Katarzyna Marak, Ph. D., is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Cultural Studies at Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun, Poland; she is the author of Japanese and American Horror: A Comparative Study of Film, Fiction, Graphic Novels and Video Games and the co-author of the monograph Gameplay, Emotions and Narrative: Independent Games Experienced, as well as a number of texts discussing independent games, game mechanics, player experience, and storytelling aspects of games. Her research interests concern game studies, with particular emphasis on independent game texts, horror fiction, testimonies of reception, and elements of American and Japanese popular culture.
Magic as Mechanics and Narrative in Independent Horror Games
FROG 2021 – Talk
This paper will attempt to outline and examine the medium-specific ways in which magic is portrayed and used in independent digital horror games. The two most important factors taken into consideration will be the practical employment of magic, discussed in terms of mechanics, and the fantastical employment of magic, discussed in terms of the narrative. Both these components are particularly significant in horror fiction in general, where magic is primarily depicted as a source of harm and peril, and only occasionally as the means to defend oneself—depending on the culture-related politics of magic. Such portrayal of magic does conform to the medium of digital games, but also breaks with the strict long-established convention of typical literary and film horror narratives by empowering and strengthening the protagonist. Using a number of selected examples, the paper will examine a number of varied representations of magic in game texts, with particular emphasis placed on the relationship between magic and immersion, as well as magic and agency. By placing games in a broader context of other horror texts, the paper will demonstrate how through a complex interplay of mechanics, narrative, and gameplay experience independent digital horror games allow the players to obtain and use the power to make impossible things occur in and impact on the game world.