Search Results for:

ludonarrative dissonance

Far Cry 2

It’s often said that game developers and critics speak two different and incompatible languages. To this attitude, Clint Hocking exists as a strong counterpoint: he’s a veteran developer known for several beloved games as well as the coiner of one of game criticism’s most enduring (and hotly debated) concepts, ludonarrative dissonance.

Recently celebrating the 10 year anniversary of his best-known game, Far Cry 2, Hocking brought together his favorite critical pieces in a seven-part blog series. He’s graciously allowed us to reprint his collection here as a Critical Compilation.

For 10 years, Far Cry 2 has continued to

January 17th

…Term of the Week Is: Ludonarrative Dissonance

Did you think we were done discussing mechanics? Sorry, bucko. A few of the works from this week brought up the term “ ludonarrative dissonance ,” which means a disconnect between a game’s mechanics and overarching message. The more you know!

Uninterpretative’s Zack Fair contemplates how Undertale ’s theme of distrust affects whether the game features ludonarrative dissonance or not . (I’m totally digging the Hello Kitty blog theme, by the way.)

After some controversy over the previous game in the series, Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days did not receive much critical…

February 8th


*Franklin’s video also provides the first clear, accurate and useful definition of ludonarrative dissonance I’ve seen in quite some time, so I highly recommend it. It also plays into the following section.

Difficulty Curve

Touching off of Lantz’s piece above, Soren Johnson grapples with (actual) ludonarrative dissonance as it crops up in game design:

[G]ames make us all fascists and communists; anarchists and tycoons; kleptocrats and ascetics, so we better hope that games are not as powerful as we once dreamed they might be.

And yet…

What makes our totalitarian game rules so slippery is that often the dynamics…

June 3rd

…right into the guts of things. Eric Schwarz declares Diablo III an abusive relationship while Josh Bycer presents us with a breakdown of the attributes of bad game design. Combining the two themes in a tale of “Vicodin Visions,” Grantland’s Tom Bissell performs a ludonarrative dissection of Max Payne 3:

Ludonarrative dissonance, a term first coined by the game designer Clint Hocking, arises whenever a video game’s fiction says one thing and its gameplay says an opposite thing. Some designers and critics regard ludonarrative dissonance as a core problem in modern game design. Max Payne 3, quite possibly the most

August 18th

Welcome all. I am your intermittent host Eric Swain. Kris is off relaxing out in the northern wilderness so I’m picking up the curating duties in the meantime. We have a doozy of a This Week in Videogame Blogging ahead of us, most of it written in the last two days.

But first…

Ludonarrative Dissonance

Robert Yang kicked off a lot of discussion on the term ludonarrative dissonance by saying, I’m not in fact sure what he was saying and nor were a lot of other people as I saw so many streams being crossed all week.

Ethan Gach wrote

August 8th

…privileges are required, but most players are so comfortable in the current environment that they do not even know such privileges exist. I want to abolish the player’s privileges—or at least challenge the player’s dependency on them.

The phrase ‘Ludonarrative Dissonance’ has been a contentious once ever since it was introduced by Clint Hocking in his famous essay on Bioshock. This week, Corvus Elrod took the phrase to task in a post for his Semionaut’s Notebook [dead link, no mirror available], saying,

When we use the term ludonarrative dissonance to describe gameplay that does not support that plot and theme…

August-September Roundup

…stories – press obfuscation of plot, spoiler warnings, post-release analysis – do they really matter that much? We have always played games that allowed us to create the stories in our own minds, and recent titles like Pivvot show we don’t need a compelling story to have a great game.

Although ‘ludonarrative dissonance’ usually refers to the tension between the narrative elements of a game and the actions it has our character perform, maybe the real tension should be our feelings towards the existence of the story itself. Is our reliance on stories holding games back?

Bad news: Tauriq Moosa’s…

Abstract image evoking bird silhouette

June 29th

You Keep Using That Word

The ever-delightful Brendan Keogh shares some excellent thoughts on the underrated Final Fantasy XII, even if he defines (my old archnemesis) “ludonarrative dissonance” incorrectly. Sorry, Brendan. But also, for shame, Brendan.

On the contrary, this week’s Errant Signal video (by Chris Franklin) expertly captures the real meaning of ludonarrative dissonance as it applies to Entwined: when a game’s “big picture” themes and ideology are at odds with its systems.


The good folks at Idle Thumbs have released their newest podcast interviewing Netrunner co-designer Damon Stone.

At First Person Scholar, Meghan Blythe Adams interviews LIM

Bioshock: Infinite

…Of Distress wrote about Elizabeth’s role in the game, as well as looked at portrayals of women in the game as a whole.

In 2015, Alexandra Orlando at First Person Scholar picked apart the game’s use of player motivation and character motivation , and the ways in which they conflicted and cooperated with one another, citing Clint Hocking’s “ludonarrative dissonance” as a starting point. She concludes with the note that “I hope that in the future, games will include engaging, socially responsible narratives that complement exciting gameplay.”

Brendan Vance, in March of 2015, wrote “The Ghosts of Bioshock” , interrogating…

Uncharted 2

Ludonarrative Dissonance!” Juster contends the gameplay–Drake who slaughters hundreds throughout the game–is at odds with the cutscene–Drake, an “everyman” hero.

In “The Fallacy of Choice” Justin Keverne puts “everyman” Drake under the microscope: “A real ‘everyman’ would have fallen to his death within the first few minutes,” he sayd, commenting on the audience’s longing for a relatable hero but a hero nonetheless. It’s precisely this paradox that make Nathan Drake the character he is, and the game makes no bones about it.

Borut Pfeifer’s “The Spatially Driven Story” concludes that the flow of the game’s locations is symbolic of Drake’s…