Playful Narrative is a series of short irregularly updated articles each focused around a single lesson or point to remember when writing for games.
Narrative and writing in games are often misunderstood by most designers. I had been thinking about doing an ‘x points to remember when writing for games’-styled post for quite some time, but while working on it I thought of so many points and material that it would never fit a single post. So that’s where ‘Playful Narrative’ comes from, a series of short posts each focused around a single lesson or point to remember when writing for games. Note that this does not mean you necessarily have to be a writer to find these posts instructive. Many writing aspects in game design are traditionally (and sadly still) done by game designers with little experience in actual writing. Also, as both a game designer and writer I like to seek the middle ground between the two to find out why many conceptions about storytelling and writing in games are what they are and how we can improve them. And last but not least I try to convince the scene out there that it is long due time that qualified writers became a core member in a development team.
Below you will find all posts in order of posting as well as the take-away point of each article.
- The interactive story misconception
There is no ultimate type of story for games. The quality of a story depends on a lot of factors considering writing quality and suitability for the game it is made for. Stories in games do not have to be interactive to be good, neither are interactive stories automatically good.
- Realize the player is playing a game
Limit mandatory narrative to an absolute minimum. Link additional story elements to the gameplay and reward players for following these elements.
- Design characters, not motives (part 1)
A set of motives does not make a good character design but rather is a starting point to begin with that design. Well-rounded characters need more than just a motivation to act like they do.
- Design characters, not motives (part 2)
You can use motives to come to a character design by asking ‘why’-questions until the answer is a character trait.
- Hire a writer
Hire a writer that knows how to write for games specifically and involve him or her in the creative process from the early stages on. Start seeing good writing as something that takes skill, time and effort.
- Death to monologues
Try not to write in monologues, unless you have a strong reason to do so.
- The player is not the main character
The player is not the main character. It is fundamental to understand this division and define the role of the player in relation to the main character and the rest of the narrative.
- Define the role of the player
There are many different perspectives in games. Understanding them gives you the skills to frame your story and control your aesthetic distance.
- Weave your story
Weave your plot over a multitude of threads.
- Build a recap function
Build a recap function in your game, to recap the narrative and to support the routing.
- Credibility matters
Create a set of logical rules in which your world operates and enforce them in every story element. Don’t ever think credibility does not matter for your particular story.
Want to know more about a certain subject? Would you like to request an episode of Playful Narrative or just talk about stories and games? Feel free to get in touch.