What is a narrator? READ BEFORE ADDING GAMES

#1 Posted by chililili (1328 posts) -

I am writing this in August 1, 2008. As of the writing of this post this page is completely and absolutely wrong in its game list and its description. The writer of this page is in fact completely oblivious as to what a narrator is. So I have written this post to serve as a guideline. It will be a long post and it will be a very complex post. If you do not wish to read it nor the article's description as to what an unreliable narrator is (after I edit it, right now it is colossally wrong), please refrain from adding a game. I will do my best to keep this article as simple as possible as someone without an education in literature may be able to grasp. I also tried to make this post as spoiler free as possible: most unreliable narrators you see here are quite obviously unreliable at the beginning of the movie or story.

Now to begin:

What is a narrator?


A Narrator is an entity within a story that tells the story to the audience. In literature Narrators are pretty much clear cut out and obvious. They are the voice through which the author conveys its message. They can be character narrators (those are characters and narrators in the story), third person narrators (omniscient and limited), multiple focalized narrators, and many more. However once we translate the concept of narrator to a film it becomes more complex. A narrator in film is commonly presented as a voice over that drives the story forward, it is generally third person omniscient.

Narrators in Literature


Pretty easy to figure out, jsut grab any book.

Narrators in Movies


Henry Hill in Goodfellas

Narrators in Games

There are no good examples I can remember

What is an unreliable Narrator?


Well first of all there are no reliable narrators. We can asses the reliability of a narrator through what he tells us, shows us, and does. An unreliable narrator is a narrator whose words cannot be trusted. Why? There can be a multitude of reasons I'll name a few of which I've seen, the narrator is: a liar, a demented person, a retarded person, wishes to confuse you on purpose, has a certain disability (blindness, deafness), is a drug addict and his senses are whacked, etc. But unreliable characters are not unreliable narrators. Most of the times in movies (and most liekly games) unreliable narrators will be characters within the story or the protagonists, not so much the omniscient third person types of narrators.

U.N.s in Literature


Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, if you pick up something by Borges you normally get unreliable narrators, ooooh also Pedro Paramo has a very good unreliable narrator you won't know what the fuck is going on half the time.

U.N.s in Movies


The Narrator in Fight Club, Guy Pearce in Memento, Patrick Bateman in American Psycho.

U.N.s in Games


Solid Snake in MGS4 and 1 (when he is mind controlled by Mantis) and I quite frankly am not entirely sure, I cannot recall ever playing a video game and going: this is a clear cut case of an unreliable narrator. Why? Because games are different than most art forms. They rely on gameplay and having easy to use controls. So you can't really make a really artistic game in which the main character is blind and have people bumping around, or having psychodelic hallucinations because that jsut makes crappy gameplay.

Now some games which might be aded to the list but I haven't played them myself so I'm not sure. I hear that in Kane & Lynch one of the characters sees civilians as cops and shoots everyone (THAT IS AN UNRELIABLE NARRATOR IF I HAVE HEAR CORRECTLY), I think you could also put down GTA III with mind altering drugs that change gameplay, and GTA IV with drunk driving that changes gameplay as well, but those examples do not really make an unreliable narrator you need someone you can't trust at all to be unreliable.

What are not unreliable Narrators


Unreliable Narrators are not unreliable characters nor characters whose personalities or identities are shown to be different in a plot twist. To use an example the Joker in the Dark Knight movie is an extremely unreliable character, he is a pathological liar, is constantly reinventing himself and anything he says cannot be taken at face value, however he is NOT an unreliable narrator even if he lies about his origin story in the movie. Why? BECAUSE HE IS NOT A NARRATOR! For example the characters or Requiem for a Dream are all drug addicts who do not see reality entirely well at certian points of the movie, are they unreliable narrators? No because they are characters and never narrate anything.

*SPOILERS*


Also for example in Assassin's Creed your master turns out to be the bad guy. THIS IS A PLOT TWIST NOT AN UNRELIABLE NARRATOR. Again because he is a character not a narrator.
#2 Posted by chililili (1328 posts) -

Feel free to discuss what qualifies as an unreliable narrator here. I mean I do enjoy discussing games as art and I would like to see someone apply literary terms and analyze a game.

#3 Posted by KensterFox (246 posts) -

Here's my two cents on this matter, because I, like Jeff, feel this is an interesting concept and a valuable page.

In literature, a "narrator" is a character through which the events of the story are experienced. For example, Jack Ryan is a narrator in Hunt for Red October, as is Captain Ramius. They are telling you the story through their thoughts and experiences.

In film, a "narrator" is a voice outside the events of the story that provides additional insight (usually from a certain character's perspective) on what is being shown on the screen.

Note how these two definitions are radically different. We can see that what a narrator does is dependent upon the medium through which the story is being told. What a "narrator" is in a video game is necessarily different from either of the two above definitions.

In video games, a "narrator" is a source of information that the player must trust to gain understanding of the events or mechanics of the game. Obviously, the player needs to trust what he or she experiences through the player character unless informed otherwise (if the player character has been hypnotized, for instance, the player knows that what they are experiencing through the player character is untrustworthy, so should not really be included in this article, I feel), so the player character is one of the game's narrators. Also, any character that provides vital information to the player (usually by providing it to the player character) that the player must trust to advance in the game is a narrator.

In BioShock, for instance, both Atlas and (to a much lesser degree) Dr. Tennenbaum provide necessary information to the player character on the mechanics and the context of the game, they are both narrators.

In Portal, instruction on how to proceed through the game, and the context for everything the player experiences, is provided by GLaDOS. It (she?) too, is a narrator.

In Crackdown, the player receives context on the game world, instruction on game mechanics, and information on in-game missions from The Director. He is a narrator.

Before I wrote this post, I had a negative reaction to the idea of Al-Mualim as a narrator of Assassin's Creed, but on actually articulating this definition, I see that because he provides the game's objectives and is the main source of context for the story (at least for the 1191 portion), he does indeed fit it. Lucy and Vidic are also lesser narrators of the modern-day portion of the game.

In summary, a narrator in a video game is anyone who answers any of these three questions: How do I navigate/manipulate the game world? What objective do I need to fulfill to complete the game? What the hell is going on around here, anyway? The more questions a character answers, and the more often that character does so, the more of a narrator that character is.

#4 Edited by xruntime (1920 posts) -

The narrator isn't a narrator by textbook definition. It can be anyone who relays information to you on a regular basis throughout the game. This qualifies people like Atlas from Bioshock and Doyle from Far Cry.

"Unreliable Narrators are not unreliable characters nor characters whose personalities or identities are shown to be different in a plot twist."

I disagree. Again, you should not take the term "unreliable" at face value - it means anyone who is giving you information that is often incorrect, or hiding information, as the "plot twist" narrators such as the aforementioned have done.

#5 Posted by lordofultima (6249 posts) -

There was a movie with Jim Carey in it that had an unreliable narrator. I have no idea what it was called...but yeah. There's one.

