Stories in Play: Narrative Formation in Sports and Esports
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Sports depend on narrative to function as media content, yet sports are difficult to narrativize because they are unpredictable. This project proposes a model for analyzing the narrative formation in sports broadcasts by tracking the live narrativization to the formulation of a final narrative. In examining narrativization, there are two inextricably linked questions that need to be answered: how does the live narrativization construct a story if the ending is unknown? And how does the narrativization balance its desires for narrative coherence and unpredictability? First, the hermeneutic circle found in the simultaneity of the live sporting event and its broadcast is solved through Hayden White’s concept of historicality, where events are endowed with relevance if they contribute to a higher order narrative, and Paul Ricoeur’s concepts of the episodic and configurational dimensions, which determine what the narrative events are and how they are organized. Then, the struggle between narrative control and unpredictability is addressed through the reiterative practices borrowed from open coding methodologies. Finally, these components are combined in a multi-layered narrative model based on Roland Barthes’ function-action-narration schema. Then the model is applied to the National Football League (NFL) and the World Championship Series of StarCraft II (WCS) as two case studies of narrative formation in traditional sports and esports, respectively. The comparison of the narrativization reveals that while specialized to each competition, both struggle to balance the desire to craft coherent narratives and the randomness of live sports. Furthermore, an examination of the media apparatuses shows that both traditional sports and esports share the same or analogous structures of broadcasting and consumption. The dissertation proposes that if esports is to move past current conceptualizations of sports broadcasting, it must fully embrace its uniquely digital status even if it appears to violate contemporary notions of sports.
Cite this version of the work
John Yoon (2021). Stories in Play: Narrative Formation in Sports and Esports. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/17702