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Academic Paper

Title: Through the Looking Glass, Darkly: Reading Alice in the computer game
Author: Souvik Mukherjee
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Indian Institute of Technology Delhi
Author: Mohd Ashraf Bhat
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Indian Institute of Technology Delhi
Linguistic Field: Applied Linguistics; Ling & Literature
Abstract: This paper makes an attempt to conceptualise the narrative dimensions Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass as a videogame that Alice played. American McGee’s Alice is a third-person action game released for PC on October 6, 2000. The game, developed by Rogue Entertainment and published by Electronic Arts, is set in an alternative universe based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alice was designed by American McGee and features music composed by Chris Vrenna. Like in most computer games, the narrative in the Alice books has various possible endings and constantly changes shape. Perhaps realising the playful and multiple nature of these texts, the game designer, American McGee, has used the environment of wonderland to create a videogame based on Lewis Carroll’s original stories. McGee builds his game around the subtext of violence and insanity that lurks in Carroll’s stories. While there have been numerous such adaptations in literature and film (like Frank Beddor’s Looking Glass Wars, which is about a bloody civil war in Wonderland), McGee’s narrative is different in two ways:/L//L/1. Though it retains an overall structure, it can vary in shape and lends itself to a degree of configuration by the player/ reader./L//L/2. It is a game and it has to be played into existence, based on the rules in the game-world./L//L/Canonical conceptions of narrative might find such a story-game equation problematic but the borders between the narrative and the ludic have always been fluid and allowed varying degrees of overlap between the two. With older games, this might not have been as obvious but with the sophisticated machinic narratives developing within and through computer games, it is clear that current conceptions about narrative have to take into account the ludic and the machinic nature of stories to be able to explain the functioning of problematic forms, like the narratives created within computer games. Such changing conceptions of narrative also need to address the participatory and constructive role that the reader has in the development of the narrative. In computer games, the narratives are formed within the game system (i.e., a base narrative) but through a complex identification with the in-game protagonists whose actions (and therefore the player’s) play the story into existence, thus establishing a constant interplay between playing and reading. Keeping the above in view, this paper will try to analyse the workings of narratives with reference to computer games and other new media as well as by identifying how older media also incorporate similar characteristics, hitherto ignored. It will therefore try to re-examine some key issues that inform essential conceptions of narratives and also show how Alice, in both kinds of texts, plays a videogame.
Type: Collection
Status: Completed
Venue: India
Publication Info: Aligarh Journal of Linguistics, (ISSN-2249-1511). Vol. (2), No. (1-2), April 2012, (pp-34-356).

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