“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.

INTRODUCTION

Since the release of the indie video game Dear Esther in 2012, a spate of new “games without gameplay” that feature state-of-the-art graphics and compelling stories have provoked a whirlwind of critical discussion about their genre. These media texts are released as video games but are treated as “exploration” or “narrative” games, “literary games,” or “virtual experiences.”1 This gray area has been assigned the umbrella term walking simulator, or as I prefer to call it, navigable narrative.2 There exists just as much variety in navigable narratives as any other genre of art; however, the characteristic features are similar enough to establish an understanding of the genre and, as I will argue below, an attendant set of analytical approaches.

I define a navigable narrative as having the following features: (1) a soundscape spatialized in its three-dimensional space; (2) downplaying or lacking traditional game elements of competition and reward, relying instead on the basic mechanics of movement (walking, running, swimming, flying, etc.) and soundscape for player interactivity;3 (3) a narrative and soundscape whose pacing and tempo are inextricably linked. In short, the main purpose of navigable narratives is to partake in a story as the protagonist moving through a visually and sonically saturated 3D environment. They are built with the same resources as video games, but the users engage in more paidic play (freeform, “sandbox” play) rather than ludic play (governed by rules and resulting in win/lose outcomes).4

I argue that navigable narratives are a unique subgenre of video game with important artistic elements more akin to soundwalks, and narrative delivery most similar to literary computer games. The relationship between navigable narratives and video games is the most commonly cited and recognized by critics and reviewers, but not often in a positive light. Navigable narratives/walking simulators are too commonly put down as “failed” video games for lacking expected ludic features.5 We must embrace navigable narratives for their paidia, rather than dismiss them for their absence of ludus. Navigable narratives can be more positively addressed by taking them on their own terms as a paidic genre of art, and as such they can benefit from comparisons to other paidic genres like soundwalks and literary computer games. Drawing on these positive comparisons, I posit that understanding and analyzing navigable narratives calls for a toolkit of analytical methods and models pertinent to the three other genres noted here: video games, soundwalks, and literary computer games.6

In this article I also aim to explain the significance of this underappreciated genre and the type of experience the works provide. Navigable narratives are a subgenre of video games, but inhabit the uncanny valley between soundwalks and literary computer games as well, at least in part due to the creators’ major focus on the sonic and visual artistry and emphasis on narrative. While walking simulator is the more common-use term to date, it holds negative connotations and is somewhat broader than my term navigable narrative; on distribution platforms like Steam, a number of games like The Witness, Quern, and Myst are tagged as walking simulators, whereas I see their emphasis on puzzle solving as a disqualifying feature to be considered navigable narratives.

Five-time British Academy for Film and Television Arts Award–winning Firewatch (2016) is a case of a navigable narrative being played like reading an interactive yet straightforward book.7 The participant engages the linear story completely through the perspective of the protagonist, has full access to the wilderness setting, but is guided by the strictly predetermined narrative. For instance, the protagonist and another character conversing on walkie-talkies may point out a smoke signal in the distance, and the participant is encouraged to move the protagonist and investigate and advance the plot. The narrative is linear enough to have been written as a novel, but the benefit of creating it as a navigable narrative experience is the world-building. Video game engines allow the creation of stylized, immersive visual and sonic environments—in a sense, a whole world—and navigable narratives in particular permit the participant to explore that world beyond the constraints of the story.

Another iconic navigable narrative, the triple BAFTA-winning Everybody's Gone to the Rapture (2016), allows the participant even more room for exploration, and the story unfolds differently through individual gameplay. Rapture's beautiful and realistic village setting has paths and maps for the player to follow, but no single fixed direction to follow. Each chapter division focuses on a particular area within the village, but nothing prevents the participant from wandering into another area. The chapters conclude and transition into the next one after a certain set of events have been triggered; some events can be missed, and some can be triggered in any order, and only a few are required to progress the narrative. The music and sound effects play a vital role in telling the stories and also helping to guide the participant to trigger events.

The main case study in this article is Leaving Lyndow (Eastshade Studios, 2017; sound and music by Phoenix Glendinning). I chose this case study for its typically “navigable narrative” execution of soundscape design and implementation, its complex relationship between the sound and the narrative, and its musical form and traits. Leaving Lyndow is a navigable narrative featuring a rich sonic and visual design in which the participant explores a fictional coastal town and faces a difficult choice. The creators describe the game like this: “It's Clara's last day on the island where she grew up. She needs to complete preparations, visit her favorite places, and say her goodbyes before leaving on a journey she may not return from.”8 The story begins in Clara's mother's house, where the participant takes control of Clara and finishes packing her bag, inspecting items of emotional value, and talking to her mother. From there, the participant can travel between three locations in any order, and will visit all three over the course of the playthrough. Each location offers people, items, or memories that give closure or raise more questions as Clara wrestles with her desire to leave her hometown for adventure, and her reluctance to abandon her beloved community. The story ends at the docks where the ship awaits Clara's (and the user's) final decision.

The Lyndow soundscape employs a limited palette of sounds (e.g., birds, footsteps) and musical motifs to inform the participant about the area, and to differentiate the areas both geographically and narratively. For example, the sound of waves may suggest an ocean nearby, even when it is not visible on the screen; the musical key, instrumentation, and melodic theme suggest the protagonist's mood and reinforce other connotations suggested by the soundscape. Leaving Lyndow is a short and relatively straightforward experience, which makes it an ideal case study to point out sonic and narrative elements.

To assess navigable narratives, I propose an approach drawing on ecomusicology, sound studies, architecture, virtual reality, video game music theory, and narrative film theory. First, I draw on R. Murray Schafer's soundscape analysis, and then J. Douglas Porteous and Jane F. Mastin's reply to Schafer, to provide a way of mapping the sonic environment of virtual worlds. Second, I show how certain methods of video game music analysis are ideal for navigable narratives, especially Elizabeth Medina-Gray's examination of modular scores. Third, I explore virtual narrative time theory by Alicyn Warren to address the temporal aspect of sound in navigable narratives. Finally, I discuss sound artist Janet Cardiff's approach to the soundwalk, to inform an understanding of character embodiment and sound diegesis. Throughout, I apply these methods and paradigms to the navigable narrative Leaving Lyndow to create a holistic analysis of the navigable narrative as a special subgenre of video game with key traits founded in soundwalks and literary computer games.

SOUNDSCAPE: THE SCHAFERIAN WAY

One of the central elements of a navigable narrative is its soundscape. The soundscape both presents the narrative and serves to build the world. Soundscape is a major part of traditional video games as well; navigable narratives’ focus on exploration and storytelling puts it at the forefront of the participant's attention. In navigable narratives, the soundscapes tend to imitate reality rather than concoct a purely fictional world. To analyze these soundscapes, real-world methods may apply with minimal tweaking.

