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Diegetic Stance and its Role in Role Playing Games: An Examination of Schema Development and Narrative Application in D...


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DIEGETIC STANCE AND ITS ROLE IN ROLE PLAYING GAMES: AN EXAMINATION OF SCHEMA DEVELOPMENT AND NARRATIVE APPLICATION IN DIGITAL INTERACTIVE FICTION By HENRY JAMES BUTLER A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2003

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ii TABLE OF CONTENTS page LIST OF FIGURES ..................................................... iii ABSTRACT............................................................v INTRODUCTION .......................................................1 HISTORY OF THE DIEGETIC STANCE ....................................4 DIEGETIC STANCE AND THE RPG .......................................7 CONCLUSION ........................................................22 WORKS CONSULTED .................................................25 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ..............................................29

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iii LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 1 Classic stage......................................................4 2 Classic stage enlarged ..............................................4 3 These three images of Lucy ........................................6 4 Manny, imposing ..................................................9 5 Manny kicking off stilts .............................................9 6 Eva, the stereotypic ...............................................10 7 Pickup scene ....................................................12 8 Meche..........................................................12 9 Manny watches Meche ............................................13 10 Anna .........................................................13 11 Anna in black and white ...........................................14 12 Even before Cath meets Schmidt.....................................14 13 The Croatian girl .................................................15 14 In the midst of her grandfathers seizure ...............................15 15 As her grandfather calms down ......................................16 16 Smethalls .......................................................17 17 Note the elevated position ..........................................17 18 Note the stance and posture .........................................17

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iv 19 Agent Wilmore deadpans...........................................19 20 Detective Astradourian ............................................19 21 Wilmore puts taper on his nose ......................................19

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v Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts DIEGETIC STANCE AND ITS ROLE IN ROLE PLAYING GAMES: AN EXAMINATION OF SCHEMA DEVELOPMENT AND NARRATIVE APPLICATION IN DIGITAL INTERACTIVE FICTION By Henry James Butler May 2003 Chair: J. Yellowlees Douglas Major Department: English New media develop from pre-existing me dia, adapting and adopting those tropes and structures which can be applied from the old form to the new. As new narrative structures coalesce within that new media, narrative schemas–and the scripts used to implement them–are subliminally applied as templates to the new form, creating a cognitive foundation that allows the reader to comprehend and project the action of the diegesis. The process of transplantation provides a unique vantage to examine established paradigms anew in the light of the new media, and to occasionally discover other paradigms either overlooked or trivialized in their previous utilization. One such transplant is the use of stance–physical gesture, spatial position, or carriage–in juxtaposition to the environment to convey intent, effect, purpose or emotion to the reader of a narrative and to contribute to the progression of the diegesis. This

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vi diegetically motivated stance is not new, but has been uniformly overlooked or disregarded in established media. Easily misidentified as verisimilar mimetic representation and nearly transparent when executed effectively, diegetic stance presents the reader with subliminal information scripted within a given schema to advance the narrative arc. Subtly used, it provides the author a tool to provide the user/reader/player information by means of which the overt surface action of the narrative can be subliminally reinforced, amplified, or contravened. How this schema of stance has been adapted to the new digital media, specifically the fictional narrative needs of the graphic digital Role Playing Game (RPG), will be the focus of this thesis. Following a brief discussion of the evolution of the diegetic stance, from identifiable historical roots in ancient Greece theatre through adaptations to a variety of media, four specimens of RPG will be evaluated in terms of their utilization of stance. LucasArts’ Grim Fandango Smoking Car Productions’ The Last Express Cyberflix’s Titanic: Adventure Out of Time and Fox Interactive’s X-Files will be examined to explore how effective implementation of the di egetic stance can be vital to the successful execution of the scripts within a narrative schema, and how failed implementation can fatally undermine the diegesis.

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1This borrowing and adaptation process is examined in detail by Jay Bolter and Richard Grusin in Remediation: Understanding New Media Bolter and Grusin argue that new media consist of “networks or hybrids . expressed in physical, social, aesthetic, and economic terms” which are borrowed and adapted from existing media. “New digital media are not external agents that come to disrupt an unsuspecting culture. They emerge from within cultural contexts, and they refashion other media.” (19) Lev Manovich, in The Language of New Media specifically endorses this dynamic in computer based media, directly citing Bolter and Grusin before noting that “the history of the humancomputer interface is that of borrowing and reformulating . reformatting other media, both past and present.” (89)2In The End of Books–or Books Without End? Douglas gives a cogent one page summation of schema and script and how they function “like the hermeneutic circle,” where the “overarching schema we would call a genre” serves as a cognitive scaffold upon which the scripted behavior of the individuals within the narrative can be mapped by the reader–a cognitive aid that enables the reader to “flesh out,” project, and interpret the action. Douglas notes if the script for a given schema is violated the reader tends to become frustrated at what is seen as the growing opacity of the text. (33) 1 INTRODUCTION All new media must establish their own operational paradigms, borrowing from prior media those concepts that apply and struggle to adapt or create those that differ or are unique to its narrative modality.1 In “The Pleasure of Immersion and Interaction: Schema’s, Scripts, and the Fifth Business,” J. Yellowlees Douglas and Andrew Hargadon argue that readers port existing schemas and scripts2 from existing media as a template for the new and a fundamental tool of cognitive functionality. (6) Therefore, any successful implementation of the media must, of necessity, mine schemas of prior media which can be scripted onto the new paradigm.

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2 Computer media are not exempt from th is cross-grafting of scripts. One such transplanted schema is the use of stance–physical gesture, spatial position, or carriage–in juxtaposition to the environment to convey intent, effect, purpose or emotion to the reader of a narrative contributing to the progression of the diegesis. Utilized as a narrative device, this diegetically motivated stance is one of the oldest narrative schemas, arguably pre-dating language itself. (Lust 19) Although often visually indistinguishable from verisimilar mimetic representations and nearly transparent when used effectively, diegetic stance presents the reader with subliminal information scripted within a “naturally” occurring and culturally influenced schema generated (as Bob Hughes describes it in Dust or Magic: Secrets of Successful Multimedia Design ) “a real world [that] is full of movement information . we can interpret . consciously as we learn to read the signs.” (185) Subtly used, it provides the author a tool to provide the user/reader/player information by means of which the overt surface action of the narrative can be subliminally reinforced, amplified, or contravened. How this schema of stance has been adapted to the new digital media, specifically the fictional narrative needs of the graphic digital Role Playing Game (RPG), will be the focus of this thesis. Precisely what an RPG is continues to be heatedly debated. Stephen Poole–in his exploration of the videogame form, Trigger Happy –traces the genesis of the form to both text based games and the 1970s era Dungeons and Dragons board games which evolved through the computer into a narrative experience “offer(ing) the player a chance to be fully individual in a world where an individua l has real power . where actions always have deterministic consequences for character or events. (40" While Poole’s definition

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3 3First person shooter games are perhaps the best example of this problem. The mimetic use of stance–attempted verisimilitude–is pervasive in this form, much as it is in action films, where the primary interest is the mimicry of “reality.” The graphic representation of stance in these instances can be closely associated with its use in “combat” target ranges such as those used by police departments to train officers when to shoot and when not to shoot. The effect of the stance in these instances is predominantly atmospheric, and not contributing to a larger diegesis. While diegetic uses could be shown in these specimens, the high potential for confusion with mimetic usage–already cited previously–prompts their exclusion for the sake of clarity in a paper focused on the diegetic usage as an unexamined visual trope. would be hotly debated by many, he argues that to some extent this separation of the RPG from videogames as a whole could be needlessly reductive since “on a basic level, nearly every videogame ever made is a role-playing game” as RPG elements “are creeping crabwise into any number of other (videogame) genre,” (41) a phenomenon which makes the specific study of the RPG applicable to the general understanding of videogames as a whole. For purposes of this paper it is useful to apply his template of the “generic” RPG as a videogame where “character is not merely a pretext to the gameplay, but a part of it.” While the diegetic stance could be shown in any RPG–and, by Poole’s argument, any videogame–the four specimens examined latter have been chosen for the range of their various graphic forms of presentation and their heavy reliance on narrative character. The later has lead to the serendipitous exclusion of several traditional RPG and videogame forms, such as God games and first person shooters, in an attempt to present examples which are clearly diegetically driven and not the result of an attempt at verisimilatude.3

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4 Fig. 1: Classic Stage: In the era of film and television it is often easy to forget the scale of distance many live theatres presented. (Pauly 28) Image property of Edition Norma. Fig. 2: Classic stage enlarged: In spite of the grainy nature of this enlargement, the diegetic stance of the actors is clearly evident. (Pauly, 28) Image property of Edition Norma. HISTORY OF THE DIEGETIC STANCE The language of movement, gesture, and carriage has been a fundamental and highly effective script for much of recorded history. In 467 B.C., the Greek actor Telestes detached himself from the orchestra using “rhythmic steps and gestures” to convey the action of Aeschylus’s Seven Against Thebes to the audience in one of the earliest recorded examples. (Lust 20) As a diegetic device, stance has proven itself highly portable from medium to medium. In performance arts, it not only became a staple form of conveying emotion to the audience, but of amplifying that emotion at distance to the back rows of the theatre (Figures 1 and 2). Its persuasive power was so evident that the Romans incorporated the physical manifestation of motion and gesture of the diegetic stance as a core component of their declamatory rhetorical canon. The author of the Ad Herennium openly warned his students not to be too “conspicuous” or “elegant” in their use of the diegetic stance, lest the orator “give the impression we are . actors.” (201–203)

