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The First Users to Modify Narratives

A communication between the user and the technology is what creates and modifies the narrative.

«The media, by modifying the environment, arouse in us sensory perceptions of unique proportions. The extension of any sense modifies our way of thinking and acting, our way of perceiving the world. When those proportions change, men change.»

The Medium is the Message. Marshall McLuhan, 1967.

When we talk about audiovisual language we are talking about a logical structure of expressive resources, which stimulate in the audience an organized series of sensations and perceptions. }

These resources emulate many sensations that we usually perceive in our environment or that for various reasons (cultural, educational, genetic, etc.) we have some record of them in our memory.

«Everything we perceive, we perceive in relation to our own scale.»

Sound. Michael Chion.

The main tool of the audiovisual narration is the previous knowledge of the experience on the part of the spectator, although this knowledge is fragmentary, it is united and intensified in order to interpret the story.

But the focus of the narrative is not only on replicating a naturalistic sensory experience, replicating or imitating, by artificial means, an experience known to the viewer beforehand… is it?

«Since the beginning of history, man has been developing forms of expression such as painting, sculpture and theatre, based on the imitation of the environment through artificial means, which have evolved with the development of technical and technological knowledge.

These forms of naturalistic expression are particularly simple from a perceptive point of view.

As long as the perception of artificial messages resembles the perception of reality itself it is much easier for the receiver to decode and understand them.

As technical knowledge becomes richer and more complex, the ability to develop messages that are increasingly similar to reality itself increases and, as a direct consequence of this, the messages produced are increasingly easier to interpret, simpler and more universal.

Since what is pursued with audiovisual language is to transmit messages by articulating stimuli that the receiver already knows because they exist in the natural environment, the painter-sculptor-radiophonist-filmmaker… tries to work with ever greater perceptive completeness on the messages so that the need for articulation of complex languages is less and less».

The Sound Dimension of Audiovisual Language Ángel Rodríguez.
Illustration: Are games a good storytelling medium?

In the 21st century, for the first time we have at our disposal a mass media that is at the same time, technological, communicational, personalized, and that is already part of our daily life.

The simulation of a specific environment created artificially using technology that recreates a sense of immersion on the part of the user.

Now, the user has the power to recreate a personalized experience. A communication between him and the technology is what creates and modifies the whole narrative.

Until today the media was divided between mass media (television, radio, cinema, etc.) and interpersonal media such as the telephone.

With the arrival of video games in the 50’s, the first steps were taken in the field of interaction between technology and user.

The development of the first video game technology brought a new concept where the viewer/listener became a user.

Above all, one that manipulated an electronic device equipped with images that, in turn, allowed him to control basic aspects of the narrative and experience.

With the advent of the MUD -Multi User Dungeon- games (online role-playing games executed on a server, and which is the basis of the current MMORPG -Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game), this perspective changed completely. Users not only came together to complete a narrative, but also had the need to continue it and create their own.

«Ten years ago, James Taulbee and I stood outside a closed door in Blackwing Lair, inside World of Warcraft, along with 38 other players from our sorority, called Risen. For the first time, we had joined forces to defeat the great red dragon that held the access to our server, and logic dictated that the door should be opened after it was killed.

Some of us suggested that perhaps we had missed another boss to be killed to get us through, although it didn’t seem possible.

Others commented that maybe it was a bug (a mistake or defect in the game).

Then one of the players looked at the dwarf chairs decorating the room and had an idea:
:-Maybe we should sit down.
A riddle! Why didn’t we think of that before? -we all exclaimed in the chat as we rushed to the chair with a click of the mouse.

When the last character sat down, we all waited for the doors to glory to open, but nothing happened. That was the first time I heard about 20 people uttering the same rude words in unison.»

There Will Never Be Another ‘World of Warcraft’. Leif Johnson.

In 1998 a kind of essay/epitaph «A Story About a Tree» was published on the website of video game designer Raph Koster.

The story of the alleged death of the player named Karyn who participated in the game LegendMUD a multiplayer game based mainly on text.

Raph Koster’s essay raises the issue of relationships between players within virtual worlds, in particular the loss of friends.

«The manifestation of mourning in the virtual world was not long in coming. People who had not logged in during that month learned (of Karyn’s death) through the game’s email newsletter.

A memorial service was organized. And finally, a Garden of Remembrance was created, and a tree planted in Karyn’s memory. The players made the pilgrimage to the garden to leave behind signs of their pain.

The game code was changed so that the items created by Karyn (in the game Karyn was a character who traded with other players) became permanent pieces of the virtual game world.

Throughout all the events, however, something in common occurred. People couldn’t believe feeling sorry for someone they had never actually met. They couldn’t express the feeling that a member of their community was gone.

In the end, that garden and that tree not only serve as a monument to a much loved and missed person, but as a marker for a moment, a moment when the players of an online game realized that they were not just ‘playing a game’. That the social bonds they felt within this ‘game’ were real.»

A Short Story About a Tree. Raph Koster.

Beyond the controversy that this view may generate among those who play video games and those who don’t, there is a different and not so conventional form of narrative. Where the story is not linear, it does not have a definite ending and its resemblance to «reality» does not only pass through the imitation of the environment by artificial means.

The reality is created and lived by the users themselves who share the same online experience.


Resources and Bibliography


This article was originally published on radio-arte.com. Updated by the author in 2020.
Author: Sol Rezza
Editor | Corrector: Franco Falistoco
@ 2020

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