Jack Murray

Authorship, Game Design and Narrative Theory

Year: 2014

Keywords: , ,


University College Cork
(at time of presentation)

Personal profile:

Jack Murray is a third year PhD candidate currently studying full time in University College Cork. My research is in the field of game studies and is specifically concerned with game authorship. My research is supported by a grant from the Digital Arts and Humanities PhD program.

Publications include: “Auteurist Strategies in the Work of Hideo Kojima” – The Marginalised Mainstream: Literature, Culture and Society. Institute of English Studies, Senate House, London (2012).



See also:



Roger Ebert's assertion that 'Video games can never be art' and the controversy and argument that it prompted is a well documented moment in ongoing debate regarding the status of digital games as an art form. The article for which the above quotation serves as a title was published in 2010 but of greater interest to me is a quotation from an article five years earlier in which Ebert writes:

I [...] consider video games inherently inferior to film and literature. There is a structural reason for that: Video games by their nature require player choices, which is the opposite of the strategy of serious film and literature, which requires authorial control. [...] I believe the nature of the medium prevents it from moving beyond craftsmanship to the stature of art. (Ebert, 2005)

Ebert's argument that the formal necessity for player choice makes games unsuited to the exercise of authorial control seems intuitive. Player agency seems to present a clear challenge to traditional authorial control. How can one claim a meaningful authority over something designed to facilitate play?

This paper will draw on film's Auteur theory as well post-structuralist theories of authorship in conjunction with game design and narrative theory in order to develop a more comprehensive model of game authorship. Where Ebert argues that the nature of the medium is anti-authorial, I intend to demonstrate that games are formally predisposed to favorable engagement with the network of concepts and ideas that surround the figure of the Author.