It's a book! It's a game! It's 'Building Stories'! Play, Plot and Narration in Graphic Narrative.
AffiliationUniversity of Chester, London College of Printing
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AbstractIn reviews of Chris Ware’s Building Stories, critics regularly draw attention to the board-game like design of the comic’s box and elements of the text within. Yet while many have noted the similarities between Building Stories and the visual/physical design of board games such as Monopoly, and Ware himself has cited ‘French "Jeux Reunis" game sets from the late 19th and the early 20th century’ as one of the inspirations for the work’s design concept, few go as far as to suggest that Building Stories actually is a game. In this paper, Simon Grennan and Ian Hague will consider the ways in which Building Stories’ narrative structure mirrors those conventionally found in games. Drawing upon works published by Bethesda Softworks, such as Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas and the Elder Scrolls series, as well as comics including Jason Shiga’s Meanwhile and Actus Tragicus’ Actus Box: 5 Graphic Novellas, and literary works such as Marc Saporta’s Composition No.1 and B.S. Johnson’s The Unfortunates, Grennan and Hague will interrogate some of the formal and discursive relationships between play and narrative, such as the productive structuring of choice, the impact of types of accumulated and excluded actions upon plot and the narratological implications of subverting the social habits by which games, comics and literature are defined. Utilising Seymour Chatman’s 1978 theorisation of narrative as a ‘double time’ structure, being the time of the plot plus the time of the text, they will suggest that both games and comics promote specific discourse activities over others as conditions of comprehension, whilst sharing formal structures that are utilised in each register to underwrite the distinctions between them. Hence, it is as possible to choose to read the cells of comic in any order as it is to choose one course of actions over another in a game. Grennan and Hague will analyse the degrees of similarity and difference between these options in their particular contexts, relative to an experience of a plot, in order to problematise the relationship between discourse and plot at the heart of Chatman’s theory.
CitationGrennan, S. and Hague, I. (2014). It's a book! It's a game! It's 'Building stories'! Play, plot and narration in graphic narrative. Paper presented at the Fifth International Graphic Novel and Comics Conference, London, United Kingdom
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