9.4. Story Telling In Games

We have already heard examples of ways that story telling in games is difficult or often done poorly. The challenge is that our narrative - the story we are telling - is expressed in many ways beyond the traditional story writing. This video explains the difference between writing and narrative and how designers must embrace narrative throughout all aspects of a game.

Because mechanics are such a critical element of games, they too need to serve the narrative. Say you are telling the story of a kingdom that has been under the thumb of an evil tyrant. You have created a dark environment full of burnt out villages where the player is exposed to how the population is being oppressed. The hero is one of these commoners who has said “enough is enough” and is trying to start a revolution. But then you decide that parkour gameplay would be fun, so you make that one of the main mechanics. The free flowing movement would fundamentally break with the idea of a common man fighting arbitrary constraints and just trying to stay alive.

Conversely, when done well, your mechanics can tell much of your story for you. This video makes the case that the arcade classic Missle Command is a masterpiece of telling a story through gameplay mechanics.

Materials on this page adapted from:
Game Design Concepts by Ian Schreiber (CC BY-NC 3.0)