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“Ludonarrative dissonance”

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Here is an essay on the concept of “ludonarrative dissonance” in games that I found very interesting: http://www.fredericseraphine.com/index.php/2016/09/02/ludonarrative-dissonance-is-storytelling-about-reaching-harmony/

I guess this really bothers a lot of people. Ironically, I feel most of the games that have really impacted me have deliberately featured this dissonance and made it part of the experience, rather than trying to avoid it.

In some ways though, I don’t even get why this bothers people. A gap between what I am trying/want to do and what I can/must do IRL pretty much is the essence of my normal human experience. Life, at its core, features this “dissonance.” When it features in games, to me it actually makes them more lifelike.



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I often feel disconnected from games, but not for the reason described there. It is kind of a given that you have to choose to do the main objective of the game, otherwise what else is there?

The disconnect I feel is when the game doesn't have a clearly defined narrative to follow and serve as an incentive to continue the struggle. The opposite of which the article seems to be advocating for.

I find the suggestion for games not to have a specific story to tell, but offering many potentialities of stories to be experienced by the player, not just undesirable, but completely infeasible. That would mean the need to make 5 games or 10 games to make just one. The narrative of a game either works for the player and they end up liking it, or it doesn't and they end up not liking it. And that's alright. 

As for the disconnect between the game mechanics and the narrative, I always think of that as a technical limitation. Sure it would be great if you could smash all rocks in the game environment and they would stay smashed, but I understand that it is not feasible.  You don't experience games as you do real life, and your inputs and reactions are limited. So there needs to be an established set of mechanics and rules on how the player interacts with the game.  These mechanics need to be clearly defined and should never suddenly change. Just because there are choices in the story, doesn't mean the game mechanics also need to be a'la carte.


Edited by m76
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I found the article difficult to read, but to sum things up I think it means that a player is led to believe they have free will, but instead the story forces you down a certain path. And they say that leads to emersion which is the opposite of immersion. I haven’t really thought about it, but it’s common and very strange when they do that. I’m not sure if it really breaks immersion for me, but it does give a sense of wasted effort and confusion that can lead to detachment. Even more so if it happens early on in the game. But at least if it happens early, you know not to waste effort unless you wanted to and that can bring you back into the game instead of the slap in the face towards the end. 

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