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5 4Whelan dates the emergence of the director as a distinctive independent participant in theatre at roughly 1860, in a Russian theatrical community growing increasingly dominated by Stanislavski and his methodologies. (39) Others may debate the exact date, but seem to concur on its mid-century origin. Theatre in the pre-director European tradition–roughly until the mid-19th century4–was heavily dependent on the use of physical gestures to broadcast emotion and intent to the audience/reader to the point that physical technique was paramount. (Whelan, 39) With the advent of Stanislavski’s acting system in the late 19th century, a fundamental paradigm shift in the use of the diegetic stance took place. Ushering in a school of acting–heavily influenced by 19th and early 20th century depth psychology–which required the actor to “organically” find the emotions within their own experiences, physical action not centered in the “self” was gradually devalued until, by the mid-1900's with the arrival of Lee Strasberg’s Group Theatre and the “Method,” the actor was expected to become the character and to perform from within that absorbed identity. (Whelan, 39-40) Effectively, the schema for the diegetic stance was stood on its head: instead of the physical conveying the emotional, the emotional was to convey the physical. The diegetic stance did not disappear; its point of origin merely shifted from an overtly external mechanic to an internal manifestation. By the 1970's, overtly constructed diegetic stance in film and on stage was generally dismissed as just artifice and “bad acting.” Early film actors were effectively forced to operate almost exclusively within the schema of diegetic stance as mimes, being silenced and lacking most of the classical stage mechanisms because of restrictions imposed by the primitive nature of their

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6 5Mime and pantomime–while technically quite different–can be treated as synonyms within this discourse. Fig. 3: These three images of “Lucy” from Charles Shultz’s Peanuts illustrate the schema of the diegetic stance at work within the cartoon paradigm. (Inge, 47, 35, 262) Images property of King Features. technology. (Lust, 165) Refinement in the use of camera angles and montage were developed at least in part as technical procedures which could amplify and multiply the effect of the actors’ pantomime.5 Modern cartooning also embraced the diegetic stance as a solution to personifying a physical abstraction, an external application to imbue emotion as an external affection where no actor resided to invest it from within. (Figure 3) These uses of the schemas were further refined in animation and music videos, with subsequent impact on humancomputer interfaces and RPG methods. (Hughes 185)

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1The exact definition of Role Playing Ga me is far from fixed, ranging from so broad to include card games such as “Dungeons and Dragons” and paper based strategy games to definitions so narrow they would exclude works such as Jordan Mechner’s The Last Express for not having enough “gaming” elements. For purposes of this discourse RPG can be treated as designating those graphically based digital narratives which require the reader to act, direct, or assume the role of the focalizer within the narrative. 7 DIEGETIC STANCE AND THE RPG While the use and significance of gesture and stance has been an issue in research on artificial intelligence for decades (culminating in the neural networked “Kismet” head at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Haydon 47; Ferrell overview)) only in the last decade have the technical capabilities of most personal computers permitted the development of Role Playing Games1 (RPGs) graphically sophisticated enough to take fuller advantage of forms of diegetic stance inherited from cinematic and comic traditions. That RPGs have been heavily influenced in their narrative form by the schemas of film and animation is clear from the scores of Hollywood creative talents who have found a new outlet in the digital form. Trip Hawkins, Chief Executive Officer of 3DO Company and an RPG pioneer, notes that the basic approach to production of an RPG is cinematic. “You go through the same process you would to make a great film,” Hawkins says, “and (only) then you apply the technology.” (The History of Computer Games prologue)

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8 Given this symbiotic relation, it follows that RPGs would be prone to port the schemas of cinema wholesale–the diegetic stance among them. As a totally constructed universe, the RPG poses a unique challenge to its author, a wealth of choices which all impact upon each other. In such a fluid environment, the application of the diegetic stance has been uneven at best, with mixed results. One cornerstone decision the RPG author must make is that between live action or animation. While animation might seem to be the more liberating choice, the application of schemas to this mode must be established and followed with care. Without the interpretive nuances and innovations of an actor, the author becomes the sole generative force for all the elements of the diegetic stance. While live action allows the author to rely on the creative interpretation of an actor’s internalized characterization (within the dominant psychological schemas of performance) providing at least an initial physical presence and motion from which to improvise, no physical actor is present in animation to create that externalized manifestation of the character. In animation the author must define the physical manifestation essentially from scratch without the template of an actor to build upon. How RPG authors have responded to this challenge in the absence of an established rhetoric has been as varied as it has been uneven. LucasArt’s Grim Fandango is one example of a primarily animated approach. In Grim Fandango we are treated to an entirely constructed world of an afterlife populated by walking skeletons working off their sins befo re being allowed to advance to their final rest. A highly satirical RPG read within a sc hema constructed from scripts derived from Aztec legend, the mythos of la Dia de los Muertos and well-known film noir plots, it

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9 Fig. 4: Manny, imposing as Grim Reaper (Grim Fandango ). Image property of LucasArts, LLC. Fig. 5: Manny kicking off stilts he wears under his robe (Grim Fandango ). Image property of LucasArts, LLC. casts the reader as the alter ego for Manny Calavera, visually represented as little more than a skeleton in a suit. Given the limitations of the graphical paradigm chosen–how many expressions can you generate on a skeleton head before rupturing the schema?–the narrative becomes highly dependent on the diegetic stance to propel the story forward. Our initial introduction to Manny establishes this dependence on stance immediately. In his role as Grim Reaper/Salesman, Manny is selling passages to eternal rest to the newly dead. Tall, gaunt, and imposing as the Reaper (Figure 4), we are immediately treated in the initial cut scene to the sight of his removing his robe and kicking off stilts (Figure 5) to reveal an average, long suffering corporate everyman–down to the gray flannel suit–put upon by his boss and unappreciated in his afterlife of “quiet desperation.” This reduction is carried out entirely by the physical transformation from figure of fear to one of ridicule and pity. Despite its outrageous premise, this is a highly familiar cinematic script the reader can readily plug into: Manny is Danny Kaye with a Hispanic accent, straight out of The Man From Diner’s Club with all the auxiliary scripts attached. This use of physical rhetoric extends even into the mechanics of the gaming paradigm itself. When left alone for too long, Manny will begin to scratch his head in the universal script

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10 2D.O.A. the 1950 film noir classic directed by Rudolph Mat and staring Edmund O’Brien. As the title credits role O’Brien marches into police headquarters at night, down a hall lined with numerous “desk sergeants”–most of whom appear to be languidly leafing though magazines.3The Chronicle this short lived but creative satirical series, centered around a fictitious tabloid where the outrageous headlines are really true, ran on the Sci Fi cable channel in the fall of 2001. Vera was the long suffering, iron willed receptionist who never looked up from her Hollywood fanzine while simultaneously taking messages, delivering notes, and keeping “walk-ins”–alien or other–from getting into the newsroom. Fig. 6: Eva, the stereotypic bored secretary (Grim Fandango ). Image property of LucasArts, LLC. for puzzlement: “What do I do now?” If still left undirected, Manny will calmly begin to smoke–literally “taking five” while waiting for his alter ego, the reader, to determine his next action. This script subtly taps into operative natural and cultural schemas without rupturing the narrative, using diegetic stance to cue the reader without resorting to overt extra-diegetic action. When we are introduced to Eva as Manny’s boss’s secretary, her stance tells us her response will be acidic and barbed even before she speaks (Figure 6). Replicating the familiar posture and behavior ranging from bored desk sergeants in the film noir classic D.O.A. 2 to the receptionist Vera in the science fiction television satire of all things film noir The Chronicle ,3 the reader is presented with a familiar template. Without her uttering a word, and without the subtle cues and nuances normally found in the human face, we know she will act put out when questioned, running interference for her boss. Posed sitting with her chin in her hand while lazily leafing through her magazine, the script of her

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11 snippish response is programmed into the schema of her stance. We expect her to be uncooperative; what would strike us as improbable, after seeing her, is if she had abandoned this script to demonstrate compassionate concern for Manny’s well-being. Eva’s stance is actually a composite, a combination of carriage and action specifically designed to give the reader sufficient hint data to circumvent the inability within the master schematic conceit of the diegesis to give her the facial articulation to render an appropriate facial expression–disdainf ul, weary, sour. It is comparable to the effect demonstrated by Lev Kuleshov in the 1920's, when he presented the same film footage of an actor intercut with differing visuals. (Murray 160; Mast 183) The audience cognitively mapped different emotions on the expression depending on the juxtaposed image–food made them read hunger, a corpse made them read grief. In Grim Fandango the sameness of Eva’s expression as a skull is juxtaposed with the diagetic stance of bored indifference, leading the reader to cognitively map that expression onto her expressionless face. When deconstructed, Eva’s stance can be seen as a composite dominated by two primarily physical affectations. Her distract ed leafing through the magazine (traceable in cinematic instances of the film noir tradition at least as far back as Sam Spade’s secretary Effie in The Maltese Falcon ) can be seen as a culturally influenced gesture–if for no other reason than it is dependent on a culture that has developed the sort of mass print and literacy which allows the action to be imbued with a sense of the mundane. The chin on the hand can be seen as a more natural, universal pose. What is distinctive about the stance is how the two individual actions work in harmony–much like a chord would in music–to generate a singular effect. The magazine leafing might be misconstrued as

