narrative construction

In a brief article in Interactions, Brenda Laurel writes that in her study of 1000 children, she found that “narrative construction was the largest category of play for girls ages eight to 12.” That certainly seems to fit what I see in my 8 year old daughter. She plays stories with Lego, she and her friends constantly role-play, often shifting roles repeatedly and sometimes turning the game into a theatre performance for any grownups who happen to be around. Even skipping games have narrative rhymes. But see, don’t boys do this too? OK, so football in the playground (mostly boys) has no narrative, but then neither does the (mostly girls’) complicated acrobatics in the monkey bars or trees. Chasey (a.k.a. tag or, in Bergen, tikken) in various forms often has narrative, though it’s not really a narrative that’s constructed during play, it’s more a prerequisite for playing, much as you see in many computer games. There’s a setting: “you’re the wolf, mummy, you want to eat me!” Once that’s established you doesn’t fuss about details, you just chase, run or let yourself be caught so you can escape. Oh and you giggle a lot. That’s important. It’s like Monopoly or Pacman: there’s a conflict with a very simple narrative that can be elaborated if you like but you seldom bother, and these are the rules. Those games aren’t about narrative construction, though they may have a narrative starting point.

Brenda argues that games that don’t allow scope for narrative construction are unlikely to appeal to girls. The X-men video game is an example – one of her 12-year-old respondents complained that ìthese characters are so boring you canít even make up stories about them.î That’s in spite of their narrative root in comics. Yet this can’t be the only truth: girls play chasey, which doesn’t allow for much narrative construction.

I want to write about how we piece together stories from blogs and blog posts. Narrative construction might well be a useful concept to explore.

08. April 2005 by Jill
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