#6 Posted by chililili (1328 posts) -
lordofultima said:
"There was a movie with Jim Carey in it that had an unreliable narrator. I have no idea what it was called...but yeah. There's one.
"
Oh yes Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the ones I listed here are jsut notable examples after all
#7 Edited by chililili (1328 posts) -
KensterFox said:
"Here's my two cents on this matter, because I, like Jeff, feel this is an interesting concept and a valuable page.

In literature, a "narrator" is a character through which the events of the story are experienced. For example, Jack Ryan is a narrator in Hunt for Red October, as is Captain Ramius. They are telling you the story through their thoughts and experiences.

In film, a "narrator" is a voice outside the events of the story that provides additional insight (usually from a certain character's perspective) on what is being shown on the screen.

Note how these two definitions are radically different. We can see that what a narrator does is dependent upon the medium through which the story is being told. What a "narrator" is in a video game is necessarily different from either of the two above definitions.

In video games, a "narrator" is a source of information that the player must trust to gain understanding of the events or mechanics of the game. Obviously, the player needs to trust what he or she experiences through the player character unless informed otherwise (if the player character has been hypnotized, for instance, the player knows that what they are experiencing through the player character is untrustworthy, so should not really be included in this article, I feel), so the player character is one of the game's narrators. Also, any character that provides vital information to the player (usually by providing it to the player character) that the player must trust to advance in the game is a narrator.

In BioShock, for instance, both Atlas and (to a much lesser degree) Dr. Tennenbaum provide necessary information to the player character on the mechanics and the context of the game, they are both narrators.

In Portal, instruction on how to proceed through the game, and the context for everything the player experiences, is provided by GLaDOS. It (she?) too, is a narrator.

In Crackdown, the player receives context on the game world, instruction on game mechanics, and information on in-game missions from The Director. He is a narrator.

Before I wrote this post, I had a negative reaction to the idea of Al-Mualim as a narrator of Assassin's Creed, but on actually articulating this definition, I see that because he provides the game's objectives and is the main source of context for the story (at least for the 1191 portion), he does indeed fit it. Lucy and Vidic are also lesser narrators of the modern-day portion of the game.

In summary, a narrator in a video game is anyone who answers any of these three questions: How do I navigate/manipulate the game world? What objective do I need to fulfill to complete the game? What the hell is going on around here, anyway? The more questions a character answers, and the more often that character does so, the more of a narrator that character is.
"
Yes I understand where you are coming from, but I believe that characters who reveal story devices (especially to the playable character are NOT narrators!) Now that I've slept on it I realized what the key characteristic that sets a narrator from a normal character apart in both films and books.

Key characteristic of a Narrator

A narrator exposes certain information about the story or the game mechanics, in a way which is only beneficial to the audience. (In other words narrators do not narrate in the story world where it is happening if GladOs is speaking to Chell she is not a narrator, she is a character you need either a voiceover narration, which is clearly occuring in the character's head) or a direct breaking of the fourth wall to have a true narrator.

Also there may be multiple narrators there is absolutely no problem with that. I think that we may also count as narrators for example the kids in Ocarina of time that teach you how to use you shields and stuff by referencing the buttons directly. However again these narrators must be unreliable narrators to be in this list.



#8 Posted by DualReaver (3882 posts) -

Narrator = Morgan Freeman
/Thread

#9 Posted by chililili (1328 posts) -
DualReaver said:
"Narrator = Morgan Freeman
/Thread
"
True, true I am currently happy as to the way the page has been fixed, I'll try to keep it similar to the way it is and add stuff that we discuss here.
#10 Posted by Alex_V (615 posts) -

Excellent post and responses - interesting topic.

I think the definition of 'narrator' that many are suggesting here renders the word utterly meaningless. If any character who gives out information or instruction to the protagonist is a narrator, then you could make a case for most if not all in-game characters being narrators. This is neither true, or useful for this concept page.

I think the distinction that must be drawn is the same one that is drawn in literature or film - it seems well-established and totally consistent in my opinion. The narrator tells the story to the audience, and has a distinctly different role from the characters within the story. The narrator is the person who says 'Once Upon A Time...'. Atlas, in any sense of the description of a narrator that you could find anywhere, is NOT a narrator - he is an ally you find in Rapture who supplies you with practical directions. GlaDOS is not either - she is your boss, guiding you through a fictional training process. Neither are aware that their dialogue is being used to frame a fictional story - they are characters in a story, and in no sense narrators. They are no more narrators than an NPC who tells you where the Pokemon gym is.

#11 Posted by MisterWaingro (66 posts) -

It amazes me that GLaDOS is not on here yet.

While it might not fit in line with your specific definition of a narrator, taking the strictest definition of "narrator" as "someone who tells a story," she at least fits in with the spirit of the role.  She might not break the fourth wall in guiding you, the actual player, through the story of Portal, but she definitely does it through association through your character.  She is the only character in the game who has a speaking role, she verbally guides you through each of the levels whilst concocting a story that your character (and you, by association) are lead to believe as true, which ultimately ties into an eventual untold plot to murder your character at the end of the game.

She's the damn prototype of "Unreliable Narrator" if there ever was one.

It just seems like you guys are being stubborn for no true, substantial reason here.  I could've sworn she would be one of the first additions and mainstays to the page.  I find it ridiculous that she still isn't on there.

Consider this my vouch for her permanent inclusion.

#12 Edited by chililili (1328 posts) -
MisterWaingro said:
"It amazes me that GLaDOS is not on here yet.

While it might not fit in line with your specific definition of a narrator, taking the strictest definition of "narrator" as "someone who tells a story," she at least fits in with the spirit of the role.  She might not break the fourth wall in guiding you, the actual player, through the story of Portal, but she definitely does it through association through your character.  She is the only character in the game who has a speaking role, she verbally guides you through each of the levels whilst concocting a story that your character (and you, by association) are lead to believe as true, which ultimately ties into an eventual untold plot to murder your character at the end of the game.

She's the damn prototype of "Unreliable Narrator" if there ever was one.

It just seems like you guys are being stubborn for no true, substantial reason here.  I could've sworn she would be one of the first additions and mainstays to the page.  I find it ridiculous that she still isn't on there.

Consider this my vouch for her permanent inclusion.
"
You cannot put the definition of someone who tells a story within a story because then every single character with a piece of dialogue or any way of communication would be a narrator. It does not matter that she is an integral character to the story (I love portal and GladOs) but she simply is not a narrator. She is a character, if you look at the way she appears and communicates  she is speaking to Chell, not to you the audience. Narrators by definition refer to the audience. Also again having a plot twist in the end is not what makes it an unreliable narrator, after all she was unreliable when she referred to you by subject name, or glitched, etcetera, the environments in the game clued you into the fact that GladOS was not ok. While she is an unreliable character and a great character she is not again I repeat a narrator. It would be the same as though if you were reading a book and having a character talk to another character through a very long period of time and refering to the character ina n indeterminate so that the reader feels that he is the character and at the same time telling a story. in the end it is a monologue and there is an outer narrator in the story.
#13 Posted by DavidSnakes (675 posts) -
Alex_V said:
"Excellent post and responses - interesting topic.

