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Transmediality In Online Games

Thomas Armand C. Tang | IV AB PSY

The onset of massively multiplayer online role-playing games or more often called as MMORPG’s has captivated the time spent by adolescents or maybe even adults online. As like any other role-playing game (RPG), MMORPG’s function the same way the only difference is that it is massively multiplayer and is online. It follows the format of either creating your own character with a look, choosing a race (human, orc, elf, you name it), or you play a role of a specific character given to you by the game itself. RPG’s are single player; you play alone, while in MMORPG’s you play with people playing the same game across the world. MMORPG and RPG’s basically have two goals: you get stronger and/or you unravel the game’s story. Note that the “or” here bears meaning. Some people don’t pay attention to the game’s narrative and just want to bash some computer generated monsters or kill other players for the sake of fun or venting out the rage within. I am guilty of this but only for some games. Reason being is that the stories given by those games are run-off-the-mill. They are too predictable and so you try to squeeze out what you can from what you paid for by mindlessly killing anything you see till you are content. However for the most part of my gaming life I have played a lot of games that have unique stories that have depth in the them and makes you ask for more. A lot of my friends who play these RPGs play for the game’s story. The experience that you yourself take part in the story makes it a lot entertaining. Yes, it’s role playing after all. The main difference however between RPG’s and MMORPG’s stories is that in RPG’s the stories end while MMORPG’s in a sense don’t. Game developers of MMORPG’s make huge money by keeping their gamers online so what they do is they make a story but instead of thinking of an ending they continuously keep an opening. Along with these stories come features new to the game that entice gamers and make them want to wear their leashes forever. This scheme is devious but it works. The success of MMORPG’s lies in their addictiveness.

The addictiveness given by these games are deadly as they do waste a big chunk of time and money. Despite the capitalist nature of MMORPGs I believe there lies a saving grace in MMORPG’s story-telling nature. The class in transmedial Shakespeare has taught me that Shakespeare can exist outside of books. This knowledge of “transmediality” gave me this quirky idea of incorporating Shakespeare in games so people may encounter his works in their favorite games.

I came across this game called Mabinogi, a korean MMORPG, that incorporated some works of Shakespeare namely: Romeo and Juliet, Merchant of Venice, and Hamlet. Unlike World of Warcraft who referenced various snippets from Shakespeare’s plays Mabinogi a whole step forward and puts the plays themselves inside the game. This gave life to my idea of “transmediality” in games. The plays aren’t part of the games main story line but they are stories that one can take part in. The game features cut scenes that show famous parts of the plays an example of which is Hamlet:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjpNMJ4bXMA

The play is still divided into respective acts and is narrated in a way that you, or your created character, takes part in the development of the story. The plot changes quite a bit because of your presence but the whole story remains intact. The main task of the player is to let the story continue by accomplishing tasks given by Hamlet in proving that Cladius is the killer. The play ends with Hamlet dying but fortunately you are not part of the Shakespearean tragedy.

Given the addictiveness that MMORPG’s bring is it possible to give these games redemption by adding transmediality in it? The story-telling nature of MMORPG’s makes it an avenue of putting not just Shakespeare but possibly other literature in it. But then the question asked is does it dumb down literature? Will it be a substitute for the text itself or would gamers be curious and read for their selves the text version? Who knows. But what is good about is that people are given the chance to experience Shakespeare in another form of media and from what I see having read the play putting Shakespeare in games is alright it’s insightful but I wouldn’t say profound.

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Categories: Multimedia Essays
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