Research Post 5: Ludonarrative Dissonance

Ludonarrative dissonance, a term coined in the blog posted below and attributed to “Bioshock”, is when a player’s actions within a game conflict with the game’s narrative content. So for instance, if a player is expected to violently destroy an invading army in a game featuring a story centered around defending the ideas of Mahatma Gandhi, there exists a clear dissonance between the game’s actions and the games narrative content.

A debate exists about whether or not ludonarrative dissonance influences a game’s quality. Certainly dissonance between a character’s actions and the thematic message in regular narrative forms affects the quality of the work. But with the medium of video games, where gameplay is king, and narrative is often seen as an inessential to the overall quality of the game. The issue here is whether or not narrative in a game is important enough to alter gameplay. If gameplay can blatantly contradict the game’s narrative themes, then it would appear that the narrative at play in a video game is entirely dwarfed by gameplay.


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