I think the definition of 'narrator' that many are suggesting here renders the word utterly meaningless. If any character who gives out information or instruction to the protagonist is a narrator, then you could make a case for most if not all in-game characters being narrators. This is neither true, or useful for this concept page.

I think the distinction that must be drawn is the same one that is drawn in literature or film - it seems well-established and totally consistent in my opinion. The narrator tells the story to the audience, and has a distinctly different role from the characters within the story. The narrator is the person who says 'Once Upon A Time...'. Atlas, in any sense of the description of a narrator that you could find anywhere, is NOT a narrator - he is an ally you find in Rapture who supplies you with practical directions. GlaDOS is not either - she is your boss, guiding you through a fictional training process. Neither are aware that their dialogue is being used to frame a fictional story - they are characters in a story, and in no sense narrators. They are no more narrators than an NPC who tells you where the Pokemon gym is.
"
This is absolutely correct.  On another note, is Jackie from The Darkness a technically a narrator?  In pre-level cut scenes, he relays information directly to the audience, but then takes part in the actual story as well.
#14 Posted by chililili (1328 posts) -
DavidSnakes said:
"Alex_V said:
"Excellent post and responses - interesting topic.

I think the definition of 'narrator' that many are suggesting here renders the word utterly meaningless. If any character who gives out information or instruction to the protagonist is a narrator, then you could make a case for most if not all in-game characters being narrators. This is neither true, or useful for this concept page.

I think the distinction that must be drawn is the same one that is drawn in literature or film - it seems well-established and totally consistent in my opinion. The narrator tells the story to the audience, and has a distinctly different role from the characters within the story. The narrator is the person who says 'Once Upon A Time...'. Atlas, in any sense of the description of a narrator that you could find anywhere, is NOT a narrator - he is an ally you find in Rapture who supplies you with practical directions. GlaDOS is not either - she is your boss, guiding you through a fictional training process. Neither are aware that their dialogue is being used to frame a fictional story - they are characters in a story, and in no sense narrators. They are no more narrators than an NPC who tells you where the Pokemon gym is.
"
This is absolutely correct.  On another note, is Jackie from The Darkness a technically a narrator?  In pre-level cut scenes, he relays information directly to the audience, but then takes part in the actual story as well."
Characters may cease to be narrators at any point in the story, they are character narrators, if she at some point narrates she is a narrator and if she is an unreliable narrator may be added.
#15 Posted by Alex_V (615 posts) -
MisterWaingro said:
"It amazes me that GLaDOS is not on here yet.

While it might not fit in line with your specific definition of a narrator, taking the strictest definition of "narrator" as "someone who tells a story," she at least fits in with the spirit of the role.  She might not break the fourth wall in guiding you, the actual player, through the story of Portal, but she definitely does it through association through your character.  She is the only character in the game who has a speaking role, she verbally guides you through each of the levels whilst concocting a story that your character (and you, by association) are lead to believe as true, which ultimately ties into an eventual untold plot to murder your character at the end of the game.

She's the damn prototype of "Unreliable Narrator" if there ever was one.

It just seems like you guys are being stubborn for no true, substantial reason here.  I could've sworn she would be one of the first additions and mainstays to the page.  I find it ridiculous that she still isn't on there.

Consider this my vouch for her permanent inclusion.
"
Fact is, GlaDOS is not a narrator. Add her and you could start making a case for Obi-Wan Kenobi (he lies about Darth Vader to Luke) or any mentor figure in any game story. You seem to be arguing that the actual meaning of a term should be thrown out of the window simply because gamers will visit the page and expect a certain character to be there. Harsh to say it, but I don't think pages on the bomb should just feed ignorance.

I think you could definitely make a case for characters like GlaDOS deserving their own concept page on the bomb though. Unreliable Allies perhaps? Or simply plot twists?

In terms of the OP, we seem to be concentrating on characters who 'turn bad', but that's a very limited view of the unreliable narrator - I would love it if we could find some game narrators that are unreliable in more subtle ways.
#16 Edited by Spacetrucking (943 posts) -

The problem obviously stems from the fact that unlike normal literature, games usually don't have a straight up narrator. In many games, the non-playable characters provide us with most the background stories and directions and lead us in our adventures. Most of the information received is from NPCs, thus in a sense, they are serving the purpose of a narrator inside the game. I think by this extension, they can be classified as unreliable narrators.

Just my half drunken/sleepy head induced 2 cents.

#17 Posted by xruntime (1920 posts) -

I think many people on here are being too pedantic about the meaning of narrator. 99.99% of games do not have a true narrator. But for the context of a video game, the definition should be stretched to include any character that reveals vital information about the story.

That said, GladOS is an unreliable narrator.

#18 Posted by dulmonkey (78 posts) -

first off, Hunt for Red October was not narrated by Jack Ryan or Ramius. It was a third person narrative. second off, here is dictionary.com's definition of a narrator:

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/narrator

Even if we stretch those definitions, Glados is a guide and little else. Atlus is a guide also. Most of the narrative meat in Bioshock comes from the audio logs, those if anything are the real narrators in that game. They tell you a story, not tell tell you what you should be doing.  I do agree that game narrators need a different  criteria than literary and movie ones, but I don't think completely throwing out those criteria is the answer. especially when its becaase people just want to add a game to a page on GiantBomb.


I like this concept page, but I do think its gotten out of control

#19 Posted by xruntime (1920 posts) -
dulmonkey said:
"first off, Hunt for Red October was not narrated by Jack Ryan or Ramius. It was a third person narrative. second off, here is dictionary.com's definition of a narrator:

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/narrator

Even if we stretch those definitions, Glados is a guide and little else. Atlus is a guide also. Most of the narrative meat in Bioshock comes from the audio logs, those if anything are the real narrators in that game. They tell you a story, not tell tell you what you should be doing.  I do agree that game narrators need a different  criteria than literary and movie ones, but I don't think completely throwing out those criteria is the answer. especially when its becaase people just want to add a game to a page on GiantBomb.


I like this concept page, but I do think its gotten out of control
"
Those audio logs are narratives, but there is only one primary narrator in the game - and that is Atlas. Atlas has revealed much of the background of the world of Rapture - he is indeed telling a story.

We can all argue about this a lot - but who gets to decide which it is? I guess whoever created the concept...?

#20 Posted by HitNRun (344 posts) -

If it makes you feel better, most pages are going out of control as people just spam games and images into them for points.

#21 Posted by Alex_V (615 posts) -

I have to respectfully disagree with some of the comments. The suggestion is that the concept of a narrator, established through storytelling over thousands of years, should somehow be changed for videogames? Firstly this simply shouldn't be allowed as there is no criteria for such a change, and secondly even if it was changed it would never be accepted by the world as a whole - you would just have this small corner of it working to a totally screwy agenda.

Killjoy rightly points out that games do work very differently to some other art forms, but I don't think that is a good reason for changing the criteria by which a narrator is identified. It may justify the invention of new terms to describe certain game-specific elements. But I don't think that even applies here - I don't think Atlas or GlaDOS are any revolutionary concepts in art, they are characters in a fictional world. It's as simple as that really.

xruntime says "Atlas has revealed much of the background of the world of Rapture - he is indeed telling a story." but that is 100% wrong. Atlas at no point believes that he is telling a story, and the background to rapture is built through other audio logs, signs and other visual stimuli, just as much as the audio messages Atlas provides. He is no more a narrator than one of the signs on the wall. A lot of exposition is carried through the audio messages he provides, but that is quite simply not narrating.

