Worlds at our fingertips: reading (in) What Remains of Edith Finch

Mona Bozdog*, Dayna Galloway

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Abstract

Video games are works of written code which portray worlds and characters in action and facilitate an aesthetic and interpretive experience. Beyond this similarity to literary works, some video games deploy various design strategies which blend gameplay and literary elements to explicitly foreground a hybrid literary/ludic experience. We identify three such strategies: engaging with literary structures, forms and techniques; deploying text in an aesthetic rather than a functional way; and intertextuality. This paper aims to analyse how these design strategies are deployed in What Remains of Edith Finch (Giant Sparrow, 2017) to support a hybrid readerly/playerly experience. We argue that this type of design is particularly suited for walking simulators because they support interpretive play (Upton, 2015) through slowness, ambiguity (Muscat et al., 2016; Pinchbeck 2012), narrative and aesthetic aspirations (Carbo-Mascarell, 2016). Understanding walking sims as literary games (Ensslin, 2014) can shift the emphasis from their lack of ‘traditional’ gameplay complexity and focus instead on the opportunities that they afford for hybrid storytelling and for weaving literature and gameplay in innovative and playful ways.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
JournalGames and Culture
Early online date2 May 2019
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 May 2019

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Aesthetics
Video Games
Giant
Storytelling
Aspiration
Intertextuality
Literary Structure
Literary Works
Simulator
Literary Elements
Blends

Cite this

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abstract = "Video games are works of written code which portray worlds and characters in action and facilitate an aesthetic and interpretive experience. Beyond this similarity to literary works, some video games deploy various design strategies which blend gameplay and literary elements to explicitly foreground a hybrid literary/ludic experience. We identify three such strategies: engaging with literary structures, forms and techniques; deploying text in an aesthetic rather than a functional way; and intertextuality. This paper aims to analyse how these design strategies are deployed in What Remains of Edith Finch (Giant Sparrow, 2017) to support a hybrid readerly/playerly experience. We argue that this type of design is particularly suited for walking simulators because they support interpretive play (Upton, 2015) through slowness, ambiguity (Muscat et al., 2016; Pinchbeck 2012), narrative and aesthetic aspirations (Carbo-Mascarell, 2016). Understanding walking sims as literary games (Ensslin, 2014) can shift the emphasis from their lack of ‘traditional’ gameplay complexity and focus instead on the opportunities that they afford for hybrid storytelling and for weaving literature and gameplay in innovative and playful ways.",
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