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12 Fig. 7: Pickup scene from the Blue Coffin, no words needed (Grim Fandango ). Image property of LucasArts, LLC. Fig. 8: Meche, Manny’s Femme Fatal (Grim Fandango ). Image property of LucasArts, LLC. akin to the purposeful act of search–much like one can witness among patrons in library stacks on a daily basis–were it not reinforced, and the chin in the hand could be mistaken for contemplation along the lines of Auguste Rodin’s statue The Thinker were it not for the amplification provided by the browsing of the magazine. As with the formation of a compound word, a new and distinctive third meaning has been articulated by their joining. Together they telegraph the clear unified message: “I’m bored, I’m not happy, and I’ve got an attitude.” This schema of stance pervades the narrative and is the dominant means of subtly rendering diegetically important data, such as romantic interest and sexual desirability–areas which could not be rendered through the dialogue (the only other fully renderable diegetic channel) without rupturing the film noir schema and descending into the overtly maudlin. In Grim Fandango when we are treated to a pickup scene between two skeletal actors in The Blue Coffin saloon (Figure 7) the script–boy skeleton leaning aggressively over the submissively receptive girl skeleton–eliminates the need for any dialogue. Meche, Manny’s femme fatale within the script, is sexually constructed almost entirely through a variety of diegetic stances essentially cribbed from an assortment of film noir specimens. From her initial posture during her first interview

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13 Fig. 9: Manny watches Meche remove her stockings (Grim Fandango ). Image property of LucasArts, LLC. Fig. 10: “Anna” having high contrast makeup applied. Note the “blue screen” background (The Last Express Official Home Page). Image property of Smoking Car Productions, Inc. with Manny (Figure 8) to her stocking scene (Figure 9)–openly appropriated from any of a dozen film noir films, as well as 1968's The Graduate –Meche’s sensuality and Manny’s reason for being obsessed with her are reinforced by physical presentation. In this second scene the master schema of a diegesis populated by skeletons is reinforced even as Meche’s sensuality is amplified by use of the scripted schema: her sensuous lower leg foregrounded in the frame as the fully shaped stocking is slowly rolled down to reveal–a femur. Even within this moment of parody the master conceit of the diegesis–a world populated by walking skeletons behaving like flesh and blood humans–is reestablished within the perpetuating schema of the film noir by a skillful use of the diegetic stance. If Grim Fandango represents the implementation of a completely animated diegesis–one totally constructed and maintained solely by fealty to the schemas accessed in its creation–then Jordan Mechner’s The Last Express represents a realistic animation closely constructed along the lines of live action. Utilizing a variation of a live modeling technique (reminiscent of rotoscopy) originally used by Walt Disney to give his animators a more realistic template of human motion, (The History of Computer Games sec 1) Mechner used high contrast makeup on live actors, filmed them performing the scripted story

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14 Fig. 11: Anna in black and white still photo, and as finally rendered (The Last Express Official Home Page). Images property of Smoking Car Productions, Inc. Fig. 12: Even before Cath meets Schmidt, the German’s diegetic stance telegraphs the reader that he is arrogantly self assured (The Last Express ). Image property of Smoking Car Productions, Inc. paths against a blue screen, then rendered black and white stills which were colored for the final product (Figures 10 and 11). While this produces a more lifelike image than that of Grim Fandango –what the production releases described as “effectively turning the actor into a human cartoon” (The Last Express Official Homepage)–it places even greater importance on the schema of the diegetic stance: for the more realistic visual presentation subliminally implies to the reader a more nuanced representation of the bodies of the narrated agents. While the reader may simply accept the over-the-top renditions of Manny’s boss and Glottis the mechanic/driver sidekick in the completely abstracted world of Grim Fandango –where skeletons walk and the living, when seen, are presented as one-dimensional cubist impressions–The Last Express ’ comparable realism of presentation implies a realism of form. While the creators of The Last Express (reminiscent of the previously cited admonition to orators in the Ad Herennium ) consciously avoided digital video so their readers would not “get distracted by the actors' performances,” (The Last Express Official Homepage) their design ironically renders the diegetic stances of the actor more significant. The decision to use a form of stop-action animation–similar to the technique used to film in claymation–during dramatic cut scenes, rather than full motion

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15 Fig. 13: The Croatian girl Vesna’s hand cautiously place on Milos’ arm tells the reader there is something worth exploring here (The Last Express ). Image property of Smoking Car Productions, Inc. Fig. 14: In the midst of her grandfather’s seizure, Tatianna screams at Cath, “What kind of doctor are you?” (The Last Express ). Image property of Smoking Car Productions, Inc. animation, accentuates the stance and gestures of the characters, who linger on the screen for as much as a minute at a time as the dialogue continues to run. They have effectively set themselves up for what Brenda Laurel called “cognitive train wrecks,” (xviii) unintentionally placing the reader in the position of having to figure out the intent of a situation when two schematic signifiers conflict. While the majority of the text demonstrates an effective and nuanced usage of the physical schema, such as the Croatian girl Vesna’s cautioning hand on Milos’ arm when Cath enters their cabin (Figure 13), at times the script breaks down as a cognitive dissonance develops between the still shot action and the dialogue within the scene. Two of the most glaring such breakdowns occur within a single cut-scene, where Tatiana’s grandfather has a seizure requiring Cath, the reader’s diegetic double, to intervene. Tatianna begins to scream at Cath (who has been previously established as a doctor, though one with unorthodox methods) as he moves to calm the patient. “What kind of doctor are you?” she yells in fear (Figure 14), while the screen shows her with an expression one can only describe as bizarre. Looking either like an angry child defiantly taking communion, or a porn actress in mid-performance, the dialog continues to play beneath the

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16 Fig. 15: As her grandfather calms down, Tatianna reacts (The Last Express ). Image property of Smoking Car Productions, Inc. lingering image. The polarity of these examples demonstrates the unanchored reaction these discordant signifiers of gesture and expression create, leaving the reader to scramble for significance. This is a cognitive train wreck in full collision. At a moment of high narrative tension, when the distraction from the narrative thrust of the text should be minimized, the diegetic stance suggests a comic effect inappropriate to the moment. This effect is followed up when the next stop-action shot (Figure 15) shows us Tatianna, supposedly surprised by what her grandfather has said, looking as if she has just been goosed. Because of the stop-action technique used in The Last Express these images linger on the screen for almost a minute–rupturing the mood and undermining the scene by creating narrative dissonance through the collision of two contra-indicative schemas. If The Last Express could be termed a realistic animation, Titanic: Adventure out of Time could be described as an animated reality. While the technical aspects of the RPG are superlative (including a fly-through tour of the liner so realistic it was used by museums (Douglas The End of Books–Or Books Without End 11)) the characters are animated with a photographic quality stopaction technique so rigid it renders the characters as little more than waxen stick-figures. Despite the photorealism, this approach renders the effective use of diegetic stance almost impossible.

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17 Fig. 16: Smethalls, the cabin attendant, in one of his three stock poses (Titanic: Adventure Out of Time ). Image property of Cyberflix, Inc. Fig. 17: Note the elevated position of the hand required to get the arm in view. This restricted mode severely inhibits the diegetic stance and creates a choppy, quirky effect(Titanic: Adventure Out of Time ). Image property of Cyberflix, Inc. Fig. 18: Note the stance and posture of the characters (Titanic: Adventure Out of Time ). Image property of Cyberflix, Inc. All dialogue in the game is delivered in extreme close up with a minimal view of secondary physical gestures that could support an effective diegetic stance, creating a stilted and flattened effect, despite a realistic graphic rendering of faces. Smethalls, the cabin attendant (Figure 16), is restricted to three facial gestures: eyes down when he wants you to pick a response from the dialogue screen; eyes straight as he speaks; and an conspicuously cocked left eyebrow when he thinks you’re being dense. Penny Prescott, the Secret Service Contact, is similarly restricted (Figure 17), forcing the actor/animator to rupture the physical script of these gestures are performed in real world action, and therefore creating an unexpected, inconsistent effect. Hand raised to chin height, elbow bent, she seems to point directly into the face of the reader in a manner far more confrontational than the narrative would seem to call for. Other characters inhabit the ship corridors like waxwork statues–lifelike, yet inanimate (Figure 18). When addressed, gestures are over-amplified, as with Smethalls’ raised eyebrow or Penny’s pointing finger, so as to generate an effect. The result is unintentional comedy. While this runs counter to the script presented us on the audio track (the foreboding theme music and the continuing countdown towards the inevitable sinking of the

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18 ship) the physical schema ends up being so limited it effectively becomes a blank template onto which the individual readers can map their own interpretations. In fact, this may have been the intention of the Titanic ’s creators. Unlike animation–even the highly realistic animation of The Last Express –photo-realistic imaging creates an issue of physical continuity for the hypertextual narrative. Given existing schemas from the traditions of cinema and comics for reading diegetic stance, we expect a degree of continuity of action from live footage we do not expect from animation. We fill in the interstices between the animated images, creating a visual whole from the disjointed pieces. Similar to an illusion of continuity created by intercutting scenes in film–a wellestablished technique of contemporary cinema–the reader will cognitively attempt to construct a whole from the pieces presented by accessing their internal library of applicable schemas. Given the photorealistic images of Titanic the conceit of stop-action encourages the reader to apply the schemas of animation with its looser script for physical action and amplification. This is not the case in The X-Files At the far end of the spectrum from the fully animated novel universe of Grim Fandango the live action rendition of The X-Files is closely patterned on the scripts and schemas of the very successful television show on which it is based. In spite of its use of full motion digital video, the diegesis is tightly limited–largely restricted to underplayed facial gestures and non-sequitur interaction. In large part this appears to be the result of the interactive nature of its narrative design when coupled with live action–the same cognitive train wreck the creators of Titanic sought to avoid with the use of their stop-action method. Much of the action involving

