From why we play to the stories we tell in Video Games – Thoughts on coming Thesis

From why we play to the stories we tell in Video Games – Thoughts on coming Thesis

I am slowly working on ideas for my upcoming Master’s Thesis (very slowly), and therefore today’s post will be mainly a contemplative one – mulling over some of my initial thoughts. Also, this thesis will of course be about video games. Surprise, surprise.


I began my journey of video game research back when I was writing my Bachelor’s Thesis. Spurred initially from “simply” wanting to know why people play video games, and what makes them so appealing. Of course, there is nothing simple about it, and quite a few ideas and theories out there. I looked at motivation to play games in general, across ages, and need satisfaction, which video games deliver exceptionally well. But I digress, as this post is meant to be about what  I now want to research further.

In short – Narratives.

Okay so I am actually not quite done talking about my previous paper on video games, and that is because there are links. When looking at why we play video games I struck rather far away from “home” (home being the English Department) by mainly utilising psychology as the basis for my theories – evolutionary, cognitive, and positive psychology to be precise. And I had a hard time linking this to a case study by use of more typical analysis. Even though I am sure I could rectify this now, and might do so, and write a much better analysis to go with my theories from then, I still believe there was a link missing. That link being the use of narratives and stories.

More specifically, I wonder what importance narratives have in video games, and how do stories work in games contrasted to film and literature?

These will more than likely be questions I will attempt to answer in my coming thesis. An area of interest would for instance be narrative retention. In other words, how well do you remember a story.

Studies have gone some way to show that people seem to retain more information if it is delivered through audio/visual cues, than if it was read in a text. In particular concerning long and distant memories. There is also some evidence to indicate that particular types of information is actually remembered best when read, where other types are remembered better when seen/heard. I won’t go into further detail about the studies now, but will link to them at the end.


Anyway, the idea that different media affects our way of remembering and understanding information and stories, leads me to believe that there must also be a difference then in how stories and information is retained when given to us through a video game. Whether we will remember more or less, is not something I am ready to comment on yet. But surely the pure fact that in a video game you interact with the narrative must have some effect. Limitations to scope must be applied however, as games can vary massively in their narrative content, from being purely story driven experiences, to pure game (such as Tetris).

When looking at narratives, I also believe it will be interesting to look at game choice mechanics. If a video game succeeds in getting you invested in the story and the characters, it may yield interesting results on how we experience that story and the choice we make within the game – due to the consequences.



As you see, you start by saying stories and video games, and the scope just grows massively. There is a lot to be done, and many interesting questions that need answering. I will probably do more of these updates as I continue researching – these are simply my initial musings.

Hope you enjoyed it anyway, and thanks for reading!


The affect of combining literature and film in leaning:
Baggett, Patricia, Structurally Equivalent Stories in Movie and Text and the Effect of the Medium on Recall, 1979

Long term memory and narrative film:
Furman et. al., They saw a movie: Long-term memory for an extended audiovisual narrative, 2007

On how various story types work within different media:
Koehler et. al., What is Video Good For? Examining How Media and Story Genre Interact, 2005






8 thoughts on “From why we play to the stories we tell in Video Games – Thoughts on coming Thesis

  1. There’s a lot of scope for this, looking into different genres and how they handle their stories, as well as how they present them. You have your visual novels that give you the story outright, then you have games like Dark Souls that present the framework for you to discover the story if you wish. Good luck with this!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This looks super interesting, have you seen the talk Levine gave at GDC about branching narratives? Might be really helpful for you. It is so awesome that you’re doing a SECOND degree in videogames!!! It is genuinely refreshing to know that someone like you is pioneering the new wave of videogame academia. I look up to you greatly for this. I’m hoping to study English at university in England next year but I sincerely hope I can somehow incorporate this relevant and worthy medium of narrative into my theses.

    Fantastic to read this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmm no I don’t believe I have. You have a link?
      Yeah, well I am lucky that the Danish system encourages Master’s Degrees, and that the Department of English here lets me deviate from standard literature and explore video games further.
      Thank you so much for the encouraging words! Process begins for real in February, so I am excited! As said in the post, I will make a further update when I specify my topic further.
      Sounds great with England, I sincerely hope you are able to incorporate it as well!

      Liked by 1 person

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