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Masaryk University

Faculty of Arts

Department of English
and American Studies

English Language and Literature

Jaroslav Tesák

Narrative Storytelling and Dialogic Interaction in Video Games

Bachelor’s Diploma Thesis

Supervisor: Mgr. Jan Chovanec, Ph.D.


I declare that I have worked on this thesis independently,
using only the primary and secondary sources listed in the bibliography.


Author’s signature


First and foremost, I would like to thank Mr. Jan Chovanec for the advice and expertise he offered while I was writing my thesis. Without him, I would have struggled with direction until this day, which Mr. Chovanec made clearer and shaped my idea into the form they are today. Next, I would like to thank Mr. Lukáš Vokřínek for being my editor-in-chief and his support throughout tough periods of time. My thanks also goes to Ms. Jolana Žižková and Mr. Michael Vystrčil for helping me to overcoming difficult times, their support and motivation despite me being nervous most of the time. I could not have done this without these people. I also want to thank everyone who believed in me and helped me in any way during the writing of this thesis. Last but not least, I would like to thank my family, because they are amazing, the G.O.D, because you still live on in my memories, and The Kobylští Partymakers for providing relaxation when I needed it the most.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgement 2

1)Introduction 5

2)Dialogic interaction 6

2.1)Dialogic learning 8

2.1.1)Dialogic inquiry 8

2.1.2)Dialogic action 8

2.1.3)Communicative action 8

2.1.4)Dialogic imagination 9

2.1.5)Dialogic interactions versus power interactions 9

3)Narratives 10

3.1)Types of narrators and their modes 10

3.2)Multiple narrators 11

4)Videogame genres as a narration determiner 13

4.1)Action games 13

4.2)Strategy games 15

4.3)RPG (role-playing game) 16

4.4)Adventure 17

4.5)Racing games / simulators 18

4.6)Other simulators 19

4.7)Sport games 19

4.8)Logic games 20

4.9)Online games 20

5)Gameplay as a narrative device 23

6)Building the story and backstory 25

7)Dialogic interactions in video games 29

7.1) Interaction with NPC 29

7.1.1)Branching Dialogues 32

7.1.2)Hub-and-Spokes Dialogue 35

7.1.3)Parson-driven 36

7.1.4)Systematic Dialogues 36

7.1.5)Other interactions with Non-Player Characters 38

7.2)Interaction with other players 40

7.3)Anonymity in on-line games 41

8)Conclusion 43

Works Cited 45

Summary 49

  1. Introduction

The aim of this thesis is to look into some of the most common genres in videogame narrative storytelling and to characterize and describe the specific markers of these genres in order to establish connection between stories and games. While doing so, it will also show short excerpts from certain games to further demonstrate how the narration works in practice. Using this method, the thesis is going to work with a phenomenon related to storytelling in video games, which is dialogic interaction. The definition of dialogic interaction in video games, however, is neither simple nor clear. Thus this thesis will try to describe interaction usage in video games and how it differs depending on video game genre, linearity and narrative style to the best knowledge available.

Technology has become an inseparable part of our lives. From the beginning it was meant to ease one’s work and to provide relaxation. Over time, another possibility of use became available - interactive ‘books’ entered into people’s consciousness and what was initially a written text adventure, turned into so much more. Video games today give us a rare opportunity to carve our own storylines, make the experience much more unique and personal. Whether games are or are not narrative is a question we have to ask ourselves. Many studies throughout the years proved gamers have improved reaction time and social skills. Naturally, there are certain limits to the plots, but every genre allows for its own type of storytelling.

  1. Dialogic interaction

The English terms ‘dialogic’ or ‘dialogism’ are often used in The Dialogic Imagination (published as a whole in 1975), which is a compilation of four essays by Russian philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin. Though primarily focused on literary theory, the term ‘dialogic’ does not apply only to literature. According to Bahktin, all the language in the world is dialogical, meaning that everything anybody ever says is in response to something that was already said and is also in anticipation of further communication. Put in another way, people speak in a certain sense and not in a vacuum. All language is dynamic and relational and repeats itself in an endless process or as Bahktin (1981) proclaims:

“But as we have already said, every extra-artistic prose discourse - in any of its forms, quotidian, rhetorical, scholarly - cannot fail to be oriented toward the "already uttered," the "already known,'' the "common opinion" and so forth. The dialogic interaction of discourse is a phenomenon that is, of course, a property of any discourse. It is the natural orientation of any living discourse.” (p. 279)

The definition of interaction reads: “mutual or reciprocal action or influence” (Interaction, n.d.) and so to define dialogical interaction might seem easy, but the true definition is trickier. When speaking about dialogical interaction, the first idea to come to one’s mind could be: “A conversation, of course!” However, not every utterance or discourse is dialogical. According to Gordon Wells (O’Connors/Michaels, 2007), some kinds of discourse are more ‘dialogical’ than others, because they have more indicative ‘dialogic stance’, which may lead to better learning (p.275). Wells deploys three distinct binary contrasts to differentiate monologic and dialogic discourse:

Table 1.



Bahktin (1986)

Utterance as ‘authoritative’ (meaning is fixed)

Utterance as ‘internally persuasive’ (meaning is negotiable)

Lotman (1988)

Text as transmission or ‘monologic’ device (function: creates common memory for group)

Text as ‘thinking device’ (function: generates new meanings)

Tomasello (1999)

Cultural practices function as social transmission (ratchet effect, so cultural learning is maintained)

Cultural practices function to support creative invention

Two functions of discourse: monologic and dialogic (O’Connors/Michaels, 2007, p. 276)
To summarize, monologic discourse is usually a fixed transmission of known ideas and known facts whereas dialogic discourse is more intellectually open, giving equal status and openness for individual creative thoughts and criticisms. To put it into an example, a lecture, where one person speaks and is not addressed with any questions, would be linguistically positioned into monological stance. There is a possibility, however, that the same situation will be held among groups of people, where eventually someone will challenge the speaker, respond to him, or even question their speech, turning it into dialogic. Conversely, it is possible to encounter situations when a person asks a question, which is answered by someone else and the inquirer then follows up, unintentionally taking a monologic stance. (O’Connor, Michaels, 2007, p. 277)

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