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19 Fig. 19: Agent Willmore deadpans his conversation with the coronor over the mutilated body of a victim (The X-Files ). Image property of Fox Interactive. Fig. 20: Detective Astradourian calmly tells the coroner she “hates coming here” (The X-Files ). Image property of Fox Interactive. Fig. 21: Willmore puts tape on his nose in one of the few light moments in this RPG (The X-Files ). Image property of Fox Interactive. inter-character interaction is confined, limiting the potential for scripting much as in the case of the extreme close ups of Titanic –although the use of live action does prevent the awkwardly unnatural stances of Titanic To avoid the issue of physical continuity within the paradigm of an interactive live-action narrative, the actors in The X-Files underplay their parts outside of the cut-scenes almost to the point of deadpan (Figure 19 and 20). Since any potential answer could follow any potential question in the gameplay, the actors retreat into a stone-faced delivery which leaves little room for physical amplification or nuance. While the master schema of the television series on which it is based encourages this, there is little attempt to adapt this schema within the RPG. Outside of the well-executed scripts of the series–diligent agents wading though paperwork at their desks, the indignant hotel clerk–there is little which can be seen as an adaptation to this new medium of the RPG. This would have made a great episode of the series, but it is unsuccessful as interactive narrative. An early scene between Agent Willmore and the suspicious Mr. Wong demonstrate this awkwardness with regard to the diegetic stance. Willmore confronts Wong on a dock in an attempt to extract information, and the reader proceeds to choose the questions Willmore will ask. Unlike Titanic which provides a

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20 question choice with no audio attached, the paradigm chosen by The X-Files creators was to run short scenes of Willmore asking each question selected before Wong answers. Since Wong’s answers range from friendly to contemptuous, a dissonance emerges between the tenor of his response and the manner of Willmore’s questions. The few gestures the actor uses during his questions–the cocking of his head to convey disbelief, a quizzical look–will strike the reader as inconsistent, depending upon the order in which the gestures are prompted. In multiple readings, the agent can appear rude, lost, or befuddled. Wong–a stock character who plays this one scene as a jovial antagonist–may strike the reader as a sympathetic character because of his bonhomie, despite the revelation of his very checkered history and probable involvement in a murder. This is probably the most animated use of the diegetic stance in the narrative, and the inability of the diegetic stance to perform coherently has undermined the ability of the script to execute properly within the narrative frame of the RPG, leading the reader into a cognitive train wreck. When Willmore finally tracks down the missing Mulder–the putative objective of the RPG–Mulder sits cross-legged on the floor of the attic where he was held prisoner while Willmore questions him. Like a Buddha in a trenchcoat, Mulder answers every question with no more animation than any other character in the narrative. While this flattened delivery can work in other media (and is a trademark of the television series), it becomes highly problematic in the self-directed narratives of RPGs. Minus the subliminal hint data provided by the nuanced diegetic stance, a successful graphically-rendered diegesis is likely impossible.

PAGE 27

21 CONCLUSION While the goal of this thesis was to establish the role of diegetic stance as a narrative tool in RPG’s, it is clearly only the opening dialogue of what might be an ongoing examination of the form and its presentation. Several questions have already been raised, some leading off in different directions (e.g., the historical development of the diegetic stance verses its usage and effectiveness across different media). All will require further scrutiny to fully comprehend the role diegetic stance plays generally in the manifestation of schematic narrative structures in general, and the mapping of those schemas into the tabula rasa of the RPG specifically. The brief historical summary of the diegetic stance provided early in this thesis was far from comprehensive. Little more than a fleshed out time-line, its primary function to provide context and position of the stance on the narrative landscape before addressing its usage in the essentially uncharted terrain of the RPG. The diegetic stance warrants examination in each of the forms mentioned (theatre, cartoons, cinema, animation) as well as in several which were not (music, literature) to fully understand its impact. The diegetic stance is often dismissed as mere kinesis by rhetoricians who collapse presentation and purpose. Similarly, it has often been dismissed as simple artifact or little more than “technique” by narrative practitioners and those who have not understood it as a vital component of the coherent schematic whole. As a means of

PAGE 28

22 projecting a scripted construct, the examination of diegetic stance as a unique and distinctive form can only contribute to our understanding of the narrative role of schema. I have also raised issues of adaptation, in both general and specific applications in RPGs. As the RPG develops and is further refined as a narrative form, what paradigms will be adapted from prior media, what new ones will develop, and how will the various scripts and the schemas they invoke most successfully be mapped onto the new media? Wide spread failure to recognize and understand this adaptation process is already apparent. I have shown how “cognitive train wrecks” have been created by misapplied schemas and scripts. While similar in effect, the methods by which to map these scripts onto full animation (photo-realistic and animated stop action) and live action would appear to be fundamentally different from both each other and their related forms in other media. This adaptation of technique as well as content resurrects issues of action, continuity, and caricature long settled in other forms. How these infelicities are rectified or avoided in the future, how narrative forms will be modified to facilitate the process, and the role the diegetic stance will play should be the subject of further discussion. One fruitful area of future study not addressed in this work is the issue of the RPG as a narrative form that fundamentally shifts the role of the reader to that of a protagonist, and how the diegetic stance can facilitate or derail that fundamental change. Unlike prior media in which the reader is largely a voyeur, the RPG demands a degree of participatory readership uncommon and awkward to execute in earlier forms. To the extent the RPG protagonist is a tabula rasa upon which readers map themselves, or a cybernetic double who is inhabited by the reader(s), will be determined by the success of the RPG author in

PAGE 29

23 creating successful scripts–including the dieg etic stance–capable of performing, within the restraints of the form, to create a coherent schematic structure.

PAGE 30

24 WORKS CONSULTED Bal, Mieke. Narratology, Introduction to the Theory of Narrative 2nd Edition. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press. 1985. Bolter, Jay David and Richard Grusin. Remediation: Understanding New Media Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. 2000. Brecht, Bertolt. Willett, John, trans. Brecht on Theatre: the Development of an Aesthetic New York, New York: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 1996. Douglas, J. Yellowlees. The End of Books–Or Books Without Ends? Reading Interactive Narratives Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press. 2000. Douglas, J. Yellowlees and Andrew Hargadon. “The Pleasure of Immersion and Interaction: Schema’s, Scripts, and th e Fifth Business.” Proceedings, Siggraph 2001: Los Angeles, California. August 12-17, 2001. Ferrell, Cynthia. Kismet Web Site at MI T. Kismet Home Page and video overview. http://www.ai.mit.edu/projects/humanoid-robotics-group/kismet/kismet.html. March 28, 2003. Grim Fandango Tim Schafer, creator. San Rafael, California: LucasArts Entertainment Company. 1997. Hayden, Thomas. “The Age of Robots”. U. S. News and World Report New York, New York. U. S. News and World Report, Incorporated. April 23, 2001. Hughes, Bob. Dust or Magic: Secrets of Successful Multimedia Design New York, New York: Addison-Wesley. 2000. Hull, S. Loraine. Strasberg’s Method Woodbridge, Connecticut: Ox Bow Publishing, Incorporated. 1985. The History of Computer Games Modern Marvels. Writ. Tom Yaroschuk. Exec. Prod. Tom Yaroschuk, Charlie Maday. Tera Medi a. History Channel. New York, New York. 2000.

PAGE 31

25 Inge, M. Thomas. Charles M. Schulz : Interviews Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi. 2000. The Last Express Jordan Mechner, creator. Irvine, California: Interplay Entertainment Corportation/Smoking Car Productions. 1997. The Last Express Official Web Site. Production Page. http://www.lastexpress.com/story.html. April 25, 2001. Laurel, Brenda. Computers as Theatre Reading, Massachusetts: Addison Wesley. 1991. Lust, Annette. From the Greek Mimes to Marcel Marceau and Beyond Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, Incorporated. 2000. Maltin, Leonard. Of Mice and Magic: A Hi story of American Animationed Cartoons (Revised Edition) New York, New York: A Plumb Book/Penguin Group. 1987. Manovich, Lev. The Language of New Media Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. 2001. Mast, Gerald. A Short History of the Movies Indianapolis, Indiana: Bobbs-Merrill Company, Incorporated. 1976. Murray, Janet. Hamlet on the Holodeck New York, New York: The Free Press. 1997. Pauly, Danile. Thtre Annes 20, la Rnovation Scnique en France Paris, France: Edition Norma. 1995. Poole, Stephen. Trigger Happy: Videogames and the Entertainment Revolution New York, New York: Arcade Publishing. 2000. Rhetorica ad Herennium Caplan, Harry, trans. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. 1999. Stanislavski, Constantin. Elizabeth Reynolds Hapgood, trans. An Actor’s Handbook New York, New York: Theatre Arts Books. 1963. Stanislavski, Constantin. Elizabeth Reynolds Hapgood, trans. An Actor Prepares New York, New York: Routledge/Theatre Arts Books. 1988. Stanislavski, Constantin. Elizabeth Reynolds Hapgood, trans. Building a Character New York, New York: Routledge/Theatre Arts Books. 1987. Stanislavski, Constantin. David Magarshack, trans. Stanislavsky On The Art of The Stage London: Faber and Faber Limited. 1961.

