Recent Digital Media Masters graduate Jeffrey Bryan has a chapter to be published in the upcoming book Terms of Play: Essays on Words that Matter in Videogame Theory. The book will be published in mid-July and was edited by Zach Waggoner, the Associate Director of the Program in Writing and Rhetoric at Stanford University.
Bryan’s chapter is entitled “Ergodic Effort: Dynamism and Auto-Generated Path-Making.” Bryan featured some of the research from this chapter in his final Master’s thesis which he completed just a few weeks ago. A major component of both of these pieces is the idea of choice dynamics.
“Choice dynamics describe the narrative impact of decision making opportunities within videogame literature,” explains Bryan. “They describe the specific decision points and the outcome of the player’s choice. Understanding choice dynamics helps to form a better picture of how the player uses skillful responses to manipulate the author narrative. In doing so, the player and author, via the procedural environment, build the narrative paths along which the story wanders.”
Bryan’s chapter was selected for publication in Waggoner’s collection of essays after Bryan submitted an abstract during the call for papers last year. Bryan then revised his submission over the course of six months with suggestions from Waggoner.
“I had a lot of help from Dr. Jay Bolter and from ideas presented in his excellent Media Theory course,” Bryan says. “The idea was originally built upon a critique of Espen Aarseth’s definition of ergodic. I argue that, while he does not include the procedural environment as an agent capable of expending the type of effort that defines ergodicism, it should. I use choice dynamics to explain how the effort builds the path, showing that both the author and the player must ‘do’ in order to build the path. My thesis focuses more pointedly on the player narrative and how choice facilitates the player narrative, so choice dynamics fit naturally into that discussion.”
Now that Bryan has graduated, he intends on doing further research into player narratives while looking for a home for his PhD work.