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Scholars Symposium 2023: Communication

To advocate and advance the scholarly work of students and faculty at Cedarville University


Emergent Narratives in Hyrule: A Narrative Analysis of The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild

by Alex Boesch (Undergraduate)

For many, Nintendo’s 2017 The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild (BotW) is the definitive way to experience an open-world video game. Bringing the classic hero beloved by fans for decades to a massive, fully explorable, hyper-realistic version of Hyrule Kingdom was a dream come true for lifelong fans of the franchise. In analyzing the narrative of the Nintendo Switch’s flagship title, we find the reason for its success: BotW allows for an individualized emergent narrative by allowing the player to control the narrative with their choices, justifying their own actions because their actions are the story.

Kriegel & Aylett describe emergent narratives as, “A narrative that is dynamically created through the interactions of autonomous intelligent virtual agents and the user.” Hannesson et al. further conceptualize emergent narratives in gaming, “Under some circumstances the player might start experiencing events or “stories” that don’t tie directly into the storyline of the game, but rather are events that you feel are unique stories happening to you just because you chose to act in a certain way (and might not happen again)."

This paper will explore how emergent narratives and player choices influence individual experiences playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I closely examine my personal playthrough of BotW and the game’s core features, seen through vignettes of my gameplay experience. Through the lens of emergent narrative, we can better understand how narrative functions in this open-world, player-controlled context.

This study explores four contributing factors to this narrative function: First, the game equips the player to find the narrative through choice by setting a tone of self-discovery. Second, BotW uses environmental storytelling to incentivize exploration. Third, problem-solving gives the player control and individuality in narrative formation. Finally, personality and past experiences influence choices, producing an individual narrative. By examining these contributors, we can see why BotW succeeds at building a rewarding narrative experience.

Not Marx, but Augustine: Reimagining the Epistemological Foundations of a Discipline

by Andrew J. Harris (Faculty)

I would like to address a problem that lies at the heart of communication studies but also at the heart of the humanities. We have forgotten as a discipline that before we can rightly divide good ideas from bad, we must first settle the big questions. It turns out that, even for ideas that everyone seems to agree upon, our ontological, epistemological, and axiological assumptions shape the all-important nuances that we bring to definitions, applications, and evaluations. In short, when it comes to understanding anything at all, it matters a great deal if one believes that there is a God or not. What is needed in order to develop a truly Christian perspective on communication studies is not a continued development of current metatheoretical understandings of the field but rather a radical re-ordering of theory that begins with the field’s very foundations. In this presentation, I first clarify the incompatibility of Christianity and Marxism. Then I offer compelling reasons to reject Marxism as internally invalid. Finally, I take the first step of reconstruction by suggesting an alternative ontological metaphor our of Augustine.