Chris Totten Profile picture
Award-winning game designer. Asst. prof at @KSUTusc. SAAM Arcade founder. Making a Little Nemo game. Get my Don Quixote game here

May 26, 2021, 13 tweets

1/12 Hello! This is a paper for the #MAMG21 medieval #gamestudies conference! To start off: my research is in games’ relationship with the arts and older forms of media. I'm interested in how to use games as a means to explore and dissect a work, and allow players to do the same.

2/12 This of course has led me to explore intersections of games and literature. Among the most popular books in the high medieval and early modern periods in Europe were chivalric romances – stories of knights errant performing great feats and pining for their lady loves #MAMG21

3/12 As literature is a mirror that recontextualizes art, history, or even our world, so are games. To explore this parallel, I decided to create a game based on a famous (and personal favorite) piece of literature, Miguel de Cervantes’ seminal novel, Don Quixote. #MAMG21

4/12 Published in 1605 (with a second edition in 1615), Cervantes’ Don Quixote juxtaposes the tropes of chivalric novels with the setting of Inquisition-era Spain, providing such a mirror to both the books and the era #MAMG21

5/12 While many know Don Quixote from his “madness” at reading too many books of chivalry (“tilting at windmills”), a central conceit is that Quixote is applying his vision of the bygone medieval era (as one built on chivalric ideals) to a later era that was anything but. #MAMG21

6/12 The book itself offers a mirror to the time in which it was written, but has offered similar reflections over its 400+ year life as society evolved. This made me wonder what could happen in a game where players could become their own Don and Doña Quixotes #MAMG21

7/12 I designed La Mancha, a storytelling card game where players encounter scenes from Don Quixote and create their own outcomes by playing cards with text from chivalric romances and building stories around them. You can find it at… #MAMG21

8/12 Rather than having players match their stories to the novel, the game invites players to write their own version of Don Quixote. Emergent outcomes of play sessions have found play groups forming shared stories or adding delightful anachronisms #MAMG21

9/12 Through playful remixing of chivalric text (through the eyes of a mad knight or a player’s whimsy) the game preserves the book’s exploration of evergreen themes like the evolution of personal and social identities or the moral absolutes of historical narratives. #MAMG21

10/12 The game becomes a space for players to tell their own emergent quixotic narratives (Jenkins 2004) and a way to engage chivalric texts through play. In the full spirit of the novel, we’ve even had players use the game as a means to share autobiographical stories. #MAMG21

11/12 Metatextuality appears in the game as it did in Cervantes’ novel. As the novel would make frequent references to itself as a book (through a fictional “historian” narrator), the game lets players change rules or resist the chivalric theme (albeit momentarily). #MAMG21

12/12 The game became a powerful paratextual tool for exploring not only The Quijote itself, but also its history, context, and interpretations. It made the novel approachable by new audiences, showing promise for games as tools to introducing and preserving seminal texts #MAMG21

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