Symposium looks at evolution of video game stories

Justin Young says video games are growing up.

Young, who serves as assistant professor and chair of the Department of Humanities and Communication at Trine University, will examine titles he said reflect thematic maturity in a medium more known for gratuitous violence and character marketing during the second installment of the university’s Spring Humanities Symposia.

Beginning at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 20, in Wells Theater inside Taylor Hall, “Fascism, Feminism, and Frames: The F Word in Video Game Narratives” is free and open to the public, but seating is strictly limited to 75.

Recent games like “Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus,” “Night in the Woods,” “Doki Doki Literature Club” and “NeiR: Automata” tackle tough subjects like existentialism, complicity in fascism and objectification of women, Young said.

“I am looking at some specific titles from the past year that really focus on narrative or have unique narratives for video games,” he said. “I’m really interested in how storytelling in games is evolving, from generic hero stories to more complicated narratives we might expect in young adult fiction or even black comedies such as ‘Inglourious Basterds.’ ”

Part of that evolution, Young said, is how the narrative within video games is framed.

“In media theory we talk about frames as the way a news story is presented to you. For example, tax cuts can be about the rich getting richer or about jumpstarting small businesses. The facts are the same, but the narrative is very different for the audience,” he said. “In the last year that idea has been particularly fascinating as games about dating became about feminism and the #MeToo movement, or over-the-top action games suddenly became biting critiques of today’s newspaper headlines. Those frames are changing the story in radical ways that are forcing games to grow up.”

The Humanities Symposia is presented by Trine’s Department of Humanities and Communication. For more information, contact Jeanette Goddard, assistant professor in the Department of Humanities and Communication, at (260) 665-4730 or goddardj@trine.edu.