Meaning Effects in Video Games

I’m writing a paper about the tools authors can use in literature to convey certain meaning effects, but applied to video games. There are several tools available, but perhaps the most interesting is the concept of granularity.

It seems that there is a natural level of schematicity in perception. That is, a level of attention that we are normally accustomed to, when we don’t pay any special attention to things. It is only when we focus our attention to specific things that we deviate from that basic level of attention. In literature studies the varying specificity of description is called granularity.

Authors can use this natural level of attention to convey meaning effects by deliberately diverging from that level to either more or less detail. Adding more detail can convey the feeling of paying more attention to some little detail. Less detail shows that the characters attention is not focused on that particular thing. It can also be used as a tool for distancing, by displaying pathological levels of attention. Human beings are normally very good at filtering their perception for relevant things, and varying what is considered relevant can have deeply alienating effects.

An example of this from literature is Peter Weiss’ The Shadow of the Body of the Coachman, where the protagonist-narrator is completely unable to separate what is relevant from the irrelevant, and ends up narrating everything. But this is not how humans usually think, so the narration is both heavy and alienating.

Similar techniques can be used in game narration: to have the narration tell something about the narrator itself, not the object of the narration.