The gaming industry has been growing since the first commercially successful video gamein the 1970’s, and is now one of the leading industries in global revenue. The abundance of platforms and devices from which video games can be enjoyed sparks academic interest into why these video games and their experiences are so desirable. One of the key components in the growing popularity of video games is the use of narrative, and the way in which video games are emerging as a prominent form of storytelling. This paper set out to expand on existing literature on this topic, by looking specifically at escapism; the goal to use video games as an escape from real life through a fictional narrative. Escapism has been discussed in different contexts, however, it is a particularly prominent phenomena when it comes to video games and the emotions it evokes in players (Kosa & Uysal, 2020; Prinsen & Schofield, 2021). However, the gap in existing research concerns how escapism is achieved, in particular, how narrative devices are employed to develop escapism. This research aimed to dissect the popular video game ‘The Last of Us’ (2013), and use it as a case study to understand the posed research question: ‘How is escapism achieved through narrative techniques in the world renowned video game: The Last of Us?’ In order to answer this question, a qualitative approach was chosen in order to construct meaning from the game. More specifically, thematic content analysis was used for its ability to deconstruct the data found within the game into identifiable themes (Vaismoradi et al., 2016). From the data collection, four themes were identified: ‘cutscenes’, ‘gameplay’, ‘worldbuilding’ and ‘character development’. Through the data analysis, examples from the game were used to illustrate the importance of these themes to the overall narrative, and with the use of existing literature, their connection to escapism (Ip, 2011; Deleuze et al., 2019). It was found that cutscenes and gameplay were used to further the narrative and keep the player engaged, while worldbuilding was used to create an immersive virtual environment, and character development helped create player-character identification. Therefore, within this research it was found that different narrative techniques can be used to increase player engagement, immersion, identification and interactivity which are all responsible for promoting higher levels of escapism.

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Dr. Alexandre Diallo
Media & Creative Industries
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

Daniel George Fillingham. (2022, September 28). “It can’t be for nothing” Understanding escapism through narrative techniques in ‘The Last of Us’ (2013). Media & Creative Industries. Retrieved from