Shifting Protagonist and Narratology

I was reading a post on GameVixen, and started thinking about some of my past favourite games. The most activley adored game, for me, was Chrono Trigger.

And I started thinking about the scene where Crono sacrifices himself to Lavos, and then you suddenly become Marle and get a Crono Doll and swap it in using some magic time-freeze thing (I can’t remember the details, this was a while ago). So here you are, playing the silent protagonist (almost silent, anyway), when suddenly you martyr yourself… and then shift to another character to play? Sounds to me like the Bernard-John shift in Huxley’s Brave New World.

This actually strikes me as an odd narrative device for games. Game narratives have become so Structuralist in their nature, relying on Jospeph Campbell and Aristotle. And poor “Ludologists” throw around the name of their enemy without understanding what Narratology actutally is, and without noticing that so many “Game Design” books talk about story in a way a Narratologist would point at and say, “Oh, how very Structuralist of you guys, let’s be friends!” Whoops.

Well, by the end of this year, they might actually have someone happy to say to their faces, “Yeah, I’ll be your Narratologist. Guess what? You don’t want to throw away stories any more than I want to throw away your storytelling devices, aka gameplay elements.”

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