Canadian ethnomusicologist R. Murray Schafer's pioneering work in soundscapes introduced the concept of the soundscape and how to analyze it. In his treatise Five Village Soundscapes (1977), which is something of a companion book to his seminal The Tuning of the World (The Soundscape) (1977), Schafer analyzed the soundscapes of five provincial towns across Europe and compared their objective and subjective sonic data. He selected what he observed and interpreted as the most salient or meaningful pitches and rhythms in each village and condensed them into music. The drive behind this was to promote a particular narrative of his own, idealizing less-developed areas as more natural in comparison to the urban, and attempting to “prove” (through the tools of Western musical sensibility) that city noise is counter to the kind of environment humans need. While his goals were activist in nature, and his methods were largely subjective, Schafer's five case studies laid an important foundation for the field of soundscape studies. I will argue that his process of mapping the key sounds of a soundscape is a critical part of navigable-narrative analysis.

In Five Village Soundscapes, Schafer studied Skruv, Sweden; Bissengen, Germany; Cembra, Italy; Lesconil, France; and Dollar, Scotland. Each town had a population of approximately 300 people in 1977. His soundscape analyses consist of a variety of charts and diagrams to parse the melody, harmony, rhythm, and spatialization of the area. These include a list of the salient sounds observed in half-hour periods to determine the rhythm, with distinction between continuous and intermittent sounds (e.g., factory rumbles and factory whistles, respectively); a hand-drawn map depicts the iconic views and sounds (e.g., bell towers, factories) and their relative distances from one another; and the sounds noted on the map are then notated on a musical grand staff. Schafer's analysis of Skruv was the most thorough, and I will primarily focus on this example for the purpose of this article; Schafer's map illustration of Bissengen, however, is the most detailed map illustration, and I will turn to Bissengen for the discussion of map imaging.

Most navigable narratives establish an environment based on a real-life setting, building small coherent settings with the same types of icons and earcons as Schafer found in the five villages.9 In the town of Lyndow in Leaving Lyndow, the busiest area, The Docks, is identifiable by the sights and sounds of ships and their crews, a child bouncing a ball, and the audio representation of carpentry, waves, and seagulls.10 Because of physical and digital constraints on the programming, soundscape composers of navigable narratives typically limit themselves to only a few key sounds like these. In doing so, they have already restricted the range of meaningful elements in a way that is parallel to Schafer's subjective selection of sonic data to construct his narrative of European village life.

Through recording and analyzing the major sonic elements present in each town—in Skruv these include the factories, the bell tower, and people's quotidian actions—Schafer would notate a condensed soundscape on a grand staff. Figure 1 is Schafer's harmonic condensation of Skruv's soundscape based on the five most prominent and identifying sounds, which he selected by choosing the five loudest based on measured sound pressure levels (SPLs). The result, Schafer reports, is a “dominant 9th chord, quite in tune.”11 We may also note that by condensing the sounds of the village into a recognizable chord of tonal music, and moreover, one with elements strongly congruent with the overtone series, Schafer's representation suggests a sense of natural harmony in the village of Skruv.

FIGURE 1.

A photocopy of Schafer's notation of the five key sounds that compose the Skruv soundscape: the brewery, the shopping plaza refrigeration unit, the train whistle, the metal works, and the cardboard factory. From Schafer, Five Village Soundscapes, 14.

FIGURE 1.

A photocopy of Schafer's notation of the five key sounds that compose the Skruv soundscape: the brewery, the shopping plaza refrigeration unit, the train whistle, the metal works, and the cardboard factory. From Schafer, Five Village Soundscapes, 14.

This chord reduction identifies the distinct palette of the soundscape, as one can see in the labels on each pitch. On an area map, Schafer marked these major sound sources to give a sense of how the village sounds are spatialized. His most detailed example is for Bissengen, seen in Figure 2.12 This sound map can prove useful in analyzing a navigable narrative, as it ties spatial, salient visual, and salient sonic elements together in one chart, and it also permits space for the analyst to mark other observations and features like continuous versus intermittent sounds and directionality. My hand-drawn Schaferian-style map of The Docks of Lyndow can be seen in Figure 3.

FIGURE 2.

Photocopy of Schafer's map of Bissingen—he did not choose to reprint the map of Skruv into his book, though he put the most detail in the written description of Skruv. From Schafer, Five Village Soundscapes, 12.

FIGURE 2.

Photocopy of Schafer's map of Bissingen—he did not choose to reprint the map of Skruv into his book, though he put the most detail in the written description of Skruv. From Schafer, Five Village Soundscapes, 12.

FIGURE 3.

Hand-drawn map of The Docks of Lyndow in the style of Schafer's Five Village Soundscapes. Key sound sources are marked with stars.

FIGURE 3.

Hand-drawn map of The Docks of Lyndow in the style of Schafer's Five Village Soundscapes. Key sound sources are marked with stars.

In the case of video games, game designers implement only the most important environmental sounds, and the result is a soundscape steeped with semiotic meaning. This choice avoids overwhelming both the host hardware and the participant. The result can resemble Schafer's soundscapes because only a few sound sources are selected to represent the environmental soundscape's identity as earcons—“short, structured musical messages” in which different musical properties and parameters (e.g., pitch, timbre) communicate data.13 These key sounds—on their own or in conjunction with others—may bear important meaning for the participant.

Lyndow features a town-sized space to explore with a handful of houses and paths to navigate. Some navigable narratives are mostly outdoors and “through-composed” with little chance to revisit locations. Dear Esther14 and the Drizzlepath and Bottle series (2014–present) consist of one long, meandering path with little to no backtracking and a predominantly outdoor setting. Others are primarily indoors and require a great amount of backtracking and finding new paths and connections between rooms while the soundscape shifts to incorporate new information or moods, such as Gone Home (Fullbright, 2013)15 and What Remains of Edith Finch (Annapurna Interactive, 2017).16

Leaving Lyndow sits comfortably in the middle of the indoor/outdoor and sprawling/contained spectra. Of its five main zones, two are purely indoors (Mother's House and The Teahouse), one is purely outdoors (The Forest), and two blend indoor and outdoor elements (Uncle's Home and The Docks). From the outset of the story, movement between the areas is linear, but after the introductory exposition in Mother's House the participant is permitted to move between areas in any order with one exception—The Docks must always be last. The overarching musical and plot expositional form is semi-aleatoric, the way so many video games are, so the analyst can perform a Schaferian analysis of the soundscape for each discrete area and then combine the essential sounds into the one Lyndow soundscape.

