Giving Meaning to Dragon Age: Origins. A Linguistic Approach

Hedda Gunneng


This paper argues that Dragon Age: Origins can be given a meaning over and above the primary goal, i.e. success, through the texts that are regularly offered to the player for contemplation during the game. The game can be said to have a facultative depth. The technology used to achieve this - making a fictional literature accessible for the player as the game progresses - is not exclusive to DAO and can be used by other game designers. Meaning is created when the player perceives a causal and temporal pattern in the game world that bears enough similarity to the patterns through which we have structured our perception of our own history. This process is viewed with the frameworks of schema theory and collective memory. The "real" historical patterns that emerge through the game are fetched from different parts of our western medieval history. Recognizing our own Middle Ages in the game world intensifies the playing experience, possibly the most each time the player has to make an ethically difficult choice. Recognition is precipitated and reinforced when auctor activates the player's capacity to create associations. In this paper I have demonstrated the importance of texts and the stylistically informed use of them to achieve this effect. I have also argued that it is not necessary to have an active knowledge of history nor to be conscious of one's own perception of the Middle Ages to gain access to this deeper meaning. The interpretation comes - sooner or later - to every player who is raised in and lives with our collective memory. The literary technique used in DAO is an example of how a computer game can be given a meaning that is not superficial, and the technology is available for any game designer who wishes to create a meaningful game.