Call: “Ludonarratives: Narrative complexity in video games” for journal L’Atalante


Ludonarratives: Narrative complexity in video games
L’ATALANTE 31 (issue to be published January 2021)

Acceptance of proposals for the Notebook section: from July 1st 2020 to September 1st 2020

In recent years, narratives in video games have grown increasingly complex, evolving from serving merely as a context designed to present the rules and mechanics of the game towards the development of much deeper and more complicated structures, plots and characters, and the exploration of new thematic perspectives. Narrative complexity is already a central part of the gaming experience in games like Telling Lies (Sam Barlow, 2019), Life is Strange (Dontnod Entertainment, 2015), What Remains of Edith Finch (Giant Sparrow, 2017), and VR experiences like The Invisible Hours (Tequila Works, 2017). Having moved past the debate between narratology and ludology (Frasca, 2003; Aarseth, 2019), there is a consensus among researchers that video games should be analysed as cultural artefacts that can harbour a complex narrative development as part of their design. In this sense, academics like Brenda Laurel (1986, 1991), Janet Murray (1997), Mary Laure Ryan (2001, 2004, 2006), Henry Jenkins (2004), Susana Tosca (2004), Clara Fernández-Vara (2009), or more recently Hartmut Koenitz et al. (2015), have developed a theoretical pathway that examines the specific features of narratives in interactive digital media, including ludofictional worlds (Planells, 2015), specific forms of seriality (Cuadrado, 2016), and complex entertainment structures (Pérez-Latorre, 2015).

The Notebook section of this issue of L’Atalante proposes to explore ways of understanding audiovisual narratives from the perspective of the narrative design of video games. This narrative design, partly due to the breaks in linearity in digital environments, ties in with contemporary trends in narrative complexity like the mindgame film, which favour ambiguity and obstructed communication (Loriguillo-López, 2019). However, the requirements of the gameplay experience and the agency of players mean that narrative systems cannot operate in the same way as they do in media like cinema, and that specific research is needed to analyse it. In particular, we are interested in approaches that address the narrative complexity that arises both in the layers of structured (scripted) narratives and in emergent narratives (resulting from the gameplay experience), which may be the product of the classical mode of storytelling (Propp, 1928; Campbell, 1949; Greimas, 1987), or of the ruptures introduced by the post-classical mode of narration (Elsaesser & Buckland, 2002; Thanouli, 2009; Mittel, 2015).

Issues that submissions could address include:

  1. The elements of classical storytelling in the video game medium
  2. Non-linear narrative structures and choice design
  3. Ethical video game design and its narrative implications
  4. Construction of characters in dialogue with their role as avatars and player identification or interpretation
  5. Relationships between game design and narrative design
  6. Emergent narratives arising out of the gameplay experience
  7. Environmental storytelling and the capacity of art-based narrative evocation
  8. Ludonarrative analysis from the perspective of the textual materiality of popular games
  9. The spatial-temporal construction of the game world and its narrative effects
  10. The influence of the changes and tensions in post-classical cinematic narration—like spatial or temporal fragmentation, time loops, split personalities, the presence of tormented amnesiac characters or unreliable narrators—on the narrative layer of video games
  11. Fictional structures of the video game as part of transmedia and media mix projects.

L’Atalante. Revista de estudios cinematográficos accepts submissions of unpublished essays on topics related to game theory and/or praxis that stand out for their innovative nature. Articles should focus on approaches to video games made preferably from the perspectives of narratology or ludology analysis. Those texts that approach novel objects of study with rigorous and well-evidenced methodologies will be appreciated. Articles that take as their main reference the processes of signification through the analysis of the narratological and ludologic elements specific to our field, focusing on methodologies specifically related to the treatment of ludonarratives will be favoured in the selection process. Although we accept works with other methodologies that approach the object of study from transversal perspectives (Cultural Studies, philological approaches, etc.) we consider that the main interest of the journal is located on the studies that take the specifically ludologic, expressive and narrative tools as the main elements of discourse. Likewise, texts that are not limited to describing, enumerating or summarizing details of the plot, but that rigorously apply a specific and well-evidenced analysis methodology, reaching particular and novel results, will be given priority.

