From being a little child playing with LEGO on Christmas morning with my big brother, to now 25 years old and playing LEGO Star Wars on my Playstation 4; I have to say that things have not really changed all the much. At least, it has not if you think a bit about it. The biggest differences (between the LEGO now and then??) are the limitation of the medium and expansion of its narrative. (Of course, the fact that I am playing on a game console instead of playing with actual LEGO toys, is the main difference, but we will not dwell on this now.)
These differences are based on the narrativity of the medium. Narrativity is the condition of presenting a narrative and its quality. I am not very versed in this term, but I will define it as best I can here: The narrativity of any narrative or a particular narrative speaks of how it is presented (in terms of order, chronology, editing etc.) and quality (in terms of eventfulness, complexity and character development etc.) and its condition overall. In essence narrativity determines the ‘narrativeness’ of a narrative.
In terms of narrativity, the LEGO version of Star Wars: “The Force Awakens”, stay relatively close to the movie in terms of narrative (You say “in terms of” twice in this sentence, this makes it confusing), but creates the illusion of choice through the amount and variety of playable characters. The narrative is presented through the actions of the player and its chosen characters. For instance, Darth Vader and Chewbacca could help Poe and BB-8 to save the village on Jakku from the First Order. That is definitely not something you see in the movie, but it gives a new aspect to the narrative and the game itself.
The passive viewer has become an active player, because she can influence the narrative by her choice of characters. The narrative is only advanced when the player decides to move on with the game and its many missions. The player can work out the narrative’s different elements at their own speed. We could say that you can do this too with the movie by simply pausing it. However, that is the only action the viewer can take to affect the narrative, but the player can do more. For instance, the player can also explore the settings and the characters of the narrative and expand the narrative this way. This expansion is based on the original narrative of the movie and so only works if if the player has seen the movie first (This is also a very interesting element, but we will get to that another time). The player then take advantage of the narrativity, as the condition of the LEGO game allows for exploration and gives the player a sense of control.
With the help and flexibility of LEGO, the narrativity has also become more exploratory and comical. Exploratory in the way that the medium allows for (a limited) opportunity to explore the narrative as an active player (so we also have passive players?). In terms of making it comical; we have conversions of sensible topics (death, violence, fight etc.) to mundane or misplaced topics or elements. For instance, instead of having blood on Finn during his first mission on Jakku, LEGO has made it comical by making it a green food splat. Furthermore, they have given him a plunger instead of a gun, which only adds to the humor. (Naturally, this is also done to make the games more accessible to a younger audience.) For me, this seems quite natural in any LEGO context, because it is so easy to connect different worlds through the usage of LEGO. The reason for this is quite simple, which relates back to my childhood and playing with the (actual) LEGO pieces. You would not just stay within one set of LEGOs, but put all sets together and and you would play within one big world of LEGO. Their similarities were so close that it made perfect sense for them co-exist within the same world, because they were based on the same standard (and simple) LEGO figure. It’s limitation of characteristics extends the possibility of multiple characters from different narratives and worlds to come together.
Ultimately, through this long babble of mine, what I am trying to convey is as followed: by changing the narrativity of a particular complex narrative (often in the form of transmedia storytelling), you get to give the fans (readers, viewers and players alike) the opportunity to get involved and be a part of their beloved game/story world. LEGO is one of the companies I have experienced to create these opportunities most often and that is why I used them as an example.
There are a lot of topics being mentioned here and I plan to work on these some more for future blog posts.