Breaking the Game: The traversal of the emergent narrative in video games

  • Pedro Cardoso ID+, Faculdade de Belas Artes, Universidade do Porto
  • Miguel Carvalhais ID+, Faculdade de Belas Artes, Universidade do Porto
Keywords: Agency, Ergodic Media, Glitch, Narrative, Video Games.


In video games the player’s actions shape the narrative of their personal experience, molding what otherwise would be a linear course. This emergent narrative is in a state of constant transformation, dependent on how the player influences it. This paper explores how the players traverse ergodic media such as video games and how narrative emerges from the interactions between them and the system. In a previous text we have proposed three types of traversal in video games (Cardoso & Carvalhais, 2013): 1) that in which the player has the ability to choose between mutually exclusive paths; 2) that in which the player has the ability to expand the narrative; and 3) that in which the traversal is determined by the disposition of the other actors in the game world towards the player and each other. This paper intends to further contribute by adding another one: 4) a type of traversal that is rooted in the exploitation of any flaws and glitches in the system, allowing the player to traverse the game through an overlooked side of the algorithm, journeying through a world of unpredictable behaviours and events, that may ultimately break the game altogether.  

Author Biographies

Pedro Cardoso, ID+, Faculdade de Belas Artes, Universidade do Porto
Pedro Cardoso is a communication designer, researcher, and a PhD student pursuing studies in video games and new media. He is a guest lecturer at the University of Porto.
Miguel Carvalhais, ID+, Faculdade de Belas Artes, Universidade do Porto
Miguel Carvalhais is a communication designer and a musician. He is a professor of interaction design and new media at the University of Porto.


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