Propp’s Functions for Video Games

In the book Morphology of the Folktale[1], Vladimir Propp outlines a set of commonly-occurring features of novels that he had analyzed, which he named functions.  These functions were all assigned a unique character.  These characters can be strung together to represent the overall narrative structure. Propp’s functions have been extended for modern narrative such as in video games and interactive fiction.  Below is a simplified listing of every propp function, including those in recently expanded revisions[2] targeting games, along with an example relating to video games.

A number of these functions can be combined together within their own boundaries. Villainy, for instance, can meet multiple criteria, either in succession or in parallel. This applies to a number of other functions, too.

This article may contain spoilers for the following games:

Assassin’s Creed (Altair/Ezio series)
Borderlands 2
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Gears of War 3
Half-Life 2
Halo Reach
Mass Effect (1, 2, 3)
Portal (1, 2)
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Patterns of Hypertext

This is a listing of Mark Bernstein’s patterns from his paper Patterns of Hypertext[1].  While they apply mostly to web and novels, the concepts apply to all hypertext. The person interacting with the hypertext is referred to as the reader, user, or player.

There has been calls to structure hypertext for clarity, but it is clear that this is not possible, and that it in fact has not largely affected users. Since complexity isn’t going away, creating appropriate vocabulary to describe such structures is important. Nodes within hypertext can be part of multiple overlapping patterns. It is not to say that these patterns are to be used by all writers, but instead that considering these patterns could improve the understanding and quality of works of hypertext.
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