Techniques of participation
On an obvious level, Arcane combines elements of music, spoken dialogue, sound effects and visual animation to tell the story of Piltover versus Zaun. However, audience members can increase the level of multimediality with their control over the sound volume of their device and whether they watch with subtitles. Autoethnographically, I’ve discovered that I’m more engaged with Arcane when I’ve selected subtitles, as I’m reading and observing what’s occuring on my screen.
Raessens defines virtuality as “the possibility to stimulate virtual worlds a gamer can explore”. While audience members cannot interact with Arcane in the same manner they would League, the exploratory nature of storytelling allows for a level of this. As audiences metaphorically journey with Vi, Jinx, Jayce, Silco and others, they learn about love, loss, politics, family and mental illness from the security of their own device.
Interactivity is felt less potently in Arcane, as Raessens relates it specifically to ” ‘the [gamer’s] ability to intervene in a meaningful way within the representation itself, not to read it differently’” (referencing Andrew Cameron). However, interactivity is visible in the audience response to Arcane, whether that be critical acclaim to objective artistic achievement or content creators analysing what they see before them through drawing on external research.
As an art object, Arcane provides a centre point that communities can rally around. YouTube videos address the similarities and differences between Arcane and League lore, while subreddits discuss the merits and pitfalls of each episode. In this way, the television show connects audience members, albeit through its own paratexts.
Types of participation
Interpretation refers to the engaged audience deciding the importance of a cultural artefact – here, this is evident in the interactivity of critics and fans.
Reconfiguration allows for gamers to explore and affect the game’s narrative through choosing actions embedded into the gameplay. From a television-storytelling perspective, one could argue that the lore of League is a “preprogrammed” element embedded into its canon. However, unlike video gaming, the creators of Arcane had the ability to either accept these elements or reject them completely. Riot Games did both.
Similarly, this type of participation is evident in the adaptation of the League story from game to television. Raessens’ construction refers to “the addition of new game elements…or…the modification of existing games” – this is evident in the addition of character backstory and the modification of game to television.
In some ways, it can be blindingly obvious how videos games are part of participatory media culture. But, if one digs deeper, it becomes evident that all media embodies this participation, whether it’s metaphorically journeying with the story or engaging with the text through producing fan-made content.