In all five discrete zones of Lyndow, the essential sounds of the outdoor, natural soundscape are the birds, the wind, and the water; these are present in The Forest, The Docks, Uncle's Home, and Mother's House.17 The indoor, peopled soundscape includes voices, footsteps, and action sounds like clinking glasses or bells. A few salient sounds are shared among the areas, though each area has a unique set of sound types and volume, as well as one sound exclusive to the area, summarized in Table 1. These shared sounds build Lyndow as a realistic and unified space, and their variations indicate the narrative points as well.

TABLE 1.
A tabulated summary of related salient sonic features in the five areas of Lyndow.
AreaSound Type
BirdsWavesDrips/lapsSpeechWindSound exclusive to area
Mother's House Seagulls Distant None Mother Sturdy but distant Creaking floorboards 
Uncle's Home Seagulls None None Uncle None Bell chime 
Forest Songbirds None Drips and splashes Sailors, in a dream Light breeze Vibraphone 
Teahouse Songbirds None Tea sounds Customers None Clinking glasses 
Docks Seagulls Close None Worker, child, mother, captain Sturdy Sawing lumber, bell toll 
AreaSound Type
BirdsWavesDrips/lapsSpeechWindSound exclusive to area
Mother's House Seagulls Distant None Mother Sturdy but distant Creaking floorboards 
Uncle's Home Seagulls None None Uncle None Bell chime 
Forest Songbirds None Drips and splashes Sailors, in a dream Light breeze Vibraphone 
Teahouse Songbirds None Tea sounds Customers None Clinking glasses 
Docks Seagulls Close None Worker, child, mother, captain Sturdy Sawing lumber, bell toll 

Further uniting Lyndow is the music, both diegetic and non-diegetic, which broadly uses the tonal center of D. Much of the non-diegetic music is in D minor with movement between parallel and relative major keys. Figure 4 shows the first twenty seconds of piano music the participant hears in Mother's House—the opening begins on open fifths, then moves to a pentatonic collection from F major, and finally by the third measure settles into D minor for the rest of the piece. From the beginning, Glendinning's composition sets up the narrative of uncertainty and dilemma by delaying tonic establishment for a few measures. However, the limited pitch collection is set from the beginning, perhaps reflecting the limited space available to the protagonist and participant-avatar alike.

FIGURE 4.

A simplified piano excerpt of the non-diegetic music in Mother's House, the first area in Lyndow. (Author's transcription.)

FIGURE 4.

A simplified piano excerpt of the non-diegetic music in Mother's House, the first area in Lyndow. (Author's transcription.)

Run through a spectrogram analysis in SPEAR,18 even all the nonmusical sounds in Lyndow fall into a D-tonality, as sketched in Figure 5. The natural soundscape (birds, wind, etc.) are surprisingly well matched to a D tonic center. For example, the seagulls heard in Mother's House and at The Docks caw at a shrill but even F#6 to F6, which works nicely with the D tonal setting as ambiguous D minor or D major. The howling wind, heard in Mother's House, Uncle's Home, and The Forest, starts low and unpitched and rises to a diffuse D pitch and back down.19

FIGURE 5.

Harmonic condensation of the key sounds in Lyndow. These represented sounds are an amalgam of the basic soundscape heard in the first area, Mother's House, and the final area, The Docks.

FIGURE 5.

Harmonic condensation of the key sounds in Lyndow. These represented sounds are an amalgam of the basic soundscape heard in the first area, Mother's House, and the final area, The Docks.

In the humanized soundscape, vocal sounds also fall into this tonal realm. The characters in Lyndow perform speaking but do not use a real language, and thus utterances melt into the soundscape without any semantic connotations. Through spectrogram analysis, it becomes apparent that the ranges of voices neatly fit defined pitches, and the sing-song way they speak tends to be quite tonal. The voices move as natural speech, but they all begin and end on pitches that match the musical key. These quasi-musical determinations match the overall D minor soundscape.

FIGURE 6.

The beginning and ending pitches of utterances from the people at The Docks. The rise or fall displays the characters’ speaking cadence.

FIGURE 6.

The beginning and ending pitches of utterances from the people at The Docks. The rise or fall displays the characters’ speaking cadence.

All in all, contained in the chord of music, sound, and voice represented in Figure 5 is the entire sonic palette of life in Lyndow. Taking into account the musical keys, the natural soundscape, and human speech, I determine Lyndow's soundscape to be a “quite in tune” Dm7 chord, to paraphrase Schafer. This type of analysis may be applied to any navigable narrative, as well as an assortment of traditional video games. Each navigable narrative will have its own way of parsing space and sound in conjunction with spatial allowances and narrative points, and one can create a Schaferian map by considering these boundaries.

However, some find fault with Schaferian sound mapping, and we may also use some of these critiques to refine his methods as we translate them to genres like navigable narratives. Architects J. Douglas Porteous and Jane F. Mastin wrote their 1985 article “Soundscape” as a response to Schafer's soundscape maps in Five Village Soundscapes. Whereas Schafer measured sound pressure levels (SPLs) at certain distances between icons and earcons, Porteous and Mastin suggest measuring average SPL in small, regularly spaced areas to quantitatively and more holistically and evenly analyze soundscape. The width of each delineated hexagon is 50 feet, in accordance with the rule of thumb that average human earshot is 50 feet.20 The honeycomb pattern can be overlaid on a map in any arrangement, though the analyst should use their discretion to determine a suitable arrangement (e.g., to avoid putting a separation line directly on a key sound source). Porteous and Mastin conducted a study of Ross Bay, British Columbia, to demonstrate their improved method, and their final product is shown here in Figure 7.

FIGURE 7.

A photocopy of Porteous and Mastin's spatial pattern of SPL measurements in Ross Bay, British Columbia. Porteous and Mastin, “Soundscape,” 175.

FIGURE 7.

A photocopy of Porteous and Mastin's spatial pattern of SPL measurements in Ross Bay, British Columbia. Porteous and Mastin, “Soundscape,” 175.

