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

Pedro Cardoso, Miguel Carvalhais



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.



Agency; Ergodic Media; Glitch; Narrative; Video Games.

Full Text:



Aarseth, Espen. (1997). Cybertext: Perspectives on ergodic literature. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Allison, Fraser. (2010). The game narrative triangle. Retrieved from Red Kings Dream website: triangle/

Bethesda Game Studios, 4J Studios. (2006). The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.

Bethesda Game Studios. (2008). Fallout 3. Bethesda Game Studios. (2011). The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

Bissel, Tom. (2011). Extra lives: Why video games matter.

Bogost, Ian. (2010). Persuasive games: The picnic spoils the rain. Gamasutra: The art & business of making games. Retrieved from Gamasutra website: persuasive_games_the_picnic_.php?print=1

Cardoso, Pedro, & Carvalhais, Miguel. (2013). Traversing the emerging narrative in interactive narratives and video games. Paper presented at the Avanca | Cinema: International Conference Cinema — Art, Technology, Communication, Avanca, Portugal.

Carvalhais, Miguel. (2013). Traversal hermeneutics: The emergence of narrative in ergodic media. Paper presented at the xCoAx 2013, Bergamo, Italy.

Core Design. (1996). Tomb Raider.

Core Design. (1998). Tomb Raider 3.

Galloway, Alexander R. (2006). Gaming: Essays on algorithmic culture (Vol. 18). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Games, Alex. (2011). Fallout 3: How relationship-relevant decisions craft identities that keep bringing us back to enjoy the horrors of the nuclear wasteland. In Drew Davidson (Ed.), Well played 3.0: Video games, value and meaning: ETC Press.

Gearbox Software. (2009). Borderlands.

Goffrey, Andrew. (2008). Algorithm. In Matthew Fuller (Ed.), Software studies: A lexicon (pp. 15-20). Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.

Irrational Games, Digital Extremes. (2007). Bioshock. Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo. (1999). Silent Hill.

Miller, Ben. (2010). Immersive game design: Indigo prophecy. Drew Davidson (Ed.), Well played 2.0: Video games, value, and meaning: ETC Press. ISBN: 978-0-557- 84451-7.

Murphy VII, Tom. (2013). The first level of Super Mario Bros. is easy with lexicographic orderings and time travel ... after that it gets a little tricky. Paper presented at the SIGBOVIK 2013.

Nintendo Creative Department. (1985). Super Mario Bros.

Nintendo EAD. (1991 [JP], 1992 [EU, NA]). The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.

Quantic Dream. (2010). Heavy Rain.

Rockstar North. (2004). Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

Rockstar North, Rockstar Toronto. (2008). Grand Theft Auto IV.

Salen, Katie, & Zimmerman, Eric. (2004). Rules of play: Game design fundamentals: MIT — Massachussetts Institute of Technology.

Schreier, Jason. (2012). How to break final fantasy vi. Random Encounters. Retrieved 25/05/2013

Schreier, Jason. (2013). How to break final fantasy iv. Random Encounters. Retrieved 25/05/2013

Square. (1991). Final Fantasy IV. Square. (1994). Final Fantasy VI.

Square Product Development Division 1. (1997). Final Fantasy VII.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Journal of Science and Technology of the Arts
Revista de Ciência e Tecnologia das Artes
ISSN: 1646-9798
e-ISSN: 2183-0088
Portuguese Catholic University | Porto

Esta revista científica é financiada por Fundos Nacionais através da FCT – Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia

 Governo da República Portuguesa