As Dulmonkey indicates, there is actually no real argument over what is or is not a narrator. It is not a difficult concept to grasp.

The question is only what to do with characters indicated in this concept that are in reality not narrators. Is there a concept that could include GlaDOS and Atlas without altering the English language to describe them? Unreliable Characters? Characters that betray you? Ambiguous characters? Plot twists in games? In classical storytelling terms of the likes identified by Joseph Campbell and others, GlaDOS and Atlas are a mixture of very well-established archetypes. They are tricksters, and have some functions of mentor figures. GlaDOS's ambiguous nature ties in very closely with the Shapeshifter archetype - in a way I think she/it is a close relative of the Femme Fatale in Film Noir - the mysterious character whose intentions are unknown.

#22 Edited by Spacetrucking (943 posts) -

Alex, I think you are wrong in the perception that we are trying to bend the definition of an unreliable narrator to fit our image.

This actually doesn't fit exactly with my last justification (probably because I was functioning with half a brain then) but the term "unreliable narrator" is described as a literary tool where the person conveying important information is untrustworthy. I want to sound harsh but you are taking the term too literally and missing the point. I'm not saying all unreliable characters are unreliable narrators, only the ones who you actually depend on for valuable information and the ones who dictate what you do next in the game.

EDIT: This is kind of funny/weird. This thread is the 5th result on google for the term "unreliable narrator".In a way, this page could actually be used as a reference for other people fighting over the internet about the same term.

#23 Posted by dulmonkey (78 posts) -

This is why i think this needs to be a 'unreliable guide' page. these are people who you usually trust to guide us through games properly, not try to kill us half way through.  The concept is more or less sound, its just the narrator part that gets everyone riled up. Is it possible to create that new page and keep this one with an explanation of the difference.

#24 Posted by Alex_V (615 posts) -
Killjoy said:
"Alex, I think you are wrong in the perception that we are trying to bend the definition of an unreliable narrator to fit our image.

This actually doesn't fit exactly with my last justification (probably because I was functioning with half a brain then) but the term "unreliable narrator" is described as a literary tool where the person conveying important information is untrustworthy. I want to sound harsh but you are taking the term too literally and missing the point. I'm not saying all unreliable characters are unreliable narrators, only the ones who you actually depend on for valuable information and the ones who dictate what you do next in the game.

EDIT: This is kind of funny/weird. This thread is the 5th result on google for the term "unreliable narrator".In a way, this page could actually be used as a reference for other people fighting over the internet about the same term.
"
I don't really know where that definition of a narrator comes from - it is in conflict with any previous definition of the word that I can find. I think it is also unworkable and subjective - people will claim that Alyx (HL2 etc) is a narrator, or that the trade adviser in Civ is a narrator, or that your clan leader in a Counter-Strike match could be a narrator.

If we take the simplest definition of a narrator ('the teller of a story') then Alyx or the trade adviser or the clan leader are clearly not narrators - we are onto something then. Neither is GlaDOS - give me one line from Portal in which she is telling us 'the story' of the game. She may instruct us what the next test entails, but that is entirely in-keeping with her character as the controller of the tests.

I think the confusion here based on a few misconceptions. There is the misconception that an off-screen voice equals narration - it does not. Perhaps there is also a confusion between a 'narrator' and a 'narrative device' - two different concepts. GlaDOS and Atlas are clearly used as narrative devices but are not narrators. I think there is also a slight confusion between the idea of 'exposition' in dramatic terms, and narration - narration contains exposition, but most exposition is not narration. Characters that provide useful information are not necessarily narrators.

Is Gollum an unreliable narrator in The Lord Of The Rings? He provides information, and leads Frodo along a path, 'dictating' at least part of the story. But surely we agree that he is not a narrator. Now put Gollum in a video game, have him communicate with Frodo/us by radio rather than in person - now does he now magically become a narrator? He does not.

I agree with dulmonkey - if the intention here is to make a space for major characters / mentor figures in games who betray us, then unreliable guide sums up the phenomena perfectly. If the intention is for the concept to concern narrators specifically, then those game characters that are clearly not narrators should be removed. And with either of those changes enacted, the concept will be fine.

I favour changing the name of this concept to 'unreliable guide'. I would also support the idea of having a seperate concept of 'narrators in games' to cover the remarkably few games that actually have a voiced narrator. I think it would have to be made clear that the narrators listed are voice-only - if you start getting into text narration it's a whole different can of worms entirely.
#25 Posted by chililili (1328 posts) -
Alex_V said:
"Killjoy said:
"Alex, I think you are wrong in the perception that we are trying to bend the definition of an unreliable narrator to fit our image.

This actually doesn't fit exactly with my last justification (probably because I was functioning with half a brain then) but the term "unreliable narrator" is described as a literary tool where the person conveying important information is untrustworthy. I want to sound harsh but you are taking the term too literally and missing the point. I'm not saying all unreliable characters are unreliable narrators, only the ones who you actually depend on for valuable information and the ones who dictate what you do next in the game.

EDIT: This is kind of funny/weird. This thread is the 5th result on google for the term "unreliable narrator".In a way, this page could actually be used as a reference for other people fighting over the internet about the same term.
"
I don't really know where that definition of a narrator comes from - it is in conflict with any previous definition of the word that I can find. I think it is also unworkable and subjective - people will claim that Alyx (HL2 etc) is a narrator, or that the trade adviser in Civ is a narrator, or that your clan leader in a Counter-Strike match could be a narrator.

If we take the simplest definition of a narrator ('the teller of a story') then Alyx or the trade adviser or the clan leader are clearly not narrators - we are onto something then. Neither is GlaDOS - give me one line from Portal in which she is telling us 'the story' of the game. She may instruct us what the next test entails, but that is entirely in-keeping with her character as the controller of the tests.

I think the confusion here based on a few misconceptions. There is the misconception that an off-screen voice equals narration - it does not. Perhaps there is also a confusion between a 'narrator' and a 'narrative device' - two different concepts. GlaDOS and Atlas are clearly used as narrative devices but are not narrators. I think there is also a slight confusion between the idea of 'exposition' in dramatic terms, and narration - narration contains exposition, but most exposition is not narration. Characters that provide useful information are not necessarily narrators.

Is Gollum an unreliable narrator in The Lord Of The Rings? He provides information, and leads Frodo along a path, 'dictating' at least part of the story. But surely we agree that he is not a narrator. Now put Gollum in a video game, have him communicate with Frodo/us by radio rather than in person - now does he now magically become a narrator? He does not.

I agree with dulmonkey - if the intention here is to make a space for major characters / mentor figures in games who betray us, then unreliable guide sums up the phenomena perfectly. If the intention is for the concept to concern narrators specifically, then those game characters that are clearly not narrators should be removed. And with either of those changes enacted, the concept will be fine.