To be sure, this is a more objective and therefore arguably better way of creating soundscape maps for real-world settings. However, in navigable narratives and video games with virtually constructed space, the 50 feet rule does not always hold. To apply Porteous and Mastin's technique as true to form as I could, I recorded moving an avatar regular distances in the virtual space, then analyzed the SPL of sound sources in SPEAR. I analyzed four navigable narratives in this way, including the case study. In Lifeless Planet (2014), where the world is the size of a planet and the participant explores several miles of it, virtual earshot was upwards of 200 feet. In Nephise (2017), set in a small glade, the distance was roughly 20 feet. Dear Esther best fit the 50 feet rule. Leaving Lyndow varied depending on whether the setting was indoors or outdoors; outdoors, the hexagons fit a 40-foot width, but indoors the spaces are smaller with doors, walls, and stairs in between, and a span of 15–20 feet seemed more suitable. Any such variety is, of course, the design choice of the game maker and does not need to perfectly reflect reality so long as it successfully immerses the participant in the play.

Here in Figure 8, I have attempted to apply 15-foot hexagons for a rough top-down redrawing of Mother's house, using the video game building software RPG Maker VX Ace.21 The primary audible elements are listed in each space in relative order of SPL, though this map chooses to ignore the SPL shift caused by facing the avatar in different directions.

FIGURE 8.

A top-down perspective of Mother's House, created using free-to-use assets in RPG Maker VX Ace. The overlapping lines indicate a shift in vertical space, either descending a flight of stairs or stepping into the sunken living room.

FIGURE 8.

A top-down perspective of Mother's House, created using free-to-use assets in RPG Maker VX Ace. The overlapping lines indicate a shift in vertical space, either descending a flight of stairs or stepping into the sunken living room.

In this navigable narrative, the avatar's direction affects the volume balance, so for simplicity I have only listed the dominant sounds in each hexagon. So, in Mother's House, gulls, music, waves, and Mother's voice are by far the most dominant sounds, and these sounds define the space. Cooking, footsteps, and the creaking door are secondary, and specific to only a few hexagons. They draw attention to these areas and inform the participant about what kinds of narrative information they might find there.

Porteous and Mastin provide a more rigorously objective method of analyzing soundscapes, whereas Schafer's maps are somewhat more artistic. In realistic virtual worlds, both methods have their place, even if the distance of sound transmission requires some adjustment. Schafer's mapping is an important and useful foundation, and the relative SPLs may be all one needs to understand the soundscape. That said, taking a more systematic approach to mapping sound may better establish the similarities and differences between the virtual world and the real world, and thus more accurately delineate space. Not all navigable narratives have clean cuts between areas and elements; Dear Esther, for instance, is one continuous walk over hills and through caves, and an objective map like Porteous and Mastin's can help draw meaningful lines in space, sound, and narrative.

VIDEO GAME MUSIC: MODULES AND SEAMS

To address these delineations created by a combination of sonic, visual, and narrative shifts, I turn now to video game music theorist Elizabeth Medina-Gray's discussion of modular music and seams in video games. It is important to recall that navigable narratives are a subgenre of video game, even if they possess traits that challenge their inclusion as a video game genre. By and large, most navigable narrative creators have training and experience in making video games rather than soundwalks.22 The creative background in video games is evident in navigable narratives’ sound design and composition, and in how the crafted soundscape enriches the experience for the participant.

On a basic level, the implementation of sound and music in navigable narratives is just like most 3D video games; the overall score is composed of several modular stems containing themes and motifs that create or reflect certain narrative elements ranging from setting to plot twists. When sound modules divide, transition, or overlap, they create a “seam,” which can be analyzed in some combination of sonic or musical traits, such as meter or timbre. Medina-Gray describes seams as smooth, disjunct, or some combination of the two; “for instance, a seam could be metrically smooth and timbrally disjunct.”23 Seams are an intrinsic property of video games’ modular music implementation. Every millisecond of a module has the capacity to combine with a millisecond in another module to create a unique seam, depending on when modules are triggered or repeated.

Navigable narratives can smooth seams by carrying over a sonic trait from one module to the next. For example, Dear Esther carries timbre through the seams when transitioning from one area and/or narrative mood to another. Unifying timbres include a held violin note and the sustained rushing of ocean waves. Lifeless Planet has a constant hiss from the oxygen tank to smooth seams. Finally, the case study Leaving Lyndow retains its D-tonality throughout the game, occasionally modulating to closely related keys but never straying far from the home tonic.

Video games (and by extension, navigable narratives) rarely have static soundscapes. Sounds are triggered by the participant's actions on the controller and may align with the direction the avatar is facing or the action the avatar is performing. Or, sounds may be triggered by an in-game timer; day music fades to night music at set intervals, for example. The music and sound set to these triggers and timers are called loops (repeated phrase or sound object) and stingers (phrase or sound object, not repeated), and they are implemented modularly.

Some navigable narratives, like Lifeless Planet and Leaving Lyndow, juxtapose loops and dissonant or unique earcon stingers to direct the participant's attention and movement. Sometimes this is taken a step further, layering up earcons and musical fragments to build a quasi-natural soundscape.

Leaving Lyndow in particular uses nested loops to make the soundscape feel realistic without using a large number of stems, which would take up more computer memory. Each sound in the game—seagulls, ocean waves, rustling leaves, a raven cry, etc.—is a short loop. When layered, the soundscape repeats between sixty and ninety seconds. When taking the non-diegetic area music into account, which lasts between two and four minutes depending on the area, the participant is unlikely to hear any direct repetition at all.

For example, in Mother's House where the story begins, the seagulls are on a 2-second loop, on an F#6 falling to F6. The crashing waves are on a 3.5-second loop, though are too diffuse to contribute identifiable pitched material. The wind howl has a 9-second loop, starting at B4, rushing up to D5, and back down to B4. It takes over a minute for this set of three loops to repeat exactly, and so the participant may be none the wiser at how simplistic the sound design really is. After the sound effects play alone for 3.5 seconds, the piano enters, first in F major but quickly moving into D minor for the rest of the cue. A moment later, the participant can move the avatar, and this movement adds footsteps and the mother's voice into the mix. The sum of the sound effects and non-diegetic piano music together concoct a non-repeating soundscape. A simplified chart of these loops and layers are illustrated in Figure 9.

FIGURE 9.

Illustration of the layered loops of primary sounds and music in Mother's House, analyzed with SPEAR. The asterisks indicate diffuse noises that are difficult to accurately label with a pitch. The piano score has been simplified for harmonic analysis.

FIGURE 9.

Illustration of the layered loops of primary sounds and music in Mother's House, analyzed with SPEAR. The asterisks indicate diffuse noises that are difficult to accurately label with a pitch. The piano score has been simplified for harmonic analysis.