PAGE 32

26 Titanic: Adventure Out of Time Encinitas, California: Cyberflix, Incorporated/ Hammerhead Entertainment. 1997. Walker, Mort. Back Stage at the Strips New York, New York: Mason/Charter. 1975. Walker, Mort. The Lexicon of Comicana Lincoln, Nebraska: iUniverse.com, Incorporated/Authors Guild Backinprint.com Edition. 1980/2000. Whelan, Jeremy. New School Acting West Collingswood, New Jersey/Los Angeles, California: Whelan International Publications/Samuel French Trade Publications. 1991. X-Files Gary Sheinwald, Producer. Beverly H ills, California/Sterling, Colorado: Fox Interactive/Hyperbole Studios. 1998.

PAGE 33

27 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH After receiving his Bachelor’s in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Florida in 1980, Henry James Butler worked as a reporter and editor in both print and radio before opening a computer consulting firm in 1986. He taught computer sciences and English at a private junior college for a decade before returning to the University of Florida to complete his graduate studies, and currently teaches for the Upward Bound program based at that institution. He has presented a number of conference papers on a variety of topics, ranging from “Caricature and Cognition in Comic Art” (Will Eisner Symposium/Comics Conference, University of Florida, Febr uary 2002) to “Voyeur to Participant: The Reader’s Role and the Function of Cybe r-Fabula in the Emerging Cyber-Narrative” (Narrative Society National Conference, Rice University, March 2001). His areas of primary interest are digital narratives, diegetic stance, and schema theory.


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DIEGETIC STANCE AND ITS ROLE IN ROLE PLAYING GAMES:
AN EXAMINATION OF SCHEMA DEVELOPMENT AND
NARRATIVE APPLICATION IN DIGITAL INTERACTIVE FICTION














By

HENRY JAMES BUTLER


A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


2003















TABLE OF CONTENTS

page

L IST O F FIG U R E S ................ ............... .. ...... ....... iii

ABSTRACT ................................ ................. ...... v

INTRODUCTION ........ .............................................1

HISTORY OF THE DIEGETIC STANCE ................................ 4

DIEGETIC STANCE AND THE RPG .................................. 7

CONCLUSION ................................................. 22

W ORKS CONSULTED ................................. ... ......... 25

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ........................................... 29















LIST OF FIGURES

Figure page

1 Classic stage ................ ................................ 4

2 Classic stage enlarged ........................................... 4

3 These three images of "Lucy" ................................. ... 6

4 Manny, imposing ............. ...............................9

5 Manny kicking off stilts ............... ........................... 9

6 Eva, the stereotypic ............... ............................ 10

7 Pickup scene ................ ................................ 12

8 M eche ......... .... ................. ........... .. ...... 12

9 Manny watches Meche ......... ............................... 13

10 "Anna" ........... ................................ .13

11 Anna in black and white ......... ....................... ....... 14

12 Even before Cath meets Schmidt ................................. 14

13 The Croatian girl ................. ........................... 15

14 In the midst of her grandfather's seizure ............................ 15

15 As her grandfather calms down .............. .................. 16

16 Smethalls ....... .........................................17

17 Note the elevated position ................ ....................... 17

18 Note the stance and posture ................ ...................... 17

iii









19 Agent Wilmore deadpans ............... ........................ 19

20 Detective Astradourian ................ ......................... 19

21 Wilmore puts taper on his nose ................. ................. 19















Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts

DIEGETIC STANCE AND ITS ROLE IN ROLE PLAYING GAMES:
AN EXAMINATION OF SCHEMA DEVELOPMENT AND
NARRATIVE APPLICATION IN DIGITAL INTERACTIVE FICTION

By

Henry James Butler

May 2003

Chair: J. Yellowlees Douglas
Major Department: English

New media develop from pre-existing media, adapting and adopting those tropes

and structures which can be applied from the old form to the new. As new narrative

structures coalesce within that new media, narrative schemas-and the scripts used to

implement them-are subliminally applied as templates to the new form, creating a

cognitive foundation that allows the reader to comprehend and project the action of the

diegesis. The process of transplantation provides a unique vantage to examine established

paradigms anew in the light of the new media, and to occasionally discover other

paradigms either overlooked or trivialized in their previous utilization.

One such transplant is the use of stance-physical gesture, spatial position, or

carriage-in juxtaposition to the environment to convey intent, effect, purpose or emotion

to the reader of a narrative and to contribute to the progression of the diegesis. This









diegetically motivated stance is not new, but has been uniformly overlooked or

disregarded in established media. Easily misidentified as verisimilar mimetic

representation and nearly transparent when executed effectively, diegetic stance presents

the reader with subliminal information scripted within a given schema to advance the

narrative arc.

Subtly used, it provides the author a tool to provide the user/reader/player

information by means of which the overt surface action of the narrative can be

subliminally reinforced, amplified, or contravened. How this schema of stance has been

adapted to the new digital media, specifically the fictional narrative needs of the graphic

digital Role Playing Game (RPG), will be the focus of this thesis.

Following a brief discussion of the evolution of the diegetic stance, from

identifiable historical roots in ancient Greece theatre through adaptations to a variety of

media, four specimens of RPG will be evaluated in terms of their utilization of stance.

LucasArts' Grim Fandango, Smoking Car Productions' The Last Express, Cyberflix's

Titanic: Adventure Out of Time, and Fox Interactive's X-Files will be examined to

explore how effective implementation of the diegetic stance can be vital to the successful

execution of the scripts within a narrative schema, and how failed implementation can

fatally undermine the diegesis.















INTRODUCTION


All new media must establish their own operational paradigms, borrowing from

prior media those concepts that apply and struggle to adapt or create those that differ or

are unique to its narrative modality.1 In "The Pleasure of Immersion and Interaction:

Schema's, Scripts, and the Fifth Business," J. Yellowlees Douglas and Andrew Hargadon

argue that readers port existing schemas and scripts2 from existing media as a template

for the new and a fundamental tool of cognitive functionality. (6) Therefore, any

successful implementation of the media must, of necessity, mine schemas of prior media

which can be scripted onto the new paradigm.





1This borrowing and adaptation process is examined in detail by Jay Bolter and
Richard Grusin in Remediation: Understanding New Media. Bolter and Grusin argue that
new media consist of "networks or hybrids expressed in physical, social, aesthetic,
and economic terms" which are borrowed and adapted from existing media. "New digital
media are not external agents that come to disrupt an unsuspecting culture. They emerge
from within cultural contexts, and they refashion other media." (19) Lev Manovich, in
The Language of New Media, specifically endorses this dynamic in computer based
media, directly citing Bolter and Grusin before noting that "the history of the human-
computer interface is that of borrowing and reformulating ... reformatting other media,
both past and present." (89)

2In The End of Books-or Books Without End?, Douglas gives a cogent one page
summation of schema and script and how they function "like the hermeneutic circle,"
where the "overarching schema we would call a genre" serves as a cognitive scaffold
upon which the scripted behavior of the individuals within the narrative can be mapped
by the reader-a cognitive aid that enables the reader to "flesh out," project, and interpret
the action. Douglas notes if the script for a given schema is violated the reader tends to
become frustrated at what is seen as the growing opacity of the text. (33)









Computer media are not exempt from this cross-grafting of scripts. One such

transplanted schema is the use of stance-physical gesture, spatial position, or carriage-in

juxtaposition to the environment to convey intent, effect, purpose or emotion to the

reader of a narrative contributing to the progression of the diegesis. Utilized as a

narrative device, this diegetically motivated stance is one of the oldest narrative schemas,

arguably pre-dating language itself. (Lust 19) Although often visually indistinguishable

from verisimilar mimetic representations and nearly transparent when used effectively,

diegetic stance presents the reader with subliminal information scripted within a

"naturally" occurring and culturally influenced schema generated (as Bob Hughes

describes it in Dust or Magic: Secrets of Successful Multimedia Design) "a real world

[that] is full of movement information ... we can interpret .. consciously as we learn to

read the signs." (185)

Subtly used, it provides the author a tool to provide the user/reader/player

information by means of which the overt surface action of the narrative can be

subliminally reinforced, amplified, or contravened. How this schema of stance has been

adapted to the new digital media, specifically the fictional narrative needs of the graphic

digital Role Playing Game (RPG), will be the focus of this thesis.

Precisely what an RPG is continues to be heatedly debated. Stephen Poole-in his

exploration of the videogame form, Trigger Happy-traces the genesis of the form to both

text based games and the 1970s era Dungeons and Dragons board games which evolved

through the computer into a narrative experience offeringn) the player a chance to be

fully individual in a world where an individual has real power .. where actions always

have deterministic consequences for character or events. (40" While Poole's definition









would be hotly debated by many, he argues that to some extent this separation of the

RPG from videogames as a whole could be needlessly reductive since "on a basic level,

nearly every videogame ever made is a role-playing game" as RPG elements "are

creeping crabwise into any number of other (videogame) genre," (41) a phenomenon

which makes the specific study of the RPG applicable to the general understanding of

videogames as a whole. For purposes of this paper it is useful to apply his template of the

"generic" RPG as a videogame where "character is not merely a pretext to the gameplay,

but a part of it."