I favour changing the name of this concept to 'unreliable guide'. I would also support the idea of having a seperate concept of 'narrators in games' to cover the remarkably few games that actually have a voiced narrator. I think it would have to be made clear that the narrators listed are voice-only - if you start getting into text narration it's a whole different can of worms entirely.
"
I agree with you but Gollum IS a narrator (but a reliable narrator), he narrates the beginning of the Return of the King. I will keep on taking out those characters and games which we all obviously agree are not unreliable anrators, someone keeps posting GladOs and Atlas
#26 Posted by Alex_V (615 posts) -
chililili said:
"I agree with you but Gollum IS a narrator (but a reliable narrator), he narrates the beginning of the Return of the King. I will keep on taking out those characters and games which we all obviously agree are not unreliable anrators, someone keeps posting GladOs and Atlas
"

Lol - so he is :). Good luck with the edits.
#27 Posted by xruntime (1920 posts) -

I added Atlas. And I will keep on doing so until an official definition of unreliable narrator is established and agreed upon.

Right now, as the wiki description states, both Atlas and GladOS qualify.

#28 Posted by lvl10Wizard (326 posts) -

Check out Penny Arcade, that has a bona fide narrator and he's pretty unreliable!

#29 Posted by chililili (1328 posts) -
lvl10Wizard said:
"Check out Penny Arcade, that has a bona fide narrator and he's pretty unreliable!"
I haven't played the whole game but on the demo made me think it would be unrliable int he future.
#30 Posted by I_smell (3924 posts) -

I'm personally gonna count any instructor or disembodied voice as a "narrator".

#31 Posted by chililili (1328 posts) -
I_smell said:
"I'm personally gonna count any instructor or disembodied voice as a "narrator"."
Well then you have a wrong idea, the place where the people who do not count those as narrators are coming from is that its not a proper use of the term. We can discuss this civilly but I don't want people just going "well i'm going to use the term however I want to". Do some research on narrative/narrator and you will see where we are coming from, or read a book about it (although they are usually boring)
#32 Posted by chililili (1328 posts) -

Aw fuck. Someone reverted the article to the way it previously was and not only that they deleted a part that some guy had added about a technically unreliable narrator which I actually thought to be very interesting and correct. nice one taking away people's work before discussing it here.

#33 Posted by Luchadeer (105 posts) -

who the hell made chililili the current narrator expert? If giant bomb want GLaDoS as a freaking narrator then we can have it as a narrator,

this isn't Wikipedia, this is GB

AMIRITE?

#34 Posted by dulmonkey (78 posts) -

yeah, that sucks. I don't understand why some people are being so obstinate on this issue. And it's not like they are making any sort of attempt to explain, it's all just 'I think Atlas is a narrator, and that's the end of it' comments. Help us out here guys. I'm up for redefining narrators in games, but there needs to be a good reason for it.

#35 Posted by Luchadeer (105 posts) -

because if we go by the exact book definition of narrator, then every single character you control is a narrator because they are telling you their stories through their eyes. So Gordon Freeman would be a narrator, Master chief, so on and so forth...

#36 Posted by dulmonkey (78 posts) -
Luchadeer said:
"who the hell made chililili the current narrator expert? If giant bomb want GLaDoS as a freaking narrator then we can have it as a narrator,

this isn't Wikipedia, this is GB

AMIRITE?"
no, you are not right.  Even if you want something to be true, that doesn't make it so, Even on the internet. Chililili has made some good points that no one has contradicted in any manner that saying "nuh uh'.  If you'd like to make a reasoned statement, that would be welcome.


Luchadeer said:
"because if we go by the exact book definition of narrator, then every single character you control is a narrator because they are telling you their stories through their eyes. So Gordon Freeman would be a narrator, Master chief, so on and so forth..."

Again, wrong. controlling a character is not narration.  in a book a narrator tells you what a character is thinking, that doesn't make that character the narrator. In Battlefield: Bad Company your character is the narrator, because he tells you his thought between levels. Gordon Freeman and Master Chief are empty shells you step into. It more immersive that way, but it doesn't make that character a narrator. Narrators(traditionally) speak to you(the player, not your character). 
#37 Posted by chililili (1328 posts) -
Luchadeer said:
"because if we go by the exact book definition of narrator, then every single character you control is a narrator because they are telling you their stories through their eyes. So Gordon Freeman would be a narrator, Master chief, so on and so forth..."
And the "book" where you got this is from? I mean I argue this because people are tossing around literary concepts that they cannot grasp kind of like if you were a physicists and saw someone saying well gravity is the force of the air pushing you down against the air you would be forced to interject and say, excuse me but you are wrong. Also I think here on giantbomb we want things to be correct.
#38 Posted by VilhelmNielsen (1735 posts) -

I don't think that the narrator from Fight Club is an unreliable narrator, for he is not aware that he's lying. He believes what he says, and therefore not unreliable, but incorrect.

#39 Posted by xruntime (1920 posts) -
Luchadeer said:
"who the hell made chililili the current narrator expert? If giant bomb want GLaDoS as a freaking narrator then we can have it as a narrator,

this isn't Wikipedia, this is GB

AMIRITE?"
Yeah, seriously. Chilli, I don't mean to be hostile - but you're talking as if your word is the law. And it's not. We're all equals here.

Seeing that the concept page's definition was originally broad, I think it should stay that way. Plus, it's not that much of a stretch to apply the unreliable narrator concept to these characters that you're so vehemently rejecting.
#40 Posted by chililili (1328 posts) -
xruntime said:
"Luchadeer said:
"who the hell made chililili the current narrator expert? If giant bomb want GLaDoS as a freaking narrator then we can have it as a narrator,

this isn't Wikipedia, this is GB

AMIRITE?"
Yeah, seriously. Chilli, I don't mean to be hostile - but you're talking as if your word is the law. And it's not. We're all equals here.

Seeing that the concept page's definition was originally broad, I think it should stay that way. Plus, it's not that much of a stretch to apply the unreliable narrator concept to these characters that you're so vehemently rejecting."
  OKfirst of all my word is not the law. Second broad definitions are good for starting a page, but obviously the more people invest and work on something the more detailed and polished it becomes. That is the entire point of this discussion to make this page better.

