Introduction to Game On, Hollywood!

Papazian, Gretchen, and Joseph Michael Sommers. “Introduction: Manifest Narrativity—Video Games, Movies, and Art and Adaptation.” Game On, Hollywood!: Essays on the Intersection of Video Games and Cinema. Jefferson: McFarland, 2013. 8-19. Print.

In this introductory chapter, Papazian and Sommers set up by discussing distinctions that have been made between video games and art. This is a useful starting point because it “draws attention to the operation of narrative, of story, in relation to different media forms, and, in this, it suggests that a key difference between game and film emerges from differences in their individual story-telling mechanics” (9).

The authors quote Jenkins and Ryan to suggest that video games are (can be) “hybrid, both narrative and game” (10). The emphasis of the story becomes world-designing, space-sculpting, “narrative architecture.”

The story operates from a 4th person point of view. That is, there is a collective making the story. This leads Papazian and Sommers to ask:

  1. How do games/gamers create worlds and experience?
  2. When, where, and how are games hybrid?
  3. Are these the sorts of games that have more (or less) potential to be translated into other media—including, but not limited to, film?

After posing these questions, the authors outline the history of adaptation theory, especially the rejection of the fidelity model, and then move toward adaptation as rewriting. That is, they consider the adaptations as lateral versions of a story, not vertical ones.

Perhaps the most important work of this introduction is to lay out the three ways the authors think stories are told and the three dominant aspects of adaptation: showing, telling, and interacting; creation, reception, and text (12).

ASIDE: Papazian and Sommers raised the following questions for me:  “what is narrative today?” “what counts as a story?” “How does the story connect to active/passive paradigm being spelled out in adaptation studies?”

            As a writer, I take exception to the thought that several adaptation theorists have put forth—which is, namely, that written texts always TELL the story, are incapable of showing it, and are never truly interactive. The first thing a new creative writer will hear is the mantra: show, don’t tell. And if language can evoke mental visualizations, it is possible to show with words. Of course, because they are words their foundation might always be telling, but pictures can tell, too. I don’t think this categorization is as simple as theorists would like to make it out to be.

Anyway, Papazian and Sommers conclude this introduction by arguing that “this multimedia, multimodal system of story delivery makes all sorts of new and different demands on media consumers…in addition to interacting more directly with media producers as noted above, the new media paradigm requires consumers to take up ‘the role of hunters and gatherers, chasing down bits of information across media channels, comparing notes with each other via online discussion groups, and collaborating to ensure that everyone who invests time and effort will come away with a richer entertainment experience” (12).

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