Identifying the musical content of loops and stingers is essentially a video game–based way of working Schaferian analysis. In this perspective, loops are continuous sounds that are the foundation of the soundscape, and stingers or infrequent loops such as tolling bells impart narrative information and directionality. An analyst may supplement a Schafer-style drawing or Porteous and Mastin hexagon mapping with such a diagram of the key sounds. This would include how the sounds overlap, which ones loop and which are cued, where the seams are, and whether the seams are smooth or jarring. Here it becomes clear that applying only game music analysis or only soundscape analysis will be insufficient to analyze navigable narratives; the analyst instead needs to find a way to fuse soundscape, music, and narrative analysis. Seams are an intersection of all three at once, as what the participant hears and experiences narratively are symbiotically connected.

NARRATIVE THEORY AND TIME

Time is a crucial aspect of soundscape analysis and of sound module composition and analysis, but navigable narratives (and, indeed, many video games) are not beholden to minutes and seconds. Schafer and Porteous and Mastin looked only at the real world and real time, but virtual worlds have other ways of dealing with time. Here I turn to the theories of interactive narrative media, or interactive books, to shed light on how navigable narratives use time and how that affects analysis of the soundscape, the narrative, and the relationship between them.

Since the 1980s, theorists like Janet Murray have tackled the new modular and aleatoric narratives that video games and other interactive media present. Murray posits that participants get to enjoy the story not only in the first-person view but in an individualized way, because each partaker can change the order and pacing of the story.24 This holds true for navigable narratives, too. On top of the modularity that video games provide for their story, some navigable narratives, such as Dear Esther, have alternate endings and require multiple playthroughs. Several have optional and “missable” content that affects the participant's overall story.25

In the twenty-first century, the next generation of theorists like Astrid Ensslin have continued to theorize about narrative in interactive media and intermedia stories. Ensslin has published an analytical toolset she calls functional ludostylistics to integrate elements of narratology, poetics, semiotics, mediality, and ludology.26 Her toolkit is intended for video games “that come with a solid narrative framework”27 (as opposed to those that prioritize gameplay mechanics over story), which she terms “literary computer games.”28 This term represents the literary end of the ludic-literary spectrum of digital literature, and it includes the subclasses of “ludic hypermedia,” “interactive fiction/drama,” “poetry games,” “literary auteur games,” and “quasi-literary games.”29 Navigable narratives, as I define them, could fit comfortably on this end of the spectrum.

Within this cast of genres, Ensslin posits a secondary spectrum of “digital books that can be played and digital games that can be read.”30 The distinction between digital books and digital games is not insignificant; it sets up a spectrum on which to place navigable narratives. Some navigable narratives are linear, funneling the protagonist down a singular path but at their own pace, like playing a digital book. Others give the participant a rich virtual world and unveil the narrative as the participant explores, more like a digital game with pages being “read” in any order. Both types support and even encourage paidic play, and there is an inherent plurality to how participants experience the soundscape, landscape, and narrative in both genres.

This plurality may influence an analysis of the soundscape. In an open-world setting with the possibility of nonlinear narrative, the order in which the participant hears sounds and reveals the story affects the entire experience. The analyst must choose whether their analysis takes that order into account or treats the sound elements equally. This choice can in turn influence the analysis of sonic seams, spatial delineations, or narrative pacing, and thus affect the entire navigable narrative experience and analysis.

For example, in the case of Leaving Lyndow, the five areas correspond to five “chapters” but are not perfectly linear. Mother's House is always the first area or chapter, and The Docks is always the last, but the other three can be accessed and completed in any order. The beginning and end of the story are always the same, but there are six ways in which the participant may experience the bulk of the story. Furthermore, because of the seams between the areas being smoother or more dissonant, certain moments of the soundwalk may be drastically different between playthroughs because of the different timing of transitions and the order of the soundscapes. Such significant changes to the participant's experience of the soundscape can dramatically alter their experience of the narrative, if not for the soundscape's reliance on narrative time.

Film theorist Alicyn Warren describes narrative time as the “constructed level of cinematic time” composed of the story (the events depicted in the order we understand them) and the discourse (the way or order in which the story is revealed).31 Warren is referring to films with set run times, but in navigable narratives this concept applies to both the narrative itself and the paidic unfolding of the narrative. The stories of navigable narratives are relatively fixed, but the discourses vary due to the paidic nature and participant-driven pacing. The participant has the permission and ability to explore and “take their sweet time.” As the soundscape is directly linked to the narrative pacing, certain sounds will only be triggered when another sound and/or event has been triggered first; in other words, the order of events matters, but not the seconds and minutes between.

That said, music unfolds over time, so charting the modular loops as Medina-Gray does may be an important step in determining the maximum possible length of a composite soundscape (that is, one including sound effects, dialogue, and both diegetic and non-diegetic music) before it repeats. As with any piece of music or narrative, analysis benefits from establishing structural segments and the transitions between them. In modular music and narratives, which many navigable narratives use, these transitions may have great breadth of variability caused by the rearrangement of sections and also by the participant's pace through the story. For instance, a participant moving faster through the navigable narrative may cause seams at moments of rising musical intensity or sonic density, whereas a slower participant changes areas as the music reaches concluding cadence (whether by serendipity or by choice).

What this means for navigable narratives is that methods and models that analyze rhythm in real time require a different mode of thought. A navigable narrative soundscape will not change over the course of a day in the real world, and so it is missing that “natural” daily rhythm Schafer noted in half-hour segments in Five Village Soundscapes. An analyst may instead choose to mark narrative time-point segments, and these points could be informed by Schaferian or Porteous and Mastin–style mapping for such soundscapes.

Leaving Lyndow offers a fairly simple time-map. Time of day corresponds to the areas and the general order of events in the story. The first area, Mother's House, is set during morning time, the three middle areas are during the day,32 and the final area, The Docks, is set during the evening. The shift in audible birds and civilian activity (and so on) could be understood as morning activities versus evening activities. A Schaferian soundscape analysis incorporating “rhythm” based on the three basic narrative time blocks might look like the chart in Table 2.