Now on equality. First of all I as a person do not believe in equality. I mean it is necessary in certain parts of society and is a great idea concerning things like human rights and such. However there is no true equality in a discussion or in life. Especially in the internet that is rampant with immature people. Let me explain further, if we had a vote of the people who posted here on the definition of whether or not Atlas or GladOS was an unreliable narrator, (I haven't counted) it would probably be a tie or GladOS and Atlas would win and be added. However is this the correct move? Think about it if Galileo's idea of the earth rotating around the sun was submitted to a vote in his time he would have lost. So what does that tell us? It tells us as Thoreau once said "in a vote, if a man is right and others are wrong he is a majority of one, and has the duty to do the right thing. " (Not a direct quote, more of a summation of ideas)

Now how do I know I'm right? Well I don't claim to be right at 100%, it would be stupid to say. i do not even claim to know a great deal about literature and in-depth literary concepts ( I only studied them for three years and continue reading about them as a hobby). In fact I would love it if a more knowledgable person than me simply came in here and said you are wrong/right and here are the reasons. However that is not happening, nor will it likely happen. So what do I do? I create a long post which thoroughly explains my reasons for believing what I believe. And I challenge. I challenge others to find flaws in my reasoning and to point me to directions and thoughts I did not have. But this is not happening as I have yet to see counterargument that uses literary terms or a correct grasp of the idea of an unreliable narrator in movies or books. In fact most posters that seem to have knowledge of these ideas side with me, which further reinforces my position. So to sum up, and there is no easy way to say this without sunding a ltitle arrogant, you and I are not equals, nor is anyone in this world truly equal to anyone else, I have more knowledge on the subject than you do, you may be superior to me in many other things (I do not know), but rest assured I do know what I'm talking about. So what are your options? Option A) Get Mad and flame me (If you you do so I apologize I try to be courteous at all times) Option B) Gain more knowledge in the subject and have a discussion with me (I again reiterate that I do not know it all and wouldn't be offended if someone actually proved me wrong) or Option C) Continue going round and round with this discussion. Really I would rather like the option B to happen.

*Afterthought: If you ever want games to be considered an art form, you must allow them to be submitted to the same criteria art is, and they must follow similar rules. Yes you could theoretically just say "Whatever we the populus of Giant Bomb want an unreliable narator to be, it will be! And we will add all the cool and interesting double crossing characters in games because they are unreliable (albeit not narrators)!" you can do that if oyu want to, but then no one would take this site or games seriously, and if no one does take it seriously then what is the point of an unreliable narrator page? Just to harvest points perhaps? I liked this page and decided to edit it because I saw an interesting idea and concept not normally discussed in here, but in a grossly incorrect way. So I will continue taking care and pruning this page.
#41 Posted by chililili (1328 posts) -
VilhelmNielsen said:
"I don't think that the narrator from Fight Club is an unreliable narrator, for he is not aware that he's lying. He believes what he says, and therefore not unreliable, but incorrect."
He is an unreliable narrator (he cannot distinguish well between fantasy and reality) Unreliable narrators do not have to be aware they are unreliable, nor aware they are lying. They can be mentally retarded, or have shoddy narration due to drug abuse. (Guy Pearce from Memento is extremely similar in this, but what makes him especially is the fact that he lies to himself) He is basically unreliable because he is not telling the story as it is happening exactly, he is not fully aware of reality and cannot be trusted. I have seen and discussed many narrators such as this, I think the first one I saw this concept (unreliable narrator) was in a short story called Macario (It is about a retarded peasant narrated in firstperson) if anyone wants to read it. You will most likely need to find a translation though. It is similar to Forrest Gump in its writing but Forrest Gump, (as far as I can recollect) does suffer major unreliabilty issues (as he narrates the novel and says so in the beginning he is aware of what is happening at all times and is in fact very knowledgeable, but he ahs a problem organizing his ideas and talking or putting htem on paper).
#42 Posted by dulmonkey (78 posts) -

I'll put this up again:

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/narrator

I have submitted an unreliable guide page to the GB for approval, if that goes up you can put all the people on this page over there and we can all be happy.

#43 Posted by VilhelmNielsen (1735 posts) -
chililili said:
"VilhelmNielsen said:
"I don't think that the narrator from Fight Club is an unreliable narrator, for he is not aware that he's lying. He believes what he says, and therefore not unreliable, but incorrect."
He is an unreliable narrator (he cannot distinguish well between fantasy and reality) Unreliable narrators do not have to be aware they are unreliable, nor aware they are lying. They can be mentally retarded, or have shoddy narration due to drug abuse. (Guy Pearce from Memento is extremely similar in this, but what makes him especially is the fact that he lies to himself) He is basically unreliable because he is not telling the story as it is happening exactly, he is not fully aware of reality and cannot be trusted. I have seen and discussed many narrators such as this, I think the first one I saw this concept (unreliable narrator) was in a short story called Macario (It is about a retarded peasant narrated in firstperson) if anyone wants to read it. You will most likely need to find a translation though. It is similar to Forrest Gump in its writing but Forrest Gump, (as far as I can recollect) does suffer major unreliabilty issues (as he narrates the novel and says so in the beginning he is aware of what is happening at all times and is in fact very knowledgeable, but he ahs a problem organizing his ideas and talking or putting htem on paper)."
Well couldn't any narrator then be unreliable? Everyone tells stories, the way they want them to be, but sometimes they get caught or reveal that they were lying.
#44 Posted by Luchadeer (105 posts) -

you know what, I quit, ill go back to fixing spelling errors and such.... this is pointless

#45 Posted by chililili (1328 posts) -
VilhelmNielsen said:
"chililili said:
"VilhelmNielsen said:
"I don't think that the narrator from Fight Club is an unreliable narrator, for he is not aware that he's lying. He believes what he says, and therefore not unreliable, but incorrect."
He is an unreliable narrator (he cannot distinguish well between fantasy and reality) Unreliable narrators do not have to be aware they are unreliable, nor aware they are lying. They can be mentally retarded, or have shoddy narration due to drug abuse. (Guy Pearce from Memento is extremely similar in this, but what makes him especially is the fact that he lies to himself) He is basically unreliable because he is not telling the story as it is happening exactly, he is not fully aware of reality and cannot be trusted. I have seen and discussed many narrators such as this, I think the first one I saw this concept (unreliable narrator) was in a short story called Macario (It is about a retarded peasant narrated in firstperson) if anyone wants to read it. You will most likely need to find a translation though. It is similar to Forrest Gump in its writing but Forrest Gump, (as far as I can recollect) does suffer major unreliabilty issues (as he narrates the novel and says so in the beginning he is aware of what is happening at all times and is in fact very knowledgeable, but he ahs a problem organizing his ideas and talking or putting htem on paper)."
Well couldn't any narrator then be unreliable? Everyone tells stories, the way they want them to be, but sometimes they get caught or reveal that they were lying."
At the beginning I said that no narrator is 100% reliable, because that would be impossible (it has to do with reality perception and other stuff), but quite a lot of narrators are reliable. Example the narrator in American Beauty or the narrator in the Harry Potter book series. Now the narrator in the Harry Potter book series only tells you the parts he wants to but he is reliable, as in he tells the truth at all times and gives no reason to mistrust him (In fact he even foreshadows quite a lot so you knwo what's coming from a mile away). That narrator is a thrid person omniscient one, and a very average narrator, you cna pick up lots of books and find quite similar ones. These narrators' focus is just to tell a story and they do not really care about what is happening. Now American Beauty has a character narrator and he is very reliable as he does not manipulate any information. He is what you may call a simple first person narrator, he jsut tells what is happening at the time that is happening and how he feels about it, he does not omit details nor lie to the reader. An unreliable narrator has to cross a certain threshold in order to create distrust int he audience (After all the average person goes into a book/film inmediately trusting what the narrator says as true.) Those narrators which are deliberately deceitful and lie to you, are harder to discern than those that are insane or retarded. Those that are insane or retarded tell you their truth and you believe them but start noticing certain irregularities in their speech towards you, or you start noticing they focus on strange details. The narrators who are deliberately decietful, you normally don't catch until they reveal themselves to you (as any events that may foreshadow or show their true nature, they will omit until the end.) An unreliable third person narrator is far rarer than the rest, but are th emost interesting, I especially like the narrator in the book Moriras Lejos (rare book if you find it, in fact I doubt its translated from spanish) he is highly unreliable, and in fact begins telling a story and tells you not to trust him as he will lie to you then he begins telling simultaneous stories which exercise different literary techniques. And keeps renarrating a single scene over and over and over again each time changing the characters nature and the setting and what is going on. That would be a pretty unreliable narrator. So as you can see a narrator to be unreliable has to force the reader to stop and think if what he is reading is true or untrue, same in movies,and it should be as well in videogames. You have to stop and think "Is this real or am I being fooled?" most books or movies or games never do that.
#46 Posted by Lies (3866 posts) -

