This talk will present the results of an ongoing research on video game tutorials, studied from a narratological and rhetorical perspective. Although being a widespread feature of video games, tutorials have been little studied in the field of game studies so far. The few research works on that topic address it indirectly, either as a game design issue (how to design a good tutorial?) or as an illustration of a broader problem (educational sciences, especially, find interest in video games’ “tutorial strategies”). These studies have surely laid a solid foundation for future research, but none of them developed a systematic approach of tutorials or a theoretical framework able to map their ludo-narrative properties. Yet, since learning video game rules is done through experimentation, is integrated into the playing activity (or even into the narrative) and is often the first interaction that the player has with the game world, tutorials constitute a node where many central issues for the understanding of video games are concentrated.
The research presented in this talk takes as a starting point a database of video game tutorials that I am currently building and exploiting following the method of correspondence analysis. I will show how this database can be used as a descriptive tool to determine the broad lines of opposition that differentiate categories of tutorials. In a second step, I will approach the diegetic ambiguity of tutorials through the analysis of a sub-corpus of games using characters to convey the instructions to the player. In tutorials, indeed, the game addresses directly the player through hybrid expressions, mixing references to the fictional world and to the player’s empirical gesture (such as “press B to run”). The integration of these user instructions in the game world implies, in other words, the production of many metalepses (Genette, 2004) and mises en abyme – metadiscursive processes thus instituted into narrative conventions in video games. For these reasons, these passages represent an ideal gateway to study the “narrativization” mechanisms of rules and the construction of video game characters.
Fanny Barnabé is an FNRS Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Liège (Belgium) and a member of the Liège Game Lab. Her research focuses on video game narration (to which she devoted the book Narration and Video Game: For an Exploration of Fictional Universes), on the different forms of détournement (or remix) of video games (topic of her PhD dissertation) and on video game tutorials. She also studied video game paratext during a one-year research stay at the Ritsumeikan Center for Game Studies in Kyoto (Japan), under the supervision of Professor Hiroshi Yoshida.