TABLE 2.
Time-map of Lyndow, listed as essential sound elements based on time of day. Non-diegetic music instrumentation is listed separately but obeys the same delineation.
Time of Day
MorningTransitionAfternoonTransitionEveningTransition to end
Location Mother's House  Uncle's Home; The Forest; The Teahouse  The Docks On the ship 
Key sound effects of the “time” Gulls; wind; ocean waves; Mother's voice Chirping birds Chirping birds; rustling leaves; Uncle's voice; reversed bell; water sounds; dishes and diners Chirping birds Chirping birds; gulls; men's voices (caver, architect, captain); hammer; Mother's voice; ball game; ticking clock (missable) Ship's bell 
Instrumentation in music Piano; violin Flute Full strings; marimba; harp; oboe; flute; dulcimer Synthesizer Full strings Full strings 
Time of Day
MorningTransitionAfternoonTransitionEveningTransition to end
Location Mother's House  Uncle's Home; The Forest; The Teahouse  The Docks On the ship 
Key sound effects of the “time” Gulls; wind; ocean waves; Mother's voice Chirping birds Chirping birds; rustling leaves; Uncle's voice; reversed bell; water sounds; dishes and diners Chirping birds Chirping birds; gulls; men's voices (caver, architect, captain); hammer; Mother's voice; ball game; ticking clock (missable) Ship's bell 
Instrumentation in music Piano; violin Flute Full strings; marimba; harp; oboe; flute; dulcimer Synthesizer Full strings Full strings 

The upshot is that narrative time can be labeled with rhythms like real time, and this can be a fruitful endeavor in navigable narrative analysis. The nested temporal unfolding of real-time music within larger-scale narrative time makes a soundscape more difficult to map than the methods of Schafer or Porteous and Mastin are equipped for, especially in examples with less clearly articulated narrative representations of time. Combining Medina-Gray's modules and seams with concepts coined by Murray and Ensslin, the analyst can understand and sort the various timings and what they mean for the overall analysis.

SOUNDWALKS

The final subject I broach in this article is the genre of art most similar to real-world navigable narratives: soundwalks. Schafer's colleague Hildegard Westerkamp coined the term while they were both entrenched in soundscape studies in the 1970s. In her article “Soundwalking” in 1974, Westerkamp states that a soundwalk is “any excursion whose main purpose is listening to the environment.”33 The act of a soundwalk can take place in a real or virtual environment and can occur at any time or may be curated/guided by a composer.

Westerkamp's work may provide a productive model for analyzing navigable narratives, since her composed soundwalks combine soundscape analysis with creative interpretive and compositional elements, which together curate an exploratory narrative experience that unfolds over real and/or narrative time. She narrates the experience and uses microphones to “zoom in” on sounds. For example, Kits Beach Soundwalk (1989) is a fixed-media soundwalk that aurally guides the listener between the macro-environment of waves and the sounds of Vancouver, British Columbia, down to the micro-environment of barnacles clicking and water trickling. All the sounds and sound sources are readily discoverable by anyone at Kits Beach, but Westerkamp uses field recording techniques and studio edits to craft a narrative by focusing on particular beings and moments. To experience the soundwalk, the listener need only put on a pair of headphones and follow Westerkamp's footsteps. This mode of listening is different from what players rely on for video games and is one more lens for the navigable narrative analyst's toolkit.

This narrator-guide technique seems fitting for navigable narratives, guiding a participant through a novel area and focusing their attention here and there, but it is in fact rare.34 A more common technique for navigable narratives, and also quite common in adventure video games, is using diegetic earcons and auditory icons to guide the participant. Auditory icons are very similar; the semiotic distinction is that auditory icons are iconic and earcons are symbolic. One of the most prevalent earcons nowadays is the customized ringtone that allows “the recipient to be aware of who is calling without the need to visually attend to the device.”35 Navigable narratives (and most video games writ large) similarly use musical motifs, timbral stingers, and other such earcons to communicate with the participant, often to advocate movement in a certain direction.

For instance, in Leaving Lyndow, at Uncle's Home a young cousin begs the participant to find their sailor dolls that are lost in the garden; the participant tracks down the small hidden dolls by listening for the reversed sound of a bell, an earcon that does not yet bear connotative meaning for the participant. In Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, the participant spends most of the game following the auditory icon of a crackling orb of light. In Hearing (skrimm8, 2017), the participant is actively encouraged to play blindfolded and navigate by ear.36 The participant is at liberty to chase such sounds or ignore them, but the narrative may only progress when the participant moves toward that earcon's associated identity or the source of the auditory icon.

As an artistic genre, the soundwalk has evolved since its beginning with the World Soundscape Project in the 1970s, and the newer soundwalks in the 2010s have moved closer to navigable narratives. Composers like Janet Cardiff, Andra McCartney, and George Bures Miller have developed soundwalks with timely technology, such as portable CD players in the 1990s and iPhones in the 2010s. In particular, Janet Cardiff uses virtual and augmented-reality spaces in her soundwalks. For example, her The City of Forking Paths (2014) uses the iPhone's augmented reality (AR) capacity by overlaying prerecorded images and videos onto the real world as viewed through the camera. The participant follows Cardiff's lead by trailing the virtually present people through Sydney, Australia. They are permitted to move at their own pace, just like in the majority of video games. Like Westerkamp, Cardiff describes the soundscape and gives directions, but unlike Westerkamp she weaves imaginative stories, philosophy, and poetry into the larger narrative. Furthermore, Cardiff's soundwalks quite literally involve walking. Some of them are enjoyable with a screen and a good pair of headphones, but The City of Forking Paths needs the camera to move through space, and by extension, the participant must go on a guided journey.

Cardiff's mode of storytelling in soundwalks is prevalent in navigable narratives, including the influential Dear Esther and the award-winning Everybody's Gone to the Rapture and What Remains of Edith Finch. In these examples, the narrator tells a story and occasionally remarks on sights on the screen and sounds in the headphones as they arise. For example, when a swing set creaks in What Remains of Edith Finch, the narrator reacts as if hearing the sound at the same time as the participant. The narrator starts telling the participant about the child who swung too high on that swing set, and in doing so implicitly urges the participant to move toward the swing set to advance the story. If the participant avoids the swing set at this juncture, the story will not continue, though the participant is still free to walk around the previously accessed area.

Analyzing Westerkamp's or Cardiff's soundwalks with narrative time is more difficult to pull off. Soundwalks, like all sound art and music, are enacted in real time by the participant or performer. Westerkamp's soundwalks obey real-world time. Some of Cardiff's do, though some, like The City of Forking Paths, afford the user more flexibility in their time and thus utilize narrative time more. On the other hand, this means navigable narratives provide something unique that soundwalk composers might envy: time and space for the user to engage fully with the soundscape and perform deep listening without getting ushered along before they have explored the sound to their personal satisfaction. For the participant, consciously or not, they have the luxury of taking in and interpreting the full soundscape. For an analyst, this reinforces the power of the soundscape that navigable narratives possess. It can also support the claim that the participant is relying on the soundscape to understand their environment and appreciate the story more than in traditional video games.

All said, navigable narratives share many fundamental qualities with the new generation of VR and AR soundwalks. Both genres tout paidic exploration in a rich sonic environment that drives the story and immersion, an interesting visual environment to help the participant navigate and become immersed, and, in the case studies in this article and many others, a narrative paced by the participant.