While the diegetic stance could be shown in any RPG-and, by Poole's argument,

any videogame-the four specimens examined latter have been chosen for the range of

their various graphic forms of presentation and their heavy reliance on narrative

character. The later has lead to the serendipitous exclusion of several traditional RPG and

videogame forms, such as God games and first person shooters, in an attempt to present

examples which are clearly diegetically driven and not the result of an attempt at

verisimilatude.3








3First person shooter games are perhaps the best example of this problem. The
mimetic use of stance-attempted verisimilitude-is pervasive in this form, much as it is in
action films, where the primary interest is the mimicry of "reality." The graphic
representation of stance in these instances can be closely associated with its use in
"combat" target ranges such as those used by police departments to train officers when to
shoot and when not to shoot. The effect of the stance in these instances is predominantly
atmospheric, and not contributing to a larger diegesis. While diegetic uses could be
shown in these specimens, the high potential for confusion with mimetic usage-already
cited previously-prompts their exclusion for the sake of clarity in a paper focused on the
diegetic usage as an unexamined visual trope.















HISTORY OF THE DIEGETIC STANCE

The language of movement, gesture, and carriage has been

a fundamental and highly effective script for much of recorded

history. In 467 B.C., the Greek actor Telestes detached himself

from the orchestra using "rhythmic steps and gestures" to convey

the action of Aeschylus's Seven Against Thebes to the audience U
Fig
in one of the earliest recorded examples. (Lust 20) As a diegetic In t
telk
device, stance has proven itself highly portable from medium to eas
sca
medium. In performance arts, it not only became a staple form of ma
pre
conveying emotion to the audience, but of amplifying that Im
Edi
emotion at distance to the back rows of the theatre (Figures 1 and

2). Its persuasive power was so evident that the Romans

incorporated the physical manifestation of motion and gesture of

the diegetic stance as a core component of their declamatory

rhetorical canon. The author of the Ad Herennium openly warned Fig
enl
the
his students not to be too "conspicuous" or "elegant" in their use the
thi
die
of the diegetic stance, lest the orator "give the impression we are
act
... actors." (201-203) evi
Im
Ed


;. 1: Classic Stage:
he era of film and
;vision it is often
y to forget the
le of distance
ny live theatres
sented. (Pauly 28)
age property of
tion Norma.


;. 2: Classic stage
arged: In spite of
grainy nature of
s enlargement, the
getic stance of the
ors is clearly
dent. (Pauly, 28)
age property of
ition Norma.









Theatre in the pre-director European tradition-roughly until the mid-19th

century4-was heavily dependent on the use of physical gestures to broadcast emotion and

intent to the audience/reader to the point that physical technique was paramount.

(Whelan, 39) With the advent of Stanislavski's acting system in the late 19th century, a

fundamental paradigm shift in the use of the diegetic stance took place. Ushering in a

school of acting-heavily influenced by 19th and early 20th century depth

psychology-which required the actor to "organically" find the emotions within their own

experiences, physical action not centered in the "self" was gradually devalued until, by

the mid-1900's with the arrival of Lee Strasberg's Group Theatre and the "Method," the

actor was expected to become the character and to perform from within that absorbed

identity. (Whelan, 39-40) Effectively, the schema for the diegetic stance was stood on its

head: instead of the physical conveying the emotional, the emotional was to convey the

physical. The diegetic stance did not disappear; its point of origin merely shifted from an

overtly external mechanic to an internal manifestation. By the 1970's, overtly

constructed diegetic stance in film and on stage was generally dismissed as just artifice

and "bad acting."

Early film actors were effectively forced to operate almost exclusively within the

schema of diegetic stance as mimes, being silenced and lacking most of the classical

stage mechanisms because of restrictions imposed by the primitive nature of their






4Whelan dates the emergence of the director as a distinctive independent
participant in theatre at roughly 1860, in a Russian theatrical community growing
increasingly dominated by Stanislavski and his methodologies. (39) Others may debate
the exact date, but seem to concur on its mid-century origin.









technology. (Lust, 165) Refinement in the use of camera angles

and montage were developed at least in part as technical

procedures which could amplify and multiply the

effect of the actors' pantomime.5 Modern cartooning also

embraced the diegetic stance as a solution to personifying a

physical abstraction, an external application to imbue emotion as

an external affection where no actor resided to invest it from

within. (Figure 3) These uses of the schemas were further refined

in animation and music videos, with subsequent impact on human-

computer interfaces and RPG methods. (Hughes 185)


Fig. 3: These three
images of "Lucy"
from Charles Shultz's
Peanuts illustrate the
schema of the diegetic
stance at work within
the cartoon paradigm.
(Inge, 47, 35, 262)
Images property of
King Features.


5Mime and pantomime-while technically quite different-can be treated as
synonyms within this discourse.















DIEGETIC STANCE AND THE RPG

While the use and significance of gesture and stance has been an issue in research

on artificial intelligence for decades (culminating in the neural networked "Kismet" head

at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Haydon 47; Ferrell overview)) only in the

last decade have the technical capabilities of most personal computers permitted the

development of Role Playing Games1 (RPGs) graphically sophisticated enough to take

fuller advantage of forms of diegetic stance inherited from cinematic and comic

traditions.

That RPGs have been heavily influenced in their narrative form by the schemas of

film and animation is clear from the scores of Hollywood creative talents who have found

a new outlet in the digital form. Trip Hawkins, Chief Executive Officer of 3DO Company

and an RPG pioneer, notes that the basic approach to production of an RPG is cinematic.

"You go through the same process you would to make a great film," Hawkins says, "and

(only) then you apply the technology." (The History of Computer Games prologue)






1The exact definition of Role Playing Game is far from fixed, ranging from so
broad to include card games such as "Dungeons and Dragons" and paper based strategy
games to definitions so narrow they would exclude works such as Jordan Mechner's The
Last Express for not having enough "gaming" elements. For purposes of this discourse
RPG can be treated as designating those graphically based digital narratives which
require the reader to act, direct, or assume the role of the focalizer within the narrative.









Given this symbiotic relation, it follows that RPGs would be prone to port the schemas

of cinema wholesale-the diegetic stance among them.

As a totally constructed universe, the RPG poses a unique challenge to its author,

a wealth of choices which all impact upon each other. In such a fluid environment, the

application of the diegetic stance has been uneven at best, with mixed results. One

cornerstone decision the RPG author must make is that between live action or animation.

While animation might seem to be the more liberating choice, the application of

schemas to this mode must be established and followed with care. Without the

interpretive nuances and innovations of an actor, the author becomes the sole generative

force for all the elements of the diegetic stance. While live action allows the author to

rely on the creative interpretation of an actor's internalized characterization (within the

dominant psychological schemas of performance) providing at least an initial physical

presence and motion from which to improvise, no physical actor is present in animation

to create that externalized manifestation of the character. In animation the author must

define the physical manifestation essentially from scratch without the template of an

actor to build upon. How RPG authors have responded to this challenge in the absence of

an established rhetoric has been as varied as it has been uneven.

LucasArt's Grim Fandango is one example of a primarily animated approach. In

Grim Fandango we are treated to an entirely constructed world of an afterlife populated

by walking skeletons working off their sins before being allowed to advance to their final

rest. A highly satirical RPG read within a schema constructed from scripts derived from

Aztec legend, the mythos of la Dia de los Muertos, and well-known film noir plots, it









casts the reader as the alter ego for Manny Calavera, visually

represented as little more than a skeleton in a suit. Given the

limitations of the graphical paradigm chosen-how many

expressions can you generate on a skeleton head before rupturing

the schema?-the narrative becomes highly dependent on the

diegetic stance to propel the story forward.

Our initial introduction to Manny establishes this

dependence on stance immediately. In his role as Grim

Reaper/Salesman, Manny is selling passages to eternal rest to the

newly dead. Tall, gaunt, and imposing as the Reaper (Figure 4),

we are immediately treated in the initial cut scene to the sight of

his removing his robe and kicking off stilts (Figure 5) to reveal an

average, long suffering corporate everyman-down to the gray

flannel suit-put upon by his boss and unappreciated in his after-

life of "quiet desperation." This reduction is carried out entirely

by the physical transformation from figure of fear to one of

ridicule and pity. Despite its outrageous premise, this is a highly

familiar cinematic script the reader can readily plug into: Manny

is Danny Kaye with a Hispanic accent, straight out of The Man

From Diner's Club, with all the auxiliary scripts attached.

This use of physical rhetoric extends even into the

mechanics of the gaming paradigm itself. When left alone for too

long, Manny will begin to scratch his head in the universal script


Fig. 4: Manny,
imposing as Grim
Reaper (Grim
Fandango). Image
property of
LucasArts, LLC.


Fig. 5: Manny
kicking off stilts he
wears under his robe
(Grim Fandango).
Image property of
LucasArts, LLC.









for puzzlement: "What do I do now?" If still left undirected,

Manny will calmly begin to smoke-literally "taking five" while

waiting for his alter ego, the reader, to determine his next action.

This script subtly taps into operative natural and cultural schemas

without rupturing the narrative, using diegetic stance to cue the

reader without resorting to overt extra-diegetic action.

When we are introduced to Eva as Manny's boss's

secretary, her stance tells us her response will be acidic and

barbed even before she speaks (Figure 6). Replicating the familiar

posture and behavior ranging from bored desk sergeants in the

film noir classic D.O.A.2 to the receptionist Vera in the science

fiction television satire of all things film noir The Chronicle,3 the

reader is presented with a familiar template. Without her uttering Fig. 6: Eva, the
stereotypic bored
a word, and without the subtle cues and nuances normally found secretary (Grim
Fandango). Image
in the human face, we know she will act put out when questioned, property of
LucasArts, LLC.
running interference for her boss. Posed sitting with her chin in her

hand while lazily leafing through her magazine, the script of her


2D.O.A., the 1950 film noir classic directed by Rudolph Mate and staring Edmund
O'Brien. As the title credits role O'Brien marches into police headquarters at night, down
a hall lined with numerous "desk sergeants"-most of whom appear to be languidly
leafing though magazines.

