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Uncharted Territory: Comparing Video Games and Electronic Literature

Over the past twenty years the technology sector has emerged as one of the most profitable and fastest growing industries.  A major contributor to the success of the technology sector has been the sale of video games.  Nintendo, one of the leading game developers, has sold over three and a half billion video games to date.  Video games are becoming more and more popular everyday.  Merchandise of the award winning Halo series has grossed over two billion dollars in total sales.  This is just a small fraction of evidence that clearly shows the increasing popularity of video games.  With all the different genres of games available there are bound to be games that blur the border between games and electronic literature.  Many popular games possess qualities that can also be found in pieces of electronic literature.  These shared qualities can make video games, such as Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, seem to be less like a game and more like a piece of electronic literature; however, the term “video games” encompasses countless types of games, which makes it very difficult to make a concrete distinction between video games and electronic literature.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves requires the user to manually input controls or commands to continue the story, much like pieces of electronic literature such as Facade or Everybody Dies.  This fact is the major similarity that relates Uncharted 2 to electronic literature.  Everybody Dies and Facade use the same basic method to tell a story as Uncharted 2.  The only difference is that Uncharted has a much more complex system of controls.  For example, the user may have to navigate a series of obstacles or kill a wave of henchmen to move to the next section of story.  In Everybody Dies the user would need to type in a specific word, such as go north, to unveil the next section of text.  Although these two examples are not completely equivalent, they do serve the same basic purpose in their respective stories.

Although there are clear links between this game and electronic literature, it is still closer to a game as a whole because there are more aspects that are more game related.  There are apparent connections between these two, but they are outweighed by obvious differences.  Namely, Uncharted 2 has multiplayer modes, as well as rewards for finding hidden objects in the main story mode.  The two aforementioned aspects add to the playability of the game, and give the user more options to entertain them.  Herein lies the true difference between video games and electronic literature: games are made to entertain and be played for as long as possible, while electronic literature sets out to convey an idea or moral to the user.  These differences make the distinction between video games and electronic literature quite clear.

It is difficult to compare the category of video games to that of electronic literature because the term video games embodies innumerable types of games.  Moreover, video games range from shooting games to role-playing games to sports games to puzzle games, and so on.  One cannot simply say that there are similarities between electronic literature and video games for this reason.  There are certain video games that share common characteristics with electronic literature, yet there are still many more games that have little or nothing in common.  The primary difference between video games and electronic literature is simply the fact that there are numerous genres of video games, but electronic literature is more specific.

When one considers individual video game genres, or even particular games, a better comparison can be made and the similarities become more apparent.  Many role-playing games could be considered works of electronic literature because they usually share similar story sharing techniques.  Both of these rely on a varying degree of user input to advance the story, along with other visual cues and images that help create meaning.However, when one considers a sports game it becomes evident that there are very little shared characteristics with electronic literature.  Therefore, video games as a whole cannot be compared with electronic literature, but individual genres or titles are easier to compare.

As we have seen electronic literature and some video games are, in fact, quite similar; nevertheless, the term video games includes many different genres and types of games, and therefore it is difficult to make a direct comparison between the two.  It is much easier to compare certain genres of video games with electronic literature, and when one does this more similarities become pronounced.  Some video games, like Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, show the apparent connections between these two forms of entertainment.


  1. This is a pretty interesting piece. I never would have thought to have compared the video game Uncharted 2: Among thieves to some pieces of electronic literature. I would say just to add some pictures to your post.

  2. The argument that I liked the most was saying that Uncharted has multiplayer modes and rewards. I had the same idea that rewards and objectives make it a game instead of e-literature. However, I’m not sure I agree with the argument that games have various genres while e-literature is more specific. I definitely think that both of them have multiple genres, so that would be something that would make them similar instead of different.

  3. This article intrigued me because Uncharted was one of the games I considered writing about for my blog post. I was kind of surprised that you didn’t talk about the fact that you have to continuously refer to his journal for clues and the strong text element there. That being said I would completely agree that Uncharted is a video game (actually the second one in particular more than the rest of the series) rather than electronic literature.

  4. Great post overall. I liked your analysis of Uncharted 2 and I would definitely agree that it’s a video game. One element of your post that I began to think about was the genre distinctions, and how you said certain video game genres can’t be compared to electronic literature (such as sports games). One could argue that sports games have a built in narrative through the “gameplay.” For example, Tom Brady throwing a last second touchdown to tie the game definitely counts as narrative, even if it’s not expressed outright through a cutscene or dialogue. I don’t have a clear definition myself but it’s definitely something to think about.

  5. Very interesting piece. The paper flowed nicely, you had great examples to support your overall view of videogames and electronic literature. Overall a good job