While navigable narratives share these elements with soundwalks, they also have features that are indebted to their existence as video games, even while they are emerging as a unique genre of their own. For instance, some navigable narratives rely more on gameplay styles and tropes unique to the video game medium. Even those that match Cardiff-style soundwalks closely are intrinsically bound to their bespoke medium because, unlike a soundwalk with simple mediation between sound and self, video games and navigable narratives are presented through a completely virtual environment and mediated through a screen, headphones, and a handheld controller.

This explains how navigable narratives are a distinct and unique genre within video games. Navigable narratives ask the participant to embody the avatar and explore the virtual world as that character in a realistic-seeming way. The virtual world is similar to the real world, and the actions the avatar enacts are not fantastical. In this way, the soundscape observed objectively from afar becomes blurred with the soundwalk as the interactive, embodied action. The participant takes a soundwalk but does not move from their living room. Navigable narratives may immerse the participant, at least in part, through this blurring of self and avatar by mirroring the soundwalk and its lack of distinction between self and avatar. In a soundwalk, the participant and the avatar are the same or at least possibly the same. A person listening to Kits Beach can imagine themselves on the beach with Westerkamp, or that they are Westerkamp, but it is all very realistic and possible in the provided virtual world. Video games may also blur participant and avatar and break diegesis, but often the virtual world has more fantastical possibilities like leaping as high as Mario or running as far as Link without tiring. It is notable for a video game–based genre such as navigable narratives to use realistic environments and mirror the immersion style of soundwalks. Thus, I propose we may borrow an analytical lens from soundwalks to study navigable narratives as an embodied genre with a modular and flexible narrative and a rich soundscape through which the participant moves in their own, if guided, way.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

Navigable narratives are a unique subgenre of video game, one which draws on similarities to features of a number of other media genres, and analytical methodologies associated with these can be adapted and combined to good effect in making sense of these often-idiosyncratic experiences (Figure 10). Starting from the standpoint of soundwalks, navigable narratives are akin to VR and AR soundwalks, and thus we may use soundscape analysis techniques from Schafer or Porteous and Mastin. Indeed, with modern technology composers are able to create intricate soundscapes, and analysts are able to study these with spectrograms and sonic analysis programs.

FIGURE 10.

A familiar shape illustrates the relationship between video games, soundwalks, literary computer games/interactive stories, and navigable narratives.

FIGURE 10.

A familiar shape illustrates the relationship between video games, soundwalks, literary computer games/interactive stories, and navigable narratives.

There are some key differences between soundwalks and navigable narratives. Soundwalks are fixed in real time while navigable narratives are not. Soundwalks can only use humanly realistic movement, while navigable narratives often also use teleportation. Finally, while there are many ways artists can design and implement soundwalks, a core trait of navigable narratives is their modular soundscape with “triggerable” sounds. These aspects of navigable narratives are common to video games, of which they are, after all, a subgenre. We may apply lenses and models of video game music theory, so long as we are cognizant of where the analyses are imperfect or incomplete because the participant's style of listening is more akin to a soundwalk than a video game. Last but not least, most navigable narratives employ narrative time in contrast to real time, allowing the participant ample time to look and listen to their satisfaction and not have to miss any story or environmental elements of the game. This may influence the other analyses—Medina-Gray's modular analysis best applies to sounds being triggered in real time, though examining sounds being triggered alongside or within events lends itself to an analysis with narrative time.

To an even greater extent than most video games or literary computer games, navigable narratives present an intricately designed and spatialized soundscape that informs the participant of a lot of information about the environment and the story. The act of playing a navigable narrative is most closely related to the act of performing a virtual reality or augmented reality soundwalk, but also not unlike “reading a digital game” or “playing a digital book,” as Astrid Ensslin would say. Given these relationships to such varied and multimedia genres, I posit that a well-rounded analysis of a navigable narrative should take these associations into account. We must accept navigable narratives as a genre of video game–based sound art resting in the not-so-uncanny valley between soundwalks, video games, and literary computer games; the soundscapes are based on realistic reference points but constructed in the manner of video games, and the process of engaging with a navigable narrative is part soundwalk and part progressing a story. To analyze and understand them, we require a diverse complement of lenses and methods of analysis from many related genres.

1.

Kill Screen Staff, “Is it time to stop using the term ‘walking simulator’?” Kill Screen, September 30, 2016, https://killscreen.com/articles/time-stop-using-term-walking-simulator/. Accessed August 7, 2017.

2.

To be clear: in journal articles written for the general public, walking simulator is the more common term in use. Though each author seems to have their own idea concerning the exact definition, the corpus of media discussed under this term mostly matches with the corpus that I have deemed navigable narratives.

3.

Some navigable narratives do have elements that could be considered gamified or competitive. For example, some, like Nephise (2017), contain scavenger hunts, and others like Lifeless Planet (2014) contain simple platforming. These particular examples do not distract the participant from the narrative and soundscape, which remain at the forefront. Puzzle-based games that otherwise fit the bill, like The Witness (2016), Quern (2016) and Myst (1993) or Myst-like games, I do not classify as navigable narratives because of their emphasis on puzzle solving at the expense of the player's spatial movement and attention to soundscape and scenery.

4.

Definitions for paidia and ludus from Robert Caillois, Man, Play, and Games, trans. Meyer Barash (Urbana, Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2001), 13–28.

5.

Kill Screen, 2016; a number of negative articles and reviews on the term walking simulator use negative language like “devoid,” “lack,” and “missing” to describe how walking simulators differ from video games. These syntactic paradigms imply a failure to be included under the umbrella term video game.

6.

Literary computer games (also called interactive books or digital books) are stories presented on computer platforms with a clear narrative progression and with interactive elements so that the reader can immerse themselves or skim at any speed they like.

7.

There is a video game genre called visual novel that generally features (1) two-dimensional graphics, (2) a story told through text on a static background with some cut-scenes, (3) background music and basic sound effects, and (4) simple choice-making that may or may not affect the plot points and ending. The main similarity between visual novels and navigable narratives is their emphasis on story, but that is as far as a comparison usually goes.

8.

“Leaving Lyndow,” www.eastshade.com/leaving-lyndow. Accessed August 25, 2019.

9.

Examples include Gone Home (2013) and What Remains of Edith Finch (2018), both set inside a single house; Tacoma (2016), set aboard a spaceship; The Stanley Parable (2011), set in an office building; Nephise Begins (2015), set in a small neighborhood; Everybody's Gone to the Rapture (2016), set in a full-size English township.

10.

The main difference Schafer might note is that navigable narratives do not possess natural daily rhythm. Each area is frozen in a particular moment, or part of day. I will discuss this later in the article, in the section about Alicyn Warren and narrative time.

