“In 1964, Claude Bremond wrote: “Story is independent of the techniques that bear it along. It may be transposed from one to another medium without losing its essential properties: the subject of a story may serve as argument for ballet, that of a novel can be transposed to a stage or screen, one can recount in words a film to someone who has not seen it. These are words we read, images we see, gestures we decipher, but through them, it is a story we follow; and it could be the same story”…Nearly forty years later… the question of how the intrinsic properties of the medium shape the form of narrative and affect the narrative experience can no longer be ignored.” (Ryan 1)
Marie-Laure Ryan introduces Narrative Across Media: The Languages of Storytelling, by expressing the belief that story can be transferred from one medium to another and yet still be the same story. In my opinion, transferring a story from say a narrative text to a movie doesn’t have to change the story, like Ryan says, but it usually does. If story was completely unchanged from one medium to another, we wouldn’t have been discussing the movie and book representation of V for Vendetta two weeks ago.
When a story is in the form of a book, we create our own images of the characters, the setting and all other details. We do so based on the information that the author gives us through the text, as we read those self-created images form part of our story. Those images along with the text help us form opinions about the characters in the book and different stages of the plot. When a book is made into a movie, we are introduced with new images. New images that may not match what we pictured while reading the book. Images, sounds and other added effects of the movie/film medium, can change our opinions of the characters and plot of a story. The underlying story in terms of abstraction can stay the same, however in lower levels of abstraction change is in fact made. It is that change that allows us to discuss the differences in a story when told through different mediums.
The Story/ Lack of Story
I have been a strong believer in that a great story is what makes a great game. Yet a game such as limbo has no defined story, and was quite a success from its beginning in Xbox Arcade. So is having an open ended game, where the story is left up to the interpretation of the gamer, just as successful as having a very well defined and interesting story? Perhaps it can be, if the game itself allows the user to make an interesting or intriguing story to go along with it. In other words, a great story does not necessarily have to be a pre-defined story.
What is the benefit of having an open ended story in a game? The story in any game is judged or criticized differently by each gamer. It may appeal to one audience, but seem uninteresting to many others. Yet an open ended story can be seen as multiple stories, due to the interpretation of each gamer, therefore it can appeal to a wider range of audiences.
The word limbo can be defined in multiple ways: a place between heaven and hell, a place of uncertainty, a state of uncertainty, a place of cleansing, etc. Each definition has its own positive or negative connotations that may make limbo seem closer to a hell than a heaven or vice versa. Due to the ‘dullness’ of the environment in the game, the spiders, the dead people and so on, it appears that Limbo is portrayed as a state that is closer to a hell than a heaven. Aside from the limbo environment, all the game tells us is that a boy goes in search of his sister. From this point on forward, the game is left up to the interpretation of the gamer. I interpreted the game in this way:
A boy dies but is unaware of his death. Prior to his death he was looking for his sister. Once he dies, he enters limbo and is uncertain of everything except for his ‘purpose’ of finding his sister. He goes through the entire Limbo environment/place doing anything he has to do to keep going and find his sister. Once he reaches the end of Limbo, he sees his sister but she doesn’t see him. It appeared to me that it was the moment of realization that he was dead. Yet the state of Limbo continues since the boy is right back where he started. So no matter how many times he goes through the Limbo environment, he will be unable to reach his sister since she is not in Limbo.