Using Narrative Mapping in Mario Party

Stephen Mamber’s “narrative mapping” coincides with Manovich’s concepts presented in “The Database.”  Both articles detail how a database can support a narrative, and Mamber’s article builds on these ideas to discuss that mapping a narrative basically constructs an underlying database that is visually represented.  Manovich’s article provided the foundational understanding of databases and narrative, which was useful when reading Mamber’s article.  However, Mamber’s is much easier to read, and the order of information for his discussion flows logically, which helped me link his concepts of narrative mapping to Manovich’s concepts and definitions for databases and narrative. Mamber presents examples of narrative mapping after he explains what narrative mapping is, the purposes, and the most popular types. He discusses examples at the end of the article, which enables the reader to better understand how each example fits with a certain purpose and type of narrative mapping. For instance, the narrative maps in Franco Moretti’s Atlas of the European Novel: 1800 – 1900 are both geographic and thematic representations. Many of Moretti’s maps are representations of simple cities indicating places where the narrative actions occur, but some maps are representations of class and character profession.

These examples were helpful in understanding how narrative mapping would be a useful tool to employ while playing an interactive fiction, such as The Baron. The player can map the narrative on a piece of paper in order to keep track of his/her movements, and to explicitly see the connections implied in the narrative. In doing this, the player creates a database for the narrative; he/she deconstructs the narrative into individual places/pieces—a record for that part of the story, and is able to add to the map as he/she encounters each scene during game play.  Therefore, the map represents the sequence and logic that the player must follow to come to the end of the story.

As I read Mamber’s article, I began to think about the game Mario Party as a narrative map.  Below is a picture of a map from one of the Mario Party games.

This type of game presents a reversal to the Interactive Fiction games that we have been playing. In Interactive Fiction, the player has to visualize the map in his/her mind unless he/she draws it on a piece of paper; in Mario Party, the map is explicit and the player can easily see his/her choices to create the narrative. The Mario Party maps are geographic representations of the location for game play, Western Land or Horror Land for example, and each map has a thematic storyline and cast of characters. The maps also function as databases, showing the links between the board game options, player movement, and minigames. Mario Party makes use of “three-dimensional modeling, information graphics, and what has been called multimedia cartography,” (157) and can thus be seen as a good example of how digital environments greatly enhance the potential for narrative mapping.

One thought on “Using Narrative Mapping in Mario Party

  1. Thinking about the interface of Mario Party makes sense to me as a narrative map. You could argue that the “overworld” maps on all the SuperMario Bros. games are narrative maps. In fact, there are connections between videogames and mapping almost anywhere you look.

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