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ISSN 0869-5377
The Logos Journal

Games Telling Stories? A Brief Note on Games and Narratives

Author: Juul Jesper

About author:
PhD, Associate Professor at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts — The School of Design. Address: Philip de Langes Alle 10, DK‑1435 Copenhagen K, Denmark. E-mail:

The main question of the article: Do games tell stories? Answering this should tell us both how to study games and who should study them. The affirmative answer suggests that games are easily studied from within existing paradigms. The negative implies that we must start afresh. The article presents a comparative analysis of the two major approaches to video games: narratology and ludology, in order to further the understanding of their differences and similarities, and lay bare hidden assumptions behind both approaches. The article begins by examining some standard arguments for games being narrative. There are at least three common arguments: 1) we use narratives for everything; 2) most games feature narrative introductions and back-stories; 3) games share some traits with narratives. The article then explores three important reasons for describing games as being non-narrative: 1) games are not part of the narrative media ecology formed by movies, novels, and theatre; 2) time in games works differently than in narratives; 3) the relationship between the reader/viewer and the story world is different than the relationship between the player and the game world. As a final point, it explores the question of whether various experimental narratives of the 20th century can in some way reconcile games and narratives.

Keywords: Game Studies; video games; narratology; ludology; narrative; player; game world

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