From Zelda to Stanley

Comparing the Integrative Complexity of Six Video Game Genres

  • Hayley McCullough Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute


Proponents of the walking simulator genre laud it for itscomplex storytelling. As Gohardani (2017) explains, walking simulators are “about dropping the player into an experience packed with ... a compelling narrative” (para. 5). In order to more fully understand why this genre is so closely associated with storytelling and to provide insight into the underlying psychology of genre in video games, this article linguistically evaluates the narratives of walking simulators. It uses integrative complexity, a linguistic variable with an established research history, to compare the complexity of the writing in walking simulators to the writing in five mainstream video game genres (RPGs, shooters, action/adventure games, fighting games, and strategy games). Randomly sampling dialogue from 30 video games, a one-way ANOVA (analysis of variance) revealed no statistically significant linguistic differences between the genres. These results indicate that compelling and complex writing can be found in any genre and is likely not a function of any individual genre, contrary to popular opinion. This study provides a foundation for future researchers to build upon and continue the linguistic evaluation of walking simulators.

August 26, 2019