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.
2 thoughts on “narrative construction”
I used to play chasey (or tikkertje as we call it) without any narative construction. You just played it. Period. Most of the school ground games I remember didn’t have any narrative construction, unless the times we did “pretend” stuff, like impersonating the Smurfs or something like that, or when I played (like your daughter) with Lego or Barbie.
I tend to look at my blog as one big narrative construction, though. Everything that I write gets a twist by bringing in a fictional part.
Even a game of tic-tac-toe has narrative: middle, beginning and end. The quality of the narration, how the narrative is presented, the manner in which it unfolds, its telling, maybe what deserves analysis. There is play with stories, stories about playing and stories while playing. And blogspace is a dimension where readers, writers and lurkers can observe the shifts between these ways of focalizing the narrativization of play through not only narrative but also through narration. Very often it is merely a question of being sensitive to syntagms. A comment about the order of a list can inflect the development of a narrative or the next play in a game. Or witness the “fold” game played out at Weezblog where the archived entries were read and commented upon in pairs; an activity whose results were sometimes reflected in the most recent entry. See some of the bewildering possibilities that spin at