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"Levels" of Videogame Analysis

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1 "Levels" of Videogame Analysis on Thu Sep 24, 2015 11:30 am

In general I'd say that their are four ways of approaching an "analysis" of a given game, assuming it is a fairly standard linear(-ish) story:

Pure Gameplay Level:
Fairly simple: how the game uses its mechanics to make an engaging game - without any reference to the interaction between the gameplay and the narrative

Gameplay/Narrative Interaction Level:
How the features of gameplay interact with the story to accentuate the messages of the story. At this level, which is mechanical, we are more concerned with techniques in themselves rather than what they are saying. For example, we might say that in general most RPGs attempt to demonstrate the growth of the main character by use of leveling systems; more specifically most also attempt to show character development as well. A character may start out as a pure attack character, and be a misanthrope who is for some reason only begrudgingly working with the party. To show their growing respect and affection for the others, they may acquire more healing or buffing abilities later.

The "Explicit" Moral Level: What the game is trying to demonstrate with it's narrative; in other words the moral of the story. In most FF games for instance there is normally a theme of friendship, and given the fact that RPGs are often based around a team or party who must work together this is not surprising. Of course, there can be multiple messages and in a nuanced work there most probably will be. This level will include analysis of the writing and character designs etc.

The "Implicit" Moral Level: This is the messages that are not intended, or at least, do not seem to be, but which are implied by the approach and evident mindset of the writer's. In this category would fall, for instance, most "political" interpretations, such as from the point of view of gender, or queer theory. Of course, this can be reinforced by gameplay just as the explicit level can be.

This isn't a strict interpretation I have, just a momentary impression I felt like writing down. Of course, "Levels" is in quotations because these are not arranged in any order of importance.

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2 Re: "Levels" of Videogame Analysis on Thu Sep 24, 2015 1:56 pm

I would say this specific breakdown works for some games, but not for others. Mario 64 for example is not supposed to have any explicit or implicit moral, even though there is a narrative (technically speaking it's not a narrative, but that distinction would reach to far).

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