Kübra Aksay (Freiburg)
“Playing the Narrative in Return of the Obra Dinn”
This presentation was given as part of the "Beyond Narrative" conference on October 12, 2019.
Abstract: The popularity of digital games over the past few decades has led to the emergence of new narrative forms, as well as new ways of interaction between the narrative and non-narrative forms. The academic interest in video games over the course of this period has also been increasing, and many scholars working in the field have accepted video games “as extensions of drama and narrative” (Frasca, 221). However, not all video games make use of the narrative elements to the same extent. While, traditionally, video games tend to maintain a balance between storytelling and gameplay (i.e. combination of the rules and interactivity), some games might include more story than gameplay or vice versa.
Return of the Obra Dinn (2018), however, presents the narrative in a different way than many other video games do. As any other game, Return of the Obra Dinn has “a set of rules” which defines it as a game and “form the game mechanics” (Domsch, 14). However, the mechanics in this particular game are never separated from the narrative, on the contrary, the narrative and game mechanics can only function together. As a result, it offers the players a highly engaging story, with an unorthodox storytelling and gameplay.
This study aims to analyze how Return of the Obra Dinn combines the narrative and gameplay, rather than keeping a balance between the two, and how it transforms the game mechanics into narrative techniques. The study will also explore how some of the other video games which belong to similar genres use narrative elements in order to compare them to the selected title and attempt to discuss the possible effects of the differences in these narratives, on the players and on the future of the interactive narrative.