Well I'm going to take exception to your disapproval of Atlas here, and hopefully provide a bit of evidence to back me up.

Altas does not narrate Bioshock. I agree with you on this. He does not tell the players story. However, he is narrating to Jack, the player. Atlas narrates his personal story, and the story of Rapture to you, over the radio by describing what has happened in Ryan's ruined metropolis. He is narrating a secondary story within the overarching story of the game. He is obviously deceptive about Rapture's history and his own history, which is obviously unreliable.

Here are some examples from the radio transmissions he sends during the game:
_______
12. Atlas - Overdoing plasmids

Plasmids changed everything. They destroyed our bodies, our minds. We
couldn't handle it. Best friends butchering one another, babies strangled
in cribs. The whole city went to hell.
______
That's an obvious example of Atlas acting as a narrator for the story of Rapture, although that snippet does happen to be reliable (probably).
______
01. Atlas - Andrew Ryan's company

Now you've had the pleasure of Andrew Ryan's company. He's the one who built
this place, and he's the one who run it into the ground. Nobody knows
exactly what happened. Maybe he went mad. Maybe the power got to him. Maybe
he decided he just didn't like people. Whichever way you slice it, good men
died.

Me family's in a submarine hidden in the foundation of Fontaine Fisheries.
I'll meet you there.
______
More of him narrating and being deceptive about his own past
______
Me wife, Moira -- she's a right pain in the neck. But she's a beauty and
she means the world to me. I can't help but feel God's punishing me for
bringing her and Patrick to this place. I thought this would be a better
life for us. Can you imagine a bigger fool than that?

______
More examples.

Props to the dudes over on the 2K forums for apparently archiving EVERY SINGLE RADIO TRANSCRIPT IN THE WHOLE GAME. That's some amazing work.

Anyways, I believe Atlas acts as a narrator to a story within a story: His tale and Rapture's tale within the overall structure of Bioshock. Atlas does not narrate the game, I agree. But he does act as a narrator, and the story he narrates is made up of LIES. That's why I think he should be linked. Feel free to provide a counter-argument.

In my opinion, you can boil it down to this:

  1. Atlas is a character in a videogame
  2. Atlas narrates a story within that videogame (His personal story, and some snippets of Rapture's story)
  3. He narrates that story unreliably
  4. He should be linked to this page.
Discuss.
#47 Posted by chililili (1328 posts) -
Lies said:
"Well I'm going to take exception to your disapproval of Atlas here, and hopefully provide a bit of evidence to back me up.

Altas does not narrate Bioshock. I agree with you on this. He does not tell the players story. However, he is narrating to Jack, the player. Atlas narrates his personal story, and the story of Rapture to you, over the radio by describing what has happened in Ryan's ruined metropolis. He is narrating a secondary story within the overarching story of the game. He is obviously deceptive about Rapture's history and his own history, which is obviously unreliable.

Here are some examples from the radio transmissions he sends during the game:
_______
12. Atlas - Overdoing plasmids

Plasmids changed everything. They destroyed our bodies, our minds. We
couldn't handle it. Best friends butchering one another, babies strangled
in cribs. The whole city went to hell.
______
That's an obvious example of Atlas acting as a narrator for the story of Rapture, although that snippet does happen to be reliable (probably).
______
01. Atlas - Andrew Ryan's company

Now you've had the pleasure of Andrew Ryan's company. He's the one who built
this place, and he's the one who run it into the ground. Nobody knows
exactly what happened. Maybe he went mad. Maybe the power got to him. Maybe
he decided he just didn't like people. Whichever way you slice it, good men
died.

Me family's in a submarine hidden in the foundation of Fontaine Fisheries.
I'll meet you there.
______
More of him narrating and being deceptive about his own past
______
Me wife, Moira -- she's a right pain in the neck. But she's a beauty and
she means the world to me. I can't help but feel God's punishing me for
bringing her and Patrick to this place. I thought this would be a better
life for us. Can you imagine a bigger fool than that?

______
More examples.

Props to the dudes over on the 2K forums for apparently archiving EVERY SINGLE RADIO TRANSCRIPT IN THE WHOLE GAME. That's some amazing work.

Anyways, I believe Atlas acts as a narrator to a story within a story: His tale and Rapture's tale within the overall structure of Bioshock. Atlas does not narrate the game, I agree. But he does act as a narrator, and the story he narrates is made up of LIES. That's why I think he should be linked. Feel free to provide a counter-argument.

In my opinion, you can boil it down to this:
  1. Atlas is a character in a videogame
  2. Atlas narrates a story within that videogame (His personal story, and some snippets of Rapture's story)
  3. He narrates that story unreliably
  4. He should be linked to this page.
Discuss."
OK I think that we can definitely agree to number one. Number 2 touches on another concept which when I learned it referred it to as chinese boxes or russian dolls. Basically a character is telling a story within a story, first and most notable example of this in literature is the thousand and one nights of scherrazade. While it is quite obviously true that the character is relating to the other character (thoruhg leterrs, audio, direct conversation) his story, that does not make him the narrator. Yes he DOES tell a story and I agree with 3 by what you say. But let me give you an example:

Joe walks into a bar. Joe meets his friend John. He says, "Hey John have I ever told you the story of how I beat up an elephant? I was walking down the street and up comes this elephant all pissed off. The elephant said, "Well, I've been having a bad day today and feel like squashing a human! You see earlier today I treid to get some shoes fitted to me, but apparently they don't carry my sizes, so I went to three different malls where I was denied service, and on the way a bunch of kids made fun of me, and I feel bummed out, so I'll crush you!" So I evaded his quick kick, took out a bat and beat the snot out of him."

"That's a real good story Joe," John said and with that he went back to his beer and ignored him the rest of the night.

