MA Thesis: Oblivion

Believability, Adaptivity and Performativity: Three Lenses for the Analysis of Interactive Stories (2006-2008)
MA Thesis
I completed my MA at SIAT in the summer of 2008. My MA was a close reading of the popular game Oblivion from three perspectives: believability, performativity, and adaptivity. Each of these three analytical lenses brought to bear a different discourse and vocabulary to the task of analyzing Oblivion, resulting in three distinct, but complementary readings of the game.

In this thesis I present a methodology for performing analyses of Interactive Narrative experiences, and use this technique both to explicate a particular game—The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion—and to demonstrate the utility of approaching the game via three different analytical perspectives. This methodology is a form of close reading, a technique which was developed in literary theory for the explication of narrative experiences, with roots in earlier epistemological practices such as theological exegesis and hermeneutics. I have focused this thesis on examining and clarifying a technique for reading and explicating these experiences. Interactive Narratives are problematic due to their indeterminate nature and often unwieldy scope; in this thesis I propose a solution to these two problems. My solution takes the form of a series of constrained readings, which I argue allows me to productively explicate specific aspects of my play experiences. By using the notion of analytical lenses to filter my playings, I hope to simultaneously overcome issues of indeterminacy by narrowing the focus of my playing to observations of specific phenomena within the game, and also address issues of scope by reducing the undifferentiated experience of the game to a series of more readily assimilated sub-experiences. I believe that the method demonstrated within this thesis has utility for theorists of Interactive Narrative and Games, and I contend that the lenses presented herein provide three good examples of possible “constrained close readings”.
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