3The Chronicle, this short lived but creative satirical series, centered around a
fictitious tabloid where the outrageous headlines are really true, ran on the Sci Fi cable
channel in the fall of 2001. Vera was the long suffering, iron willed receptionist who
never looked up from her Hollywood fanzine while simultaneously taking messages,
delivering notes, and keeping "walk-ins"-alien or other-from getting into the newsroom.









snippish response is programmed into the schema of her stance. We expect her to be

uncooperative; what would strike us as improbable, after seeing her, is if she had

abandoned this script to demonstrate compassionate concern for Manny's well-being.

Eva's stance is actually a composite, a combination of carriage and action

specifically designed to give the reader sufficient hint data to circumvent the inability

within the master schematic conceit of the diegesis to give her the facial articulation to

render an appropriate facial expression-disdainful, weary, sour. It is comparable to the

effect demonstrated by Lev Kuleshov in the 1920's, when he presented the same film

footage of an actor intercut with differing visuals. (Murray 160; Mast 183) The audience

cognitively mapped different emotions on the expression depending on the juxtaposed

image-food made them read hunger, a corpse made them read grief. In Grim Fandango

the sameness of Eva's expression as a skull is juxtaposed with the diagetic stance of

bored indifference, leading the reader to cognitively map that expression onto her

expressionless face.

When deconstructed, Eva's stance can be seen as a composite dominated by two

primarily physical affectations. Her distracted leafing through the magazine (traceable in

cinematic instances of the film noir tradition at least as far back as Sam Spade's secretary

Effie in The Maltese Falcon) can be seen as a culturally influenced gesture-if for no

other reason than it is dependent on a culture that has developed the sort of mass print

and literacy which allows the action to be imbued with a sense of the mundane. The chin

on the hand can be seen as a more natural, universal pose. What is distinctive about the

stance is how the two individual actions work in harmony-much like a chord would in

music-to generate a singular effect. The magazine leafing might be misconstrued as









akin to the purposeful act of search-much like one can witness

among patrons in library stacks on a daily basis-were it not

reinforced, and the chin in the hand could be mistaken for

contemplation along the lines of Auguste Rodin's statue The

Thinker were it not for the amplification provided by the

browsing of the magazine. As with the formation of a compound

word, a new and distinctive third meaning has been articulated

by their joining. Together they telegraph the clear unified

message: "I'm bored, I'm not happy, and I've got an attitude."

This schema of stance pervades the narrative and is the

dominant means of subtly rendering diegetically important data,

such as romantic interest and sexual desirability-areas which

could not be rendered through the dialogue (the only other fully

renderable diegetic channel) without rupturing the film noir

schema and descending into the overtly maudlin.

In Grim Fandango, when we are treated to a pickup scene

between two skeletal actors in The Blue Coffin saloon (Figure 7)

the script-boy skeleton leaning aggressively over the

submissively receptive girl skeleton-eliminates the need for any

dialogue. Meche, Manny's femme fatale within the script, is

sexually constructed almost entirely through a variety of diegetic

stances essentially cribbed from an assortment of film noir

specimens. From her initial posture during her first interview


Fig. 7:Pickup scene
from the Blue Coffin,
no words needed
(Grim Fandango).
Image property of
LucasArts, LLC.


Fig. 8: Meche,
Manny's Femme
Fatal (Grim
Fandango). Image
property of
LucasArts, LLC.









with Manny (Figure 8) to her stocking scene (Figure 9)-openly

appropriated from any of a dozen film noir films, as well as

1968's The Graduate-Meche's sensuality and Manny's reason for

being obsessed with her are reinforced by physical presentation.

In this second scene the master schema of a diegesis populated by

skeletons is reinforced even as Meche's sensuality is amplified by

use of the scripted schema: her sensuous lower leg foregrounded

in the frame as the fully shaped stocking is slowly rolled down to

reveal-a femur. Even within this moment of parody the master

conceit of the diegesis-a world populated by walking skeletons

behaving like flesh and blood humans-is reestablished within the

perpetuating schema of the film noir by a skillful use of the

diegetic stance.

If Grim Fandango represents the implementation of a

completely animated diegesis-one totally constructed and

maintained solely by fealty to the schemas accessed in its

creation-then Jordan Mechner's The Last Express represents a

realistic animation closely constructed along the lines of live

action. Utilizing a variation of a live modeling technique

(reminiscent of rotoscopy) originally used by Walt Disney to give

his animators a more realistic template of human motion, (The

History of Computer Games sec 1) Mechner used high contrast

makeup on live actors, filmed them performing the scripted story


Fig. 9: Manny
watches Meche
remove her stockings
(Grim Fandango).
Image property of
LucasArts, LLC.


Fig. 10: "Anna"
having high contrast
makeup applied. Note
the "blue screen"
background (The Last
Express Official
Home Page). Image
property of Smoking
Car Productions, Inc.









paths against a blue screen, then rendered black and white stills

which were colored for the final product (Figures 10 and 11).

While this produces a more lifelike image than that of Grim

Fandango-what the production releases described as "effectively

turning the actor into a human cartoon" (The Last Express

Official Homepage)-it places even greater importance on the

schema of the diegetic stance: for the more realistic visual

presentation subliminally implies to the reader a more nuanced

representation of the bodies of the narrated agents. While the

reader may simply accept the over-the-top renditions of Manny's

boss and Glottis the mechanic/driver sidekick in the completely

abstracted world of Grim Fandango-where skeletons walk and

the living, when seen, are presented as one-dimensional cubist

impressions-The Last Express' comparable realism of

presentation implies a realism of form.

While the creators of The Last Express (reminiscent of

the previously cited admonition to orators in the Ad Herennium)

consciously avoided digital video so their readers would not "get

distracted by the actors' performances," (The Last Express

Official Homepage) their design ironically renders the diegetic

stances of the actor more significant. The decision to use a form

of stop-action animation-similar to the technique used to film in

claymation-during dramatic cut scenes, rather than full motion


Fig. 11: Anna in
black and white still
photo, and as finally
rendered (The Last
Express Official
Home Page). Images
property of Smoking
Car Productions, Inc.


Fig. 12: Even before
Cath meets Schmidt,
the German's diegetic
stance telegraphs the
reader that he is
arrogantly self
assured (The Last
Express). Image
property of Smoking
Car Productions, Inc.









animation, accentuates the stance and gestures of the characters,

who linger on the screen for as much as a minute at a time as the

dialogue continues to run. They have effectively set themselves

up for what Brenda Laurel called "cognitive train wrecks," (xviii)

unintentionally placing the reader in the position of having to

figure out the intent of a situation when two schematic signifiers

conflict.

While the majority of the text demonstrates an effective

and nuanced usage of the physical schema, such as the Croatian

girl Vesna's cautioning hand on Milos' arm when Cath enters

their cabin (Figure 13), at times the script breaks down as a

cognitive dissonance develops between the still shot action and

the dialogue within the scene.

Two of the most glaring such breakdowns occur within a

single cut-scene, where Tatiana's grandfather has a seizure

requiring Cath, the reader's diegetic double, to intervene.

Tatianna begins to scream at Cath (who has been previously

established as a doctor, though one with unorthodox methods) as

he moves to calm the patient. "What kind of doctor are you?" she

yells in fear (Figure 14), while the screen shows her with an

expression one can only describe as bizarre. Looking either like

an angry child defiantly taking communion, or a porn actress in

mid-performance, the dialog continues to play beneath the


Fig. 13: The Croatian
girl Vesna's hand
cautiously place on
Milos' arm tells the
reader there is
something worth
exploring here (The
Last Express). Image
property of Smoking
Car Productions, Inc.


Fig. 14: In the midst
of her grandfather's
seizure, Tatianna
screams at Cath,
"What kind of doctor
are you?" (The Last
Express). Image
property of Smoking
Car Productions, Inc.









lingering image. The polarity of these examples demonstrates the

unanchored reaction these discordant signifiers of gesture and

expression create, leaving the reader to scramble for significance.

This is a cognitive train wreck in full collision. At a

moment of high narrative tension, when the distraction from the

narrative thrust of the text should be minimized, the diegetic

stance suggests a comic effect inappropriate to the moment. This

effect is followed up when the next stop-action shot (Figure 15)
Fig. 15: As her
shows us Tatianna, supposedly surprised by what her grandfather grandfather calms
down, Tatianna reacts
has said, looking as if she has just been goosed. Because of the (The Last Express).
Image property of
stop-action technique used in The Last Express, these images Smoking Car
Productions, Inc.
linger on the screen for almost a minute-rupturing the mood and

undermining the scene by creating narrative dissonance through

the collision of two contra-indicative schemas.

If The Last Express could be termed a realistic animation,

Titanic: Adventure out of Time could be described as an animated

reality. While the technical aspects of the RPG are superlative

(including a fly-through tour of the liner so realistic it was used

by museums (Douglas The End of Books-Or Books Without End.

11)) the characters are animated with a photographic quality stop-

action technique so rigid it renders the characters as little more

than waxen stick-figures. Despite the photorealism, this approach

renders the effective use of diegetic stance almost impossible.









All dialogue in the game is delivered in extreme close up

with a minimal view of secondary physical gestures that could

support an effective diegetic stance, creating a stilted and

flattened effect, despite a realistic graphic rendering of faces.