Now obviously this story within a story is much better when seen in movies or written by someone else, it in fact gets pretty damn confusing when you get these sort of digressions in long novels or stories that have many layers. Now this short story has three layers: The main story, the story of Joe, and the story of the elephant. The story of the elephant exists inside the story of Joe and the story of Joe exists inside the main story. Neither Joe nor the elephant are narrators, the story is quite clearly beng narrated by a third person narrator, and the story of Joe and the elephant are taken from dialogue in between characters and is not narration for the reader. This is the way it appears in the games that you mentioned and that is why he is not a narrator, for you see they are discussing it within characters. In fact if you've ever read Dracula, it is a novel with a narrator that only appears in the first lines, the entire novel is a conpendium of letters written in between the characters, and personal diaries and such. There is in fact a term for this but it currently escapes me and even if I remembered it I probably could not trasnlate it to english. Frankenstein is also like this there are a couple of layers to Frankenstein it starts with a third person narrator, then moves to a captain's log, then he finds Frankenstein and writes the story which you read, then when Frankenstein meets his monster in the mountains, the monster tells Frankenstein for like 100 pages what he did when he was alone, then it returns to the story of the doctor, and then finally back to the captain's log. Frankenstein, the captain, and the monster are not narrators in these novel even thoguh they speak and tell their story for quite a few pages (I think the narrator is almost completely absent from the book), they are characters.

That being said there CAN be multiple narrators, and there can be multiple character narrators and many different things, and there can be unreliable narrators, but ultimately Atlas is not one. The terms that get tossed around when characters seem to "narrate" stories for other characters are point of view and focalization in order to be able to figure who the hell is talking to who and what layer in the story we are currently in. In other words you can write thousands of pages and books about characters that seem to "narrate", nothing prevents you from discussing them or analyzing their literary value, or whatever, there surely must be a book that analyzes the narrative in Frankenstein and Dracula and probably throws in a few words at the reliability of the characters, but it never says they are narrators, it may something similar, it may use a literary term that is almost that, but it never uses the word narrator. Because they simply are not, and the author of these books and analysis does not really care, because what he cares about is analyzing the book or the story or whatever.You care because you need it to fit this term to add it on this page, but I think that we should create another page and add these unrelaible characters in there.

Note: it is late and I did not proofread this or pick it about to see if it made any sense
#48 Posted by Lies (3866 posts) -
chililili said:
"Lies said:

In my opinion, you can boil it down to this:
  1. Atlas is a character in a videogame
  2. Atlas narrates a story within that videogame (His personal story, and some snippets of Rapture's story)
  3. He narrates that story unreliably
  4. He should be linked to this page.
Discuss."

Now obviously this story within a story is much better when seen in movies or written by someone else, it in fact gets pretty damn confusing when you get these sort of digressions in long novels or stories that have many layers. Now this short story has three layers: The main story, the story of Joe, and the story of the elephant. The story of the elephant exists inside the story of Joe and the story of Joe exists inside the main story. Neither Joe nor the elephant are narrators, the story is quite clearly beng narrated by a third person narrator, and the story of Joe and the elephant are taken from dialogue in between characters and is not narration for the reader. This is the way it appears in the games that you mentioned and that is why he is not a narrator, for you see they are discussing it within characters. In fact if you've ever read Dracula, it is a novel with a narrator that only appears in the first lines, the entire novel is a conpendium of letters written in between the characters, and personal diaries and such. There is in fact a term for this but it currently escapes me and even if I remembered it I probably could not trasnlate it to english. Frankenstein is also like this there are a couple of layers to Frankenstein it starts with a third person narrator, then moves to a captain's log, then he finds Frankenstein and writes the story which you read, then when Frankenstein meets his monster in the mountains, the monster tells Frankenstein for like 100 pages what he did when he was alone, then it returns to the story of the doctor, and then finally back to the captain's log. Frankenstein, the captain, and the monster are not narrators in these novel even thoguh they speak and tell their story for quite a few pages (I think the narrator is almost completely absent from the book), they are characters.

"
Wall-o-text so I cut it down to the important part.

But the things is, Frankenstein and the monster are narrators. Perhaps not the ULTIMATE narrator of the story (Of which, there really is not one, since the first "Russian doll" is actually a letter), but they are still narrators nonetheless. They narrate their personal stories, same as Atlas. By definition of the word, narrator is: "someone who tells a story". Atlas, Frankenstein, and his monster all fit that criteria. The definition of narrator does not mean that the person must be the biggest "Russian doll" to use our phrase. It allows for anyone in that hierarchy who tells a story to be a narrator, just like Atlas or Frankenstein.

Just for reference, here's the entry for narrator at Meriam Webster:

: to tell (as a story) in detail; also : to provide spoken commentary for (as a movie or television show)

Explain to me how Atlas does not fit that bill.
#49 Posted by MisterWaingro (66 posts) -
Lies said:
Explain to me how Atlas does not fit that bill."
I don't think this bout with chililili's unmoving constitution is worth it.  Clearly Giant Bomb has spoken on the issue, but he still insists on posting these nonsensical giant walls of text trying to skew the unspoken, strict literary definition of "narrator" to the realm of games, which doesn't necessarily fit the medium.

A giant wall of nonsense is still nonsense, chililili.  Longer messages are typically not the best way to get your point across.  And yes, I've known your point since page 1.  No real need to continue these meandering elaborations.
#50 Edited by chililili (1328 posts) -
Lies said:
"Wall-o-text so I cut it down to the important part.

But the things is, Frankenstein and the monster are narrators. Perhaps not the ULTIMATE narrator of the story (Of which, there really is not one, since the first "Russian doll" is actually a letter), but they are still narrators nonetheless. They narrate their personal stories, same as Atlas. By definition of the word, narrator is: "someone who tells a story". Atlas, Frankenstein, and his monster all fit that criteria. The definition of narrator does not mean that the person must be the biggest "Russian doll" to use our phrase. It allows for anyone in that hierarchy who tells a story to be a narrator, just like Atlas or Frankenstein.

Just for reference, here's the entry for narrator at Meriam Webster:

: to tell (as a story) in detail; also : to provide spoken commentary for (as a movie or television show)

Explain to me how Atlas does not fit that bill."
Didn't check the website yesterday. I agree with what you say, but still contend to what I originally said, the narrator is telling a story to the audience. In fact if we go to Wikipedia for the definition:  A narrator is an entity within a story that tells the story to the reader. That is the critical part really: to the reader, in other words: the audience. Atlas tells the story to a character within his universe, not to the audience or the player. That is why he does not fill the bill. Also unreliable Narrators by definition are unreliable to the reader/audience not to other characters within the story, (Because then any character who lied to another character would be an unreliable narrator)

In literature and film, an unreliable narrator (a term coined by Wayne C. Booth in his 1961 book The Rhetoric of Fiction) is a literary device in which the credibility of the narrator is seriously compromised.

I am so tempted to give up on this discussion. You know what? Add Atlas, I haven't played the game and I feel kinda rotten just jabbering about the game without having played it. Once I play we can continue discussing this. However no GladOS, I have played Portal and she is not a narrator. In fact not once does she even tell you a story!

Sidenote: I got out Frankenstein off the bookshelf and skimmed it and got Gerard Gennette's Narrative Discourse out. So the novel is in epistolary format (as in written in letters), and Walton is an extradiegetic narrator, Frankenstein an intradiegetic narrator,and the monster a hypodiegetic narrator.

Hey Lies just noticed that I tend to see you in the IRC time to time, good to see you here too!

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