“Navigable narratives” are a subgenre of narrative-based video games under the umbrella definition of “walking simulators.” While they are a subgenre of video games, analyzing their score or soundscape purely through a video game lens paints an incomplete picture because of their different artistic focus. Models like Elizabeth Medina-Gray's modular analysis are a useful start but insufficient on their own to understand this genre's sound. Rather, a participant's experience in a navigable narrative is often quite similar to that of a soundwalk, especially a virtual reality soundwalk; the game composer/audio designer creates an intricate soundscape through which the participant moves, and with the main focus on the story and gradual travel, the participant has more time and capacity than in a typical video game to build meaning from the soundwalk they perform. One of the major relationships navigable narratives have with soundwalks is the breakdown of diegesis in the soundscape the participant takes in, which is unlike most video games. To analyze the soundwalk and also the soundscape present in navigable narratives, I draw from R. Murray Schafer, Hildegard Westerkamp, and Janet Cardiff. In the opposite direction, in many ways navigable narratives are very much like “literary computer games,” or interactive narratives that may be analyzed via “ludostylistics” à la Janet Murray and Astrid Ensslin. A key element in many navigable narratives is the use of narrative time, as described by Alicyn Warren, rather than real time, which also sets navigable narratives apart from standard video games and especially from soundwalks. To explore these varied models and lenses, I demonstrate an analytical approach, using Leaving Lyndow (2017) as my primary case study. And so, between these analytical lenses of video game music theory, soundscape and soundwalk study, and ludostylistics applicable to literary computer games, I posit that the sound of navigable narratives is best understood through a synthesis of all three.
Gray Areas: Analyzing Navigable Narratives in the Not-So-Uncanny Valley Between Soundwalks, Video Games, and Literary Computer Games
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Elizabeth Hambleton; Gray Areas: Analyzing Navigable Narratives in the Not-So-Uncanny Valley Between Soundwalks, Video Games, and Literary Computer Games. Journal of Sound and Music in Games 1 January 2020; 1 (1): 20–43. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/jsmg.2020.1.1.20
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