Below are a few aspects to keep in mind:

  • Submissions must be original and must conform to the submission guidelines of the journal and to the standards and scientific rigour expected of an academic publication
  • Submissions will be evaluated for the originality of the topic explored, especially if it relates to an issue not previously addressed in the publication. Submissions dealing with topics previously addressed in the journal may be rejected. The content of the issues published to date can be consulted on the journal’s website.
  • All submissions will undergo an external peer review process that will respect the anonymity of both authors and reviewers (double blind peer review) in an effort to prevent any possibility of bias. In the event of a very high number of submissions, the Editorial Board will make a prior selection of the articles to be peer reviewed, choosing the articles deemed the most appropriate for the issue. Failure to observe the submission guidelines and/or standards of originality and academic rigour will result in rejection of the submission by the Editorial Board without external review.
  • Authors of accepted submissions will be contacted within six months.
  • Articles (which should be between 5,000 and 7,000 words including all sections) must be submitted via the website of the journal as .rtf, .odt or .docx files, using the template provided for this purpose. Files containing the author’s statement (.pdf) and any images (.psd, .png, .jpg, .tiff) must be uploaded to the website as complementary files. A detailed version of the submission guidelines can be found at the following link. Any articles that fail to meet these requirements will be rejected automatically.
  • The selected articles will be published in a bilingual edition (Spanish and English). The authors of the texts accepted for publication must pay the costs that result from the translation or revision – in the case of providing, along with the original, a translated version – of their article. In all cases, and in order to guarantee the quality of the translations and the unity of linguistic criteria, the text must be translated or reviewed by the translator recommended by the journal. His work will be paid in advance and via Paypal by the authors.
  • L’Atalante does not offer any compensation for published articles. For more information:


Aarseth, E. (2019). Game Studies: How to play. Ten play-tips for the aspiring game-studies scholar. Game Studies, 19(2).

Campbell, J. (1959). El héroe de las mil caras. Psicoanálisis del mito. México: Fondo de cultura económica.

Cuadrado, A. (2016). Series de tv y videojuegos: la poética de la serialidad en la forma lúdica. Anàlisi. Quaderns de cultura i comunicació, 55. p. 17-30,

Elsaesser, T., & Buckland, W. (2002). Studying Contemporary American Film: A Guide to Movie Analysis. Bloomsbury Academic.

Fernandez-Vara, C. (2009). Play’s the Thing: A Framework to Study Videogames as Performance. 2009 DiGRA International Conference: Breaking New Ground: Innovation in Games, Play, Practice and Theory.

Frasca, G. (2003). Ludologists love stories, too: Notes on a debate that never took place, velup2003.pdf

Greimas, A.J. (1987). Semántica estructural. Madrid: Editorial Gredos

Jenkins, H. (2004). Game Design as Narrative Architecture. En: N. Wardrip-Fruin and P. Harrigan (eds.) First Person: New Media as Story, Performance and Game, pp.118-130. Cambridge&London: MIT Press. Retrieved from:

Juul, J. (2001). Games telling stories? A brief note on games and narratives. Game Studies: The International Journal of Computer Game Research, 1(1). Retrieved from:

Koenitz, H., Ferri, G., Haahr, M., Sezen, D. Sezen, T.I. (2015). Interactive Digital Narrative. History, Theory and Practice. New York and London: Routledge.

Laurel, B. (1986). Towards the Design of a Computer-Based Interactive Fantasy System. PhD Thesis. Ohio State University.

Laurel, B. (1991). Computers as Theatre. New York: Addison Wesley.

Loriguillo-López, A. (2019). La comunicabilidad de lo ambiguo: una propuesta narratológica para el análisis de la ficción televisiva compleja. Signa. Revista de la Asociación Española de Semiótica, 28.

Mittel, J. (2015). Complex TV: The Poetics of Contemporary Television Storytelling. New York: New York University Press.

Murray, J. (1997). Hamlet on the Holodeck. New York: Simon & Schuster/Free Press.

Pérez-Latorre, Ó. (2015). El arte del entretenimiento. Un ensayo sobre el diseño de experiencias en narrativa, videojuegos y redes sociales. Barcelona: Laertes Ediciones

Planells de la Maza, A. J. (2015). Videojuegos y mundos de ficción. De Super Mario a Portal. Madrid: Cátedra.

Propp, V. (1974). Morfología del cuento. Madrid: Editorial Fundamentos

Ryan, M.-L. (2001). Narrative as Virtual Reality: Immersion and Interactivity in Literature and Electronic Media. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Ryan, M.-L. (ed.) (2004). Narrative Across Media. The Languages of Storytelling. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.

Ryan, M.-L. (2006). Avatars of Story. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Thanouli, E. (2009). Post-classical cinema: an international poetics of film narration. New York: Wallflower Press.

Tosca, S. (2004). Literatura digital. El paradigma hipertextual. Cáceres: Universidad de Extremadura


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