Database for Animation Studies


The Animation of Gamers and the Gamers as Animators in Sierra On-Line’s Adventure Games

Produced throughout the 1980s using the company’s Adventure Game Interpreter engine, the digital adventure games created by American software publisher Sierra On-Line played an important and largely overlooked role in the development of animation as an integral part of the digital gaming experience. While the little historical and theoretical discussion of the company’s games of the era focuses on their genre, it ignores these games’ contribution to the relationship between the animated avatars and the gamers that control them – a relationship that, as argued in this article, in essence turns gamers into animators. If we consider Chris Pallant’s (2019) argument in ‘Video games and animation’ that animation is essential to the sense of immersion within a digital game, then the great freedom provided to the gamers in animating their avatars within Sierra On-Line’s adventure games paved the way to the same sense of immersion in digital. And, if we refer to Gonzalo Frasca’s (1999) divide of digital games to narrative-led or free-play (ludus versus paidea) in ‘Ludology meets narratology: Similitude and differences between (video) games and narrative’, then the company’s adventure games served as an important early example of balance between the two elements through the gamers’ ability to animate their avatars. Furthermore, Sierra On-Line’s adventure games have tapped into the traditional tension between the animator and the character it animated, as observed by Scott Bukatman in ‘The poetics of Slumberland: Animated spirits and the animated spirit (2012), when he challenged the traditional divide between animators, the characters they animate and the audience. All these contributions, as this articles aims to demonstrate, continue to influence the role of animation in digital games to this very day.

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Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal
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