Game Movement as Enactive Focalization

  • Yotam Shibolet Media, Art and Performance research masters at Utrecht University


This paper integrates thought on game narrative and embodied cognition, in order to consider the significance of movement to the embodied narrative experience of games. If games are a mode of ‘environmental storytelling’, determining the player’s mobile situatedness within the gamespace is of crucial importance. The metaphor of game design as narrative architecture should be expanded to include te the design of movement dynamics, alongside geographical gamespace. I suggest a theoretical infrastructure that aims to enable further analysis of movement design’s role in this scope.

The theory of enactive perception asserts that all perception is inherently negotiated through embodied understanding of moving within environment. According to this model, by giving meaning to perception, movement is also directly related to the structure of consciousness and thought. Cognitive definitions of ‘narrative’ that integrate embodiment are applied to argue it can relevantly account for part of thought’s role in enactive perception.

Mieke Bal’s concept of focalization (1997) broaches narrative perspective by underscoring the constant “movement of the look”. For enactive perception, such mobility should be understood as inseparable from the movement of the body even when perspective could appear detached from embodiment. Therefore, I offer the supplementary concept of “enactive focalization” – narrative perception as interpreted through the interconnected dynamics or perspectival and physical movement.

To exemplify my ideas and the potential of future research in this scope, I discuss the uniquely effective and affective movement dynamic design of Journey. This paper concludes by reflecting on enactive focalization in light of the increased utilization of embodiment in the contemporary digital media landscape.


January 14, 2018