Game Narrative

Learning Intentions

  • Understand the term game narrative

  • Write our own game narrative

Success Criteria

  • I can explain the term game narrative
  • I can write my own video game narrative

This lesson

  • In this lesson we are going to be looking at what a game narrative is as well as writing a game narrative for an existing game.

Discussion: what is a narrative?

  • What do we think a narrative is and why do we think it is important to a video game?

What is a narrative?

As players of a game we take the narrative and plot of the storyline for granted, but a coherent and well-thought out storyline can make the difference between a good and a great game. The narrative design sets the stage for the game and typically introduces the object or goal of the game. The storyline begins immediately and the opening scenes of any game are often taken over by cut scenes which set the plot and story to come.

What is a narrative?

The idea of narrative design has existed in story writing throughout the ages, with all good stories being designed around a beginning, middle and an end. The essence of a narrative designer's job is to create a compelling story, to create compelling narrative elements and define the systems and content through which they will be delivered to the player. Narrative design can take many forms, from storyboards to mind maps and even scripts themselves.

Gamebooks

  • Gamebooks are forms of text based adventure books which prompt you with a series of options about what to do next and are the basis for many fantasy games today.

 

 

 

 

  • Do you:
    • Follow the path north (turn to page 12)
    • Open the chest (turn to page 17)
    • Enter the cottage (turn to page 21)
  • This type of structure is easily replicated in computer games.

You are standing in front of a small cottage. The door is open and a garden path runs up to the north by the back of the cottage. There is an old chest on the ground in front of you.

Gamebooks

  • Gamebooks are forms of text based adventure books which prompt you with a series of options about what to do next and are the basis for many fantasy games today.

 

 

 

 

  • Do you:
    • Follow the path north (turn to page 12)
    • Open the chest (turn to page 17)
    • Enter the cottage (turn to page 21)
  • This type of structure is easily replicated in computer games.

You are standing in front of a small cottage. The door is open and a garden path runs up to the north by the back of the cottage. There is an old chest on the ground in front of you.

Story arc

This is the principle storyline in the game and may weave through several different levels. Traditional storytelling arcs can be applied to games and may cover the emotional rollercoaster that the player's characters follow throughout the game. Two main forms of narrative are embedded and emergent. In an embedded narrative the story exists with cut scenes advancing the story at each stage of the game irrespective of the gameplay on screen. The cut scenes could often be watched back-to-back to reveal the plotline of the entire game.

 

Story arc

In an emergent narrative the storyline is undetermined and changeable. This type of narrative is highly evident in games like The Sims in which players manage and develop their characters through a series of choices and random events.
Skillset has an array of document relating to the games industry and the following pdf which can be accessed here, or through their website, contains detailed information about the job description for a script writer.

 

Story arc

There are four narrative layers:

  • Events - these are actions that are carried out in sequence to progress through the game. For example, enemy is attacking > kill enemy > collect points.
  • Story persons - are the fictional characters that carry out the events which allow the player to progress through the game.
  • Storytelling - the techniques and methods through which the story is portrayed to the player. This could be through dialogue, in game presence, cut scenes etc.
  • Narrative situation - this is the broader rules and conventions that dominate the game and is more the cultural circumstances and code of conduct that is followed throughout the gameplay.

Write a narrative for the game Firewatch

Write a narrative

Pick a game of your choice and think about what the game is about, thinking of what the narrative might be for the game.
For example, a very, very short narrative for GTA V:
Virtual life set in present day. Make choices that affect your character anything from getting a job to murder. Explore the city of Los Santos and enjoy fast and modern cars.

Task

Create a narrative for three games, one simple game (e.g. Sonic) one complex game (e.g. Life Is Strange) and one for your own game idea.

 

When you've completed the narrative, complete a storyboard for each game describing the start, middle and end of the game - these do not need to be too detailed.

Task

JB
1 Design : 9.1 Game Narrative
© J Balfour
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