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The Pequod
Dr Alistair Brown | Associate lecturer in English Literature; researching video games and literature

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New Essay

Through exploring the psychopathology of Capgras syndrome, in which a patient mistakes a loved one for an imposter, The Echo Maker offers a sustained meditation on the ways in which we project our own problems onto other people. As a reflection on the mysteries of consciousness, the novel offers some interesting if not especially new insights into the fuzzy boundaries between scientific and literary interpretations of the mind. Read more

New Publication: The Computer Game Fallout 3 as a Serial Fiction

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The edited collection Serialisation in Popular Culture has now been published, including an essay of mine on "The Video Game Fallout 3 as a Serial Fiction." Here is the abstract:
Although computer games and literary narratives use different narrative both media compel players and readers in similar ways through the "sense of an ending," a concept that draws on the work of Frank Kermode. Serial fictions especially must balance between giving readers unexpected twists at the end of each installment, and an ultimate sense of conclusion. Computer games therefore resemble serial fictions because they tease players as they progress through levels (or installments). Games push players down false routes or into unexpected failures in order to make the satisfaction of an ultimate conclusion more pronounced.
Since writing this chapter, based on a conference paper three years ago, I think I've probably become more hardline in relation to the theoretical underpinning for this piece. In particular, I am less inclined than ever to see literary narratives and video game narratives as structurally similar. Indeed, as I point out in the chapter, although video games might seem like serial fictions at a material level, in that they encourage players to download additional content and mods to prolong the story, even this comparison does not really hold, since video games do not require players to pursue these additions, whereas the whole point of serial fiction is that reading the next installment is essential to understanding.

Nevertheless, even if their narrative structures and techniques are different, I am more convinced than ever - based on some of my later research - that from a phenomenological point of view both games and literary texts elicit similar reactions in their 'readers', and seek to produce similar forms of pleasurable engagement. In this case, I draw on Kermode to show how we read and play for the sense of a certain ending that we are denied in our everyday existence.

My thanks to the editors, Rob Allen and Thijs van den Berg, for producing a really diverse collection, which rightly examines the ongoing influence of serialisation beyond its alleged Victorian heyday and into the twenty-first century. (Incidentally, for those readers who are especially interested in video games, the latter has written one of the best essay you're ever likely to read on how video games (such as Bioshock) encode capitalist ideology.)

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