How Multiple Chronotopes Can Define Gameplay

After reading through Bakhtin’s “Time Chronotope” article and the ensuing discussion in class about the distinctions that define each game through chronotopes, I found that of Bayonetta to be an interesting endeavor. Chronotopes are an abstract way to perceive literature and games through the scopes of both time and space, as if time were to intersect with a specific space to create another dimension with its own meaning. Bakhtin describes how “the chronotope in a work always contains within it an evaluating aspect that can be isolated from the whole artistic chronotope only in abstract analysis,” which in turn sheds light on the meaning of the narrative.

This idea got me to thinking about the possibility of a narrative being made up of multiple chronotopes. If this were possible and rather frequent in games, then it would create a more dynamic interactivity leaving the player to decide in which way he wished to perceive the game, if not in multiple ways at the same time. So I turned to Bayonetta to explore my idea, and found that, for the strong themes the space in the game does portray, I would be stretching my argument a tad to say that multiple chronotopes defined the gameplay; nonetheless, it could be done, and certainly for the sake of theory.

The first chronotope, and most clearly seen within Bayonetta, is that of the “Cathedral.” When looking to define this, I had to observe several parts of the game. One aspect of the game that lends to this chronotope is the actual image of Vigrid, with stone buildings and very gothic architecture that take from an era in history that was very centered on cathedrals and divine worship. The Gothic chronotope would be rather to specific and thus off point as this game is never described as existing during a certain era, so the history does not apply to the gameplay. The narrative is furthermore “Cathedral-esque” as the paratext describes the game through divine chapters, while the character Bayonetta is actually a witch fighting the sages, with heavy underlying themes of deity struggles.

In Bakhtin’s essay, he gives the generic Chronotope of the Road as common for movement within a narrative. This chronotope is “the spatial and temporal paths of the most varied people” intersecting “at one spatial and temporal point.” Bakhtin goes on to comment on how “varied and multileveled are the ways in which the road is turned into a metaphor, but its fundmental pivot is the flow of time.” Bayonetta finds herself traveling through a world in which she encounters people such as Luca, a human, and even a child, who she ends up having to protect. Bayonetta moves through a path that sets her encountering witches and sages, but always through relatively familiar territories, which is another characteristic of the chronotope.

By exploring this narrative through the eyes of two chronotopes leaves the player with a bigger role. To look at the character of Bayonetta through the Road, the player experiences more of a witch’s journey to find her answers through the people she meets along the way to the end of the story. In the Chronotope of the Cathedral, the player sees a more religious intent of the game designers, based loosely on the war between Heaven and Hell and universal balance. Because this game can be seen through different lenses, the player must react to the game in his own way to fully interactive with the game.

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One response to “How Multiple Chronotopes Can Define Gameplay

  1. When you speak about the cathedral, you seem to dismiss the idea that deep history is not applicable to Bayonetta. However, Bayonetta’s story spans hundreds of years – precisely the kind of time on which cathedrals operate. I questioned in class whether the road was a good chronotope to assign to this game – I’m receptive to the idea, but it would be nice to see a specific moment that you feel qualifies it as such.

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