Virtual space is one of the fundamental building blocks of any digital game. It ties directly into the notions of immersion and interactivity, both of which are enacted in relation to space, and it is therefore one of the components that differentiates the new medium from traditional texts. Over the past decade, the graphical rendering of virtual spaces in digital games has soared to unexpected results, so much so that one might be tempted to define these environments merely in terms of their sensorial representation. My argument, however, is that in addition to audiovisual representation, storytelling is employed by video game developers in order to create meaningful virtual spaces. The aim of the present paper, therefore, is to offer a brief account of current theory on video game spaces, and to add to the latter the idea that narrativity can and, indeed, does participate in the creation of virtual spaces in at least two significant ways. First, I argue that game developers create specific stories which they associate with various game spaces in order to confer meaning upon the latter beyond what can be represented through image and sound. Secondly, I explore the player’s experience of such environments and the manner in which personal narratives result from play within certain spaces. To illustrate the above, I turn to 2K Games’ BioShock and to Bethesda Softworks’ The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, respectively. Ultimately, I propose that through an appropriate use of storytelling, virtual environments can become as meaningful for players as real-life spaces, giving rise to experiences that are no less impactful or memorable than their real-life counterparts.
Diana Melnic is an MA student of Irish Studies at “Babeș-Bolyai” University, Cluj-Napoca. Her main research interests include contemporary Irish and British literature, digital humanities, and game philology.