In short, Narrative Symbiosis creates societies in video games by giving the player and NPCs a habitus. Habitus (Pierre Bourdieu’s concept) is social orientation through learned preferences or dispositions, schemata or structures of perception, conception and action. Rebecca Rose Varghese in The Hindu (2022) writes that according to Pierre Bourdieu, when people exhibit agency they unconsciously refer to social structures, thus reflecting on and reproducing them. Individual actions are thus reflected by the socialization and habitus of the individual.The term habitus refers to a collective entity by and into which dominant social and cultural conditions of a society are established and reproduced. It is a subjective and yet not an individual system of structures, concepts, schemes of perception, actions and norms that are internalized by individuals in the same group. Habitus helps instill a sense of the world in individuals by attributing cultural value to material or immaterial objects. Even at a very intimate level, habitus postulates specific properties. What one considers, ‘natural’, ‘taboo’, ‘neutral’ and ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is constructed by one’s habitus.
In Narrative Symbiosis, linear flowcharts are replaced by the process of symbolic narratives coming together moderated on by the habitus. The idea is to connect the player’s narrative with the game’s narrative using the method linked to programming. The question and answer format will be used here, not linear instructions appearing in a flowchart. The player’s agency in the game will reflect on and reproduce the social structures within the game, thus having the player socialized to collect cultural capital within the game. This cultural capital will create a feedback loop with the main story and lore of the game.
Having a habitus requires us to not look at video game societies objectively as the implementation of plans, but understand that the player too constructs a narrative, not passively records it. A particular class of conditions of existence produce the habitus in a video game that are durable, transposable dispositions within the society of a video game which generate and organize practices and representations. This society is collectively orchestrated within the framework of rules of the society without necessitating the player to obey rules, but rather orient themselves towards achieving goals and results within the society. The habitus is a world of already realized ends. According to Bourdieu, the structures characterizing a determinate class of conditions of existence produce the structures of the habitus, which in turn are the basis of the perception and appreciation of all subsequent experiences. Produced by the experience of the game, feel for the game gives the game a subjective sense, and therefore acknowledgement of what is at stake, and this gives the game an objective sense, the sense of the probable outcome that is given by practical mastery of the specific regularities that constitute the economy of a field in terms of practices linked to the conditions of their enactment, a consensual validation that is the basis of collective belief in the game and its fetishes. Attention to action itself remains subordinate to the pursuit of the result. Practice is a social exchange, reciprocity oriented towards results that uses combinatory formulae that reproduce the habitus.
The article is authored by Kavish Rai, and was originally published in SKOAR!’s December 2022 issue