Do games require a narrative? If so, how do we define a narrative? The answer to both questions may be just as ambiguous as the definition of a narrative itself, which roughly means that which has a semblance of plot elements, a story, or timeline. Whether or not that timeline is linear, however is a different story. But the structure of the narrative of Don Quixote is not so complex to understand.
The narrative of Don Quixote is much like a classic arcade game, rather simple, built in interlocking stages, and carrying a plot that is threads individual scenes together. No matter how “simple” either may seem, both possess rather addictive and timeless qualities.
Don Quixote has been made into a wide variety of games, both digital, table top, or otherwise. But it’s hard to picture everyone’s beloved early modern Spanish literary adventure as anything more than an 8-bit arcade game. Throw in some sort of electronic soundtrack that sounds as though it were made on someone’s truck, and it’d be perfect. Why? Because a late 80s style of graphics and interfaces would accurately reflect the lovable yet seemingly simplistic story style of Don Quixote. Plus, both arcade games and Don Quixote were some of the “firsts” of their respective fields.
Another way in which Quixote is like a classic video game? Neither go out of style. Tetris was released in 1984, and now, over 30 years later, one would be hard-pressed to find an individual not familiar with the most lovable Soviet video game around. The same can be said for Don Quixote. Written and published over 400 years ago, myriad references to Quixote, Panza, the windmills, and more can be found in popular culture. Some references are serious, multi-faceted works such as Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot, or the 1972 ballet starring Rudolf Nureyev, while other works are just as whimsical as Quixote himself, such as references in The Simpsons.
Our “Game Studies” were intended to illustrate the way in which narratives vary in form and depth. Some groups had better luck than others creating games, however, our group did not end up moving past the story board portion of the creative process. Some chapters are simply easier to condense than others.
The chapters of Don Quixote mimic vignettes, however, they have commonly elements that thread their stories together. Don Quixote reads “traditionally” in the sense that much like watching the season of a TV show, the reader can read each chapter alone – or many chapters together. And if a reader were to not be entertained by Cervantes’ work, then they should follow the wisdom of Quixote himself, and know that “[they] don’t know much about adventures.”