accordingly. This is, of course, part of a larger idea of where literature, particularly electronic literature, can go next. I am unsure of how I can visit these ideas in the game I am programming for my thesis, but it will be floating in the back of my mind.


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