Введение в структурный анализ геймплея видеоигр
This article seeks to elucidate the structuring function of the game mechanics as one of the basic elements of video game narrative. Despite the generally thorough investigation of the fundamental phenomena in narratology-based video game research, one can say that the place of the game mechanics in the ludic narrative structure has been neglected both in Russian and global game studies, although somewhat implied in a plethora of works dedicated to gameplay. Nevertheless, it must be examined to allow more precise and methodologically correct analysis of particular mechanics in the future works. To achieve this goal, it is suggested to apply Roland Barthes’ method of structural analysis to the ludic narrative.
Barthes’ method was originally presented for traditional narratives’ investigation. Barthes sees texts as the structures consisting of the two functional units, namely “functions” and “indices” (or “indexes”, or “indicators”). Functions are related to the sequence of events constituting the plot and subdivided into “cardinal functions” (or “nuclei”) which are the hinges of the narrative and “catalyses” which complement the story with additional events. Indices provide the information about the characters, their surroundings and the general atmosphere and can have implicit meaning (then they are named “indices” (sic!)) and explicit meaning being “informants”.
In video games, another dimension of the narrative — the interactive one — is added and it consists of smaller units, as well. These units are game mechanics, i.e. particular actions that the player can take mostly to overcome the narrative and/or gameplay obstacles. Due to the narrative aspect of the game mechanics, they should be seen (and thankfully often are) as the part of the video game general narrative structure. What misses the scientific elucidation is that the game mechanics not only can be seen as another embodiment of older units but form the new type of a basic element combining the traits of the traditional pair.
This happens because every mechanic contains some rule of the fictional world (and indicates its existence) and this rule is being implemented by the player’s and therefore protagonist’s actions within the plot or minor gameplay sequences (to resolve local conflicts). Hence, the conclusion is drawn that the game mechanic serves both as a function and an indice. In other words, the new medium presents another atomic, undividable part of the narrative leading to its more complex structure in comparison to other storytelling forms.