Inspired (unfortunately) by a Buzzfeed article which discussed the function of various literary/storytelling devices found throughout Disney movies, I decided to adopt the idea for the benefit of video games. Whether it’s a game of incredible narrative depth or superficial gimmicks, chances are high you’ve played some games exhibiting these traits. Maybe if you get lucky, you’ll learn a new concept, or place a word to something you already recognized but had no name for, such as in the case of “anagnorisis” or “denouement.” At any rate, I hope you enjoy.
Definitions provided by quizlet.com.
Definition: A common thread or repeated idea that is incorporated throughout a literary work.
Example: Kingdom Hearts is so rampant with theming that it’s sometimes a butt of jokes among the fanbase. From beginning to end, spanning all sequels and spin-offs, Kingdom Hearts exhibits the classic battle of Light versus Darkness within people’s hearts. Some people overcome darkness to find their light, or fail to do so and become corrupted. Regardless, the words “light,” “darkness,” and “heart” are almost hilariously abundant within this series, as everything ties back to those three words. They influence every character arc, every narrative arc, most of the enemy designs, and a lot of environments as well.
Definition: An object, character, figure, or color that is used to represent an abstract idea or concept.
Example: The Portal games are symbolic of humanity’s ongoing ascendancy into a four dimensional space-time existence. The games themselves condition the player to think beyond the constraints of three dimensional space-time, which is explicitly stated in the slogan “Now you’re thinking with portals.” Chell’s training is symbolic of the real training that the player is simultaneously undergoing. This is a rather brilliant move on Valve’s part, for not only do they express an advanced level of symbolism, but they even manage to infiltrate the boundaries of our own world. This is not to be confused with Breaking the Fourth Wall. That will come later.
Definition: Irony that occurs when the meaning of the situation is understood by the audience but not by the characters in the work.
Example: One of Skyrim’s most notorious guilds is the Dark Brotherhood. To begin this quest-line, the game provides a mission from a boy who manages to escape from an orphanage. He hires you to kill the headmistress, who is exceptionally cruel to the orphans. After you do so, the orphans cheer that the headmistress has been killed. After you visit the boy who escaped and collect your payment, a passing soldier might tell you about the murder (that you performed) and comment “The children must be devastated.”