Criminals at play: Oedipus, Rope, and Telltale’s The Walking Dead

Wyatt Moss-Wellington

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


This article investigates three storytelling arts as spaces of narrative play: theatre, film and narrative-based gaming. It traces the lineage from Oedipus Rex and early tragic theatre to Alfred Hitchcock’s 1948 film Rope, followed by The Walking Dead Telltale Games series, relating how each text presents protagonists who are marked as criminal from the opening of the narrative. Rope and The Walking Dead both work from the prophetic prototype developed in the Oedipus myth and use reflexive engagement with their own storytelling practices to ask open questions of stigma, sexuality, ethnicity and problems in the ongoing negotiation of play as both a coping strategy for social and legal marginalisation, and a safe space for interrogating our precognitive moral intuitions and biases. All play is fragile, and serious consequence always threatens the boundaries of Huizinga’s ‘magic circle’ of play; this means that play statuses must be consistently negotiated and updated by those participating, a concept I refer to as ‘the invitation to play’. This article explores how storytellers navigate such distinctions in asking participants to reflexively consider the boundaries of consequence in the narrative arts and in their lives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)208-222
Number of pages15
JournalCulture, Theory and Critique
Issue number3
Early online date2 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2021


  • Narratology
  • Rope
  • The Walking Dead
  • game studies
  • narrative ethics
  • serious play

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science


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