Smethalls, the cabin attendant (Figure 16), is restricted to three

facial gestures: eyes down when he wants you to pick a response

from the dialogue screen; eyes straight as he speaks; and an

conspicuously cocked left eyebrow when he thinks you're being

dense.

Penny Prescott, the Secret Service Contact, is similarly

restricted (Figure 17), forcing the actor/animator to rupture the

physical script of these gestures are performed in real world

action, and therefore creating an unexpected, inconsistent effect.

Hand raised to chin height, elbow bent, she seems to point

directly into the face of the reader in a manner far more

confrontational than the narrative would seem to call for.

Other characters inhabit the ship corridors like waxwork

statues-lifelike, yet inanimate (Figure 18). When addressed,

gestures are over-amplified, as with Smethalls' raised eyebrow or

Penny's pointing finger, so as to generate an effect. The result is

unintentional comedy. While this runs counter to the script

presented us on the audio track (the foreboding theme music and

the continuing countdown towards the inevitable sinking of the


Fig. 16: Smethalls,
the cabin attendant, in
one of his three stock
poses (Titanic:
Adventure Out of
Time). Image
property of Cyberflix,
Inc.


Fig. 17: Note the
elevated position of
the hand required to
get the arm in view.
This restricted mode
severely inhibits the
diegetic stance and
creates a choppy,
quirky effect(Titanic:
Adventure Out of
Time). Image
property of Cyberflix,
Inc.


Fig. 18: Note the
stance and posture of
the characters
(Titanic: Adventure
Out of Time). Image
property of Cyberflix,
Inc.









ship) the physical schema ends up being so limited it effectively becomes a blank

template onto which the individual readers can map their own interpretations.

In fact, this may have been the intention of the Titanic's creators. Unlike

animation-even the highly realistic animation of The Last Express-photo-realistic

imaging creates an issue of physical continuity for the hypertextual narrative. Given

existing schemas from the traditions of cinema and comics for reading diegetic stance,

we expect a degree of continuity of action from live footage we do not expect from

animation. We fill in the

interstices between the animated images, creating a visual whole from the disjointed

pieces. Similar to an illusion of continuity created by intercutting scenes in film-a well-

established technique of contemporary cinema-the reader will cognitively attempt to

construct a whole from the pieces presented by accessing their internal library of

applicable schemas. Given the photorealistic images of Titanic, the conceit of stop-action

encourages the reader to apply the schemas of animation with its looser script for

physical action and amplification.

This is not the case in The X-Files. At the far end of the spectrum from the fully

animated novel universe of Grim Fandango, the live action rendition of The X-Files is

closely patterned on the scripts and schemas of the very successful television show on

which it is based. In spite of its use of full motion digital video, the diegesis is tightly

limited-largely restricted to underplayed facial gestures and non-sequitur interaction. In

large part this appears to be the result of the interactive nature of its narrative design

when coupled with live action-the same cognitive train wreck the creators of Titanic

sought to avoid with the use of their stop-action method. Much of the action involving









inter-character interaction is confined, limiting the potential for

scripting much as in the case of the extreme close ups of

Titanic-although the use of live action does prevent the awkwardly

unnatural stances of Titanic. To avoid the issue of physical

continuity within the paradigm of an interactive live-action

narrative, the actors in The X-Files underplay their parts outside

of the cut-scenes almost to the point of deadpan (Figure 19 and

20). Since any potential answer could follow any potential

question in the gameplay, the actors retreat into a stone-faced

delivery which leaves little room for physical amplification or

nuance. While the master schema of the television series on which

it is based encourages this, there is little attempt to adapt this

schema within the RPG. Outside of the well-executed scripts of

the series-diligent agents wading though paperwork at their desks,

the indignant hotel clerk-there is little which can be seen as an

adaptation to this new medium of the RPG. This would have made

a great episode of the series, but it is unsuccessful as interactive

narrative.

An early scene between Agent Willmore and the

suspicious Mr. Wong demonstrate this awkwardness with regard

to the diegetic stance. Willmore confronts Wong on a dock in an

attempt to extract information, and the reader proceeds to choose

the questions Willmore will ask. Unlike Titanic, which provides a


Fig. 19: Agent
Willmore deadpans
his conversation with
the coronor over the
mutilated body of a
victim (The X-Files).
Image property of
Fox Interactive.


Fig. 20: Detective
Astradourian calmly
tells the coroner she
"hates coming here"
(The X-Files). Image
property of Fox
Interactive.


Fig. 21: Willmore
puts tape on his nose
in one of the few light
moments in this RPG
(The X-Files). Image
property of Fox
Interactive.







20

question choice with no audio attached, the paradigm chosen by The X-Files creators was

to run short scenes of Willmore asking each question selected before Wong answers.

Since Wong's answers range from friendly to contemptuous, a dissonance emerges

between the tenor of his response and the manner of Willmore's questions. The few

gestures the actor uses during his questions-the cocking of his head to convey disbelief, a

quizzical look-will strike the reader as inconsistent, depending upon the order in which

the gestures are prompted. In multiple readings, the agent can appear rude, lost, or

befuddled. Wong-a stock character who plays this one scene as a jovial antagonist-may

strike the reader as a sympathetic character because of his bonhomie, despite the

revelation of his very checkered history and probable involvement in a murder. This is

probably the most animated use of the diegetic stance in the narrative, and the inability of

the diegetic stance to perform coherently has undermined the ability of the script to

execute properly within the narrative frame of the RPG, leading the reader into a

cognitive train wreck.

When Willmore finally tracks down the missing Mulder-the putative objective of

the RPG-Mulder sits cross-legged on the floor of the attic where he was held prisoner

while Willmore questions him. Like a Buddha in a trenchcoat, Mulder answers every

question with no more animation than any other character in the narrative.

While this flattened delivery can work in other media (and is a trademark of the

television series), it becomes highly problematic in the self-directed narratives of RPGs.

Minus the subliminal hint data provided by the nuanced diegetic stance, a successful

graphically-rendered diegesis is likely impossible.















CONCLUSION

While the goal of this thesis was to establish the role of diegetic stance as a

narrative tool in RPG's, it is clearly only the opening dialogue of what might be an

ongoing examination of the form and its presentation. Several questions have already

been raised, some leading off in different directions (e.g., the historical development of

the diegetic stance verses its usage and effectiveness across different media). All will

require further scrutiny to fully comprehend the role diegetic stance plays generally in the

manifestation of schematic narrative structures in general, and the mapping of those

schemas into the tabula rasa of the RPG specifically.

The brief historical summary of the diegetic stance provided early in this thesis

was far from comprehensive. Little more than a fleshed out time-line, its primary

function to provide context and position of the stance on the narrative landscape before

addressing its usage in the essentially uncharted terrain of the RPG. The diegetic stance

warrants examination in each of the forms mentioned (theatre, cartoons, cinema,

animation) as well as in several which were not (music, literature) to fully understand its

impact.

The diegetic stance is often dismissed as mere kinesis by rhetoricians who

collapse presentation and purpose. Similarly, it has often been dismissed as simple

artifact or little more than "technique" by narrative practitioners and those who have not

understood it as a vital component of the coherent schematic whole. As a means of

21









projecting a scripted construct, the examination of diegetic stance as a unique and

distinctive form can only contribute to our understanding of the narrative role of schema.

I have also raised issues of adaptation, in both general and specific applications in

RPGs. As the RPG develops and is further refined as a narrative form, what paradigms

will be adapted from prior media, what new ones will develop, and how will the various

scripts and the schemas they invoke most successfully be mapped onto the new media?

Wide spread failure to recognize and understand this adaptation process is already

apparent. I have shown how "cognitive train wrecks" have been created by misapplied

schemas and scripts. While similar in effect, the methods by which to map these scripts

onto full animation (photo-realistic and animated stop action) and live action would

appear to be fundamentally different from both each other and their related forms in other

media. This adaptation of technique as well as content resurrects issues of action,

continuity, and caricature long settled in other forms. How these infelicities are rectified

or avoided in the future, how narrative forms will be modified to facilitate the process,

and the role the diegetic stance will play should be the subject of further discussion.

One fruitful area of future study not addressed in this work is the issue of the RPG

as a narrative form that fundamentally shifts the role of the reader to that of a protagonist,

and how the diegetic stance can facilitate or derail that fundamental change. Unlike prior

media in which the reader is largely a voyeur, the RPG demands a degree of participatory

readership uncommon and awkward to execute in earlier forms. To the extent the RPG

protagonist is a tabula rasa upon which readers map themselves, or a cybernetic double

who is inhabited by the readerss, will be determined by the success of the RPG author in







23

creating successful scripts-including the diegetic stance-capable of performing, within

the restraints of the form, to create a coherent schematic structure.















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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

After receiving his Bachelor's in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of

Florida in 1980, Henry James Butler worked as a reporter and editor in both print and

radio before opening a computer consulting firm in 1986. He taught computer sciences

and English at a private junior college for a decade before returning to the University of

Florida to complete his graduate studies, and currently teaches for the Upward Bound

program based at that institution.

He has presented a number of conference papers on a variety of topics, ranging

from "Caricature and Cognition in Comic Art" (Will Eisner Symposium/Comics

Conference, University of Florida, February 2002) to "Voyeur to Participant: The

Reader's Role and the Function of Cyber-Fabula in the Emerging Cyber-Narrative"

(Narrative Society National Conference, Rice University, March 2001). His areas of

primary interest are digital narratives, diegetic stance, and schema theory.