Brief Candle – Research Blog 04: Act Two – The Actr

Out, out, brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury

Signifying nothing.

— Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 17-28)


Finding games in which the player is an actor is not a difficult task, however I wanted two games with similar enough treatment of the player so that the focus could be how the games handle that treatment through scenography rather than analyse the treatment itself.

The games I replayed were Dr Langeskov, the Tiger and the Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist (totally not trying to fill out word count with that name) and Portal. The former is a game made by the development partner of the Beginners Guide and the pair previously developed the Stanley Parable. This choice was easy because the style of game is very similar between the developers therefore I could draw on more experience about the development as a whole.

Portal took a lot longer to figure out however I  settled on it after we did study into the game in another class. This provided me with more time to analyse the game particularly because it was a step away from the other types of games I am analysing from a scenographic perspective.

I also came across a useful article on Portal which really helped break down the game in a way I hadn’t thought to prior to studying it.

http://www.playtime-arts.com/portal-and-the-meta-narrative-maker/

Particularly this piece played on the initial concept of meta narrative for this project, which further evolved into scenographic, however the core subject of audience, actors and authors is a consistent factor present in this article and my current research.

What I discovered about these games is that even though the player is an actor, their overall agency is minimal. Affecting the story in these games is outside the players jurisdiction, yet the player still feels they are able to be expressive in the role, particularly with regard to rebelling against their author/director. I am of the opinion that this comes down to the illusion of choice, but done well to the point where the player isn’t left wanting.

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