Every week the EFG staff will be defining a gaming term that is either confusing or ill-defined. Please leave a comment with any terms you are confused by and we will try to include them in future editions!

The gaming definition this week is a term that is applicable to many video games, as well as Movies, TV shows, Plays, and Musicals: The Fourth Wall

The fourth wall is the barrier between the audience and the character (or actor). It is also the perspective from which we (as the audience) view the experience.

Storytelling in games has been getting more and more advanced as the games industry matures. One thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of the games I’ve been playing have been breaking the “fourth wall.” The important thing about the fourth wall is that the audience (and the narrator, or even classically the chorus) are meant to be outside the story informing the audience. In “serious drama.” they are invisible. 

“Breaking the fourth wall” traditionally has been considered an act of comedy, though in more contemporary settings it can be more serious. This is where the characters in the story address the audience directly; often ignoring the story that is happening on stage. This type of storytelling device is often shorthand for making a reference or showing the internal thoughts of a character without having to involve the story that is going on. 

Examples in TV and Stage

Remember all of those times in Saved by the Bell where Zack would call a time-out and talk to the camera? He was breaking the fourth wall.

A more recent example is the Musical Hamilton. At the end of the show, Eliza Hamilton is telling the end of her story and gasps after the song ends. The gasp is considered her breaking the 4th wall.

Video Game Examples:

  • Guacamelee
  • The Secret of Monkey Island
  • Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door

Additional Resources

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

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By Stephen Duetzmann

Editor in Chief Founder/EiC EngagedFamilyGaming.com Blogger, Podcaster, Video Host RE: games that families can play together. Editor@engagedfamilygaming.com

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