Thryn Henderson

Thryn Henderson

Vignette games: exploring the modes and methods of creating believable emotion in brevity

The goal of this research is to employ critical analysis and exemplar game development to investigate an influential area of game design that remains almost entirely unexplored by academic writings, the vignette game. Best defined as short, single experiences (often autobiographical), vignette games are brief interactions with player input limited to their most meaningful, usually with the intent to portray an emotional landscape rather than a narrative arc. Despite the growing popularity of vignette games among players and creators, as a genre its storytelling, formative works and pioneering techniques are largely undocumented. Its potential is also greatly untapped. This research will offer vital insights into an expansive, creative and increasingly important subculture in video games, as well as critical understanding of generating empathy in creating games as agents of representation. It also offers tremendous potential for analysing emotional narrative in larger works, and better understanding of the convergences between narrative, emotion and form.

My research aims to investigate in detail the nature of vignette games and their storytelling and design in the context of their challenging yet fascinating brevity. It will provide a comprehensive and much needed overview of the genre) with a central investigative goal of uncovering the core workings that epitomize storytelling in short form: what are the integral technical and artistic methods that make a vignette powerful, and how is it that they provoke such acute emotional responses?

After graduating with a BSc in Multimedia Technology and Design from the University of Kent, Thryn has been creating short form games and working as a small studio producer - most recently with Dublin based Dreamfeel and the international team of Crows Crows Crows. With an interest in personal and alternative games, Thryn’s passion lies in exploring unconventional narrative, interaction and art techniques that create unique and meaningful experiences for both creators and players. These investigations are focused closely on self-representation linked to mental health, gender expression and sexuality, and link closely to her research in vignette games and their communities. Outside of research and games development, Thryn also volunteers as a producer for the monthly VideoBrains talks in London, and at various events focused on encouraging women into interactive technologies.

Home institution: York

Supervisors: Dr Jenna Ng, Dr Daniel Kudenko

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