Diegetic vs. Nondiegetic

I had never heard the terms “diegetic” and “nondiegetic” before reading Galloway’s, “Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture” but recognized almost immediately what the terms referred to once they were explained. One thing that is very powerful about Galloway’s book is that it brings up a lot of different perspectives I had not considered before. I wrote in an earlier post about the new idea of the videogame itself working with the player, and this one is about the amount of control a player actually has in a videogame.

So, if the diegetic parts of the game are the parts directly related to the actions and storyline and the nondiegetic parts are the outside influences, like pressing pause, the question of who holds the most power comes into play. On page 28, it is stated that “game over,” the moment of gamic death, is the most “emblematic nondiegetic machine act.” At this moment, the machine has all the power and even stops accepting commands from the player’s controller. However, nondiegetic operator acts put the player in full control. Fore example, when a player presses pause, “the machine itself can never predict when a pause act will happen” (Galloway pg. 13). This puts the player in control because, also on page 13, it says that, “nothing in the world of the game can explain or motivate it [the pause] when it occurs.”

With this being said, I wonder if a certain amound of videogame popularity has to do with a fight for control of a given situation. Do you think that this is a factor? Also, do you think that they will ever make videogames that respond to player pauses, perhaps a sort of response to being put in a disadvantaged situation?

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2 thoughts on “Diegetic vs. Nondiegetic”

  1. Some games already curve the player’s ability to use pause. Horror games like “Slenderman: The Eight Pages” are examples. In this game you try to collect pages in a haunted woods while dodging, the now ubiquitous monster, ‘Slenderman’ as he randomly appears. The game’s decision to limit a player’s control over the game with the pause button, is designed to increase the tension the player feels while playing. The game would be much less scary if players had the ability to stop play whenever they saw fit.

    In this case the traditional nondiegetic portion of the game is diminished to enhance the players aesthetic experience while playing. The game is not meant to enhance the player’s confidence by giving him or her abilities or meaningful goals to accomplished (in fact in terms of the story line, the difference between winning and losing the game is minuscule). Rather the game is meant to scare the player as any medium in the genre of horror does, and to do so, it defies gamer convention, by taking away the player’s control of the game.

    Here’s a video link to the game. Its pretty spooky. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCVam-AMVnU

  2. Although your assumption and conclusion outlined above does purpose great points, I think the point that Galloway was trying to explain is that without the diegetic and non-diegetic influences within gameplay the “game” would not exist. There has to be both input and output for a game to work and for both the “machine’ and user to have a cybernetic relationship.

    The game and the user both experience the input and output, while the user initializing the game, the games responsibility is to act, both of these actions have to happen for gameplay to work.

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