11.

R. Murray Schafer, Five Village Soundscapes (Vancouver: A.R.C. Publications, 1977), 14.

12.

I have chosen to present his analysis of Skruv because I find it the most thorough of the batch, with only one major flaw: Schafer did not publish his map of Skruv's soundscape to accompany the chord aggregate he depicted. So, I have reproduced the map of Bissengen here in its stead.

13.

David McGookin and Stephen Brewster, “Earcons,” in The Sonification Handbook, ed. Thomas Hermann, Andy Hunt, and John G. Neuhoff (Berlin: Logos, 2011), 339.

14.

For an analysis on Dear Esther and second-person pronoun storytelling, see Heidi Ann Colthup, “‘You Were All the World Like a Beach to Me.’ The Use of Second Person Address to Create Multiple Storyworlds in Literary Video Games: ‘Dear Esther’, a Case Study,” International Journal of Transmedia Literacy 4 (2018): 121–142.

15.

For an analysis on Gone Home and simulated cultural memory, see Robin Sloan, “Videogames as Remediated Memories: Commodified Nostalgia and Hyperreality in Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and Gone Home,” Games and Culture 10, 6 (2015): 525–550.

16.

These two examples take place inside a single house for the duration of the game (with brief moments in a yard on the property). The explorable area expands as the player manages to unlock doors or move blockages while the stories progress, allowing a constrained area to feel expansive by retreading ground with new knowledge and new clues.

17.

In Mother's House, the outdoor soundscape is audible through open windows, but the avatar does not go outside and I list this area as a purely indoor area due to the space.

18.

SPEAR stands for “Sinusoidal Partial Editing Analysis and Resynthesis” and is a free application for audio analysis and synthesis.

19.

These pitches were chosen from a series of spectrogram “snapshots” analyzed in the software SPEAR. These were the loudest and most frequent sounds. So, as Murray Schafer did, I collected these loud and prevalent pitches and notated them on a grand staff, and I realized through the notation that they created a stable chord.

20.

J. Douglas Porteous and Jane F. Mastin, “Soundscape,” Journal of Architectural and Planning Research, 3 (1985): 169–186.

21.

RPG Maker is specifically designed to build two-dimensional top-down games and levels in the style shown above. I found it fitting to use video game making software for this endeavor, though it turned out to be impossible to use hexagons rather than squares for the level design.

22.

For more on the history and development of navigable narratives, walking simulators, and video games, see Meg Eden's article “The History of Walking Simulators” (April 26, 2019), https://super.magfest.org/mages-blog/the-history-of-walking-simulators.

23.

Elizabeth Medina-Gray, “Modular Structure and Function in Early 21st-century Video Game Music” (PhD diss., Yale University, 2014), 46.

24.

Janet H. Murray, Hamlet on the Holodeck (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997), 15.

25.

By “missable” content, I mean bits of lore and backstory that game designers place for players to find, but whether or not they are uncovered has no real bearing on the narrative's progression. Finding missable content might add a new layer, element, or interesting moment of transition for the soundscape and the participant's overall experience, but it is always a bonus feature and never a total game-changer.

26.

Astrid Ensslin, Literary Gaming (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2014), 50.

27.

Ensslin, Literary Gaming, 52.

28.

Ensslin, Literary Gaming, 45.

29.

Ensslin's case studies for the five subclasses I listed above are Loss of Grasp (Serge Bouchardon and Vincent Volckaert, 2010), Blue Lacuna: An Interactive Novel (Aaron A. Reed, 2008), evidence of everything exploding (Jason Nelson, 2009), and The Path (Tale of Tales, 2009), respectively.

30.

Ensslin, Literary Gaming, 2.

31.

Alicyn Warren, “Levels of Reality in Dramatic Music” (PhD diss., Princeton University, 1992), 96.

32.

One may assume such, anyway. In the Teahouse, it is impossible to get the angle of the sun; that said, there is natural light coming through the windows, and one may safely assume a teahouse is busy during morning or midday. In The Forest, the sun is somewhat low on the horizon and it is impossible to tell if it is east or west. But, the shadows are not as long as at either Mother's House or The Docks, and therefore it must be between the two events. Uncle's Home has the same lighting as The Forest.

33.

Hildegard Westerkamp, “Soundwalking,” Sound Heritage 3, no. 4 (1974): 18.

34.

Only a few navigable narratives I have come across have a fourth-wall-breaking narrator at all, notably The Beginner's Guide (2015), The Stanley Parable (2013), and Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald (2015); however, these particular pieces are not exemplary models of the navigable narrative genre due to their unorthodox methods of storytelling and gameplay.

35.

McGookin and Brewster, “Earcons,” 340.

36.

This last one is only tenuously on the list of navigable narratives as its story is so open-ended that I am reluctant to deem it a full-fledged narrative; however, I have chosen to include it because it pushes the limits of soundscape navigation. It instructs the player to play blindfolded and trust the sound map. However, this task is ultimately more difficult than the creators really intended, as many reviews point out. The problem is that while the goals have sound to guide the player, the obstacles do not, and it is nearly impossible to tell just by listening whether or why the avatar has been impeded. All that said, Hearing is one of the best examples of teaching the player to listen to the environment, and that skill is useful for soundwalks and navigable narratives.

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2016
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The Beginner's Guide
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Bottle: Pilgrim
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2017
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Dear Esther
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2012
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Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist
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2015
. Crows Crows Crows. English, PC.
Drizzlepath
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2015
. Tonguç Bodur. Turkish/English, PC.
Drizzlepath: Déjà vu
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2018
. Tonguç Bodur. Turkish/English, PC.
Drizzlepath: Genie
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2016
. Tonguç Bodur. Turkish/English, PC.
Drizzlepath: Glass
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2017
. Tonguç Bodur. Turkish/English, PC.
Everybody's Gone to the Rapture
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2016
. The Chinese Room/SCE Santa Monica Studio. English, PlayStation 4.
Firewatch
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2016
. Campo Santo/Panic. English, PC.
Gone Home
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2013
. Fullbright. English, PC.
Hearing
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2017
. skrimm8. English, PC.
The Hunting God
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2017
. Tonguç Bodur. Turkish/English, PC.
Leaving Lyndow
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2017
. Eastshade Studios. English, PC.
Lifeless Planet
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2014
. Stage 2 Studios/KISS Ltd. English/Russian, PC.
MIND: Path to the Thalamus
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The Moon Sliver
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Myst
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Nephise
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Nephise: Ascension
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What Remains of Edith Finch
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. Thekla Inc. English, PC.