How is game storytelling different?Complications Ensue
Complications Ensue:
The Crafty Screenwriting, TV and Game Writing Blog


April 2004

May 2004

June 2004

July 2004

August 2004

September 2004

October 2004

November 2004

December 2004

January 2005

February 2005

March 2005

April 2005

May 2005

June 2005

July 2005

August 2005

September 2005

October 2005

November 2005

December 2005

January 2006

February 2006

March 2006

April 2006

May 2006

June 2006

July 2006

August 2006

September 2006

October 2006

November 2006

December 2006

January 2007

February 2007

March 2007

April 2007

May 2007

June 2007

July 2007

August 2007

September 2007

October 2007

November 2007

December 2007

January 2008

February 2008

March 2008

April 2008

May 2008

June 2008

July 2008

August 2008

September 2008

October 2008

November 2008

December 2008

January 2009

February 2009

March 2009

April 2009

May 2009

June 2009

July 2009

August 2009

September 2009

October 2009

November 2009

December 2009

January 2010

February 2010

March 2010

April 2010

May 2010

June 2010

July 2010

August 2010

September 2010

October 2010

November 2010

December 2010

January 2011

February 2011

March 2011

April 2011

May 2011

June 2011

July 2011

August 2011

September 2011

October 2011

November 2011

December 2011

January 2012

February 2012

March 2012

April 2012

May 2012

June 2012

July 2012

August 2012

September 2012

October 2012

November 2012

December 2012

January 2013

February 2013

March 2013

April 2013

May 2013

June 2013

July 2013

August 2013

September 2013

October 2013

November 2013

December 2013

January 2014

February 2014

March 2014

April 2014

May 2014

June 2014

July 2014

August 2014

September 2014

October 2014

November 2014

December 2014

January 2015

February 2015

March 2015

April 2015

May 2015

June 2015

August 2015

September 2015

October 2015

November 2015

December 2015

January 2016

February 2016

March 2016

April 2016

May 2016

June 2016

July 2016

August 2016

September 2016

October 2016

November 2016

December 2016

January 2017

February 2017

March 2017

May 2017

June 2017

July 2017

August 2017

September 2017

October 2017

November 2017

December 2017

January 2018

March 2018

April 2018

June 2018

July 2018

October 2018

November 2018

December 2018

January 2019

February 2019

November 2019

February 2020

March 2020

April 2020

May 2020

August 2020

September 2020

October 2020

December 2020

January 2021

February 2021

March 2021

May 2021

June 2021

November 2021

December 2021

January 2022

February 2022

August 2022

September 2022

November 2022

February 2023

March 2023

April 2023

May 2023

July 2023

September 2023


Monday, July 25, 2016

On our Reddit AMA today, greyandbluestatic asked, "how do you approach storytelling in games versus cinema and literature?"

Here's my answer:

The short answer is, there’s no difference. A story is a story. Specifically, in my books, a story is:

a. a fictional person we care about
b. who has an opportunity, problem or goal
c. who faces obstacles and/or an antagonist and/or his or her personal flaws
d. who has something to lose (jeopardy)
e. and something to gain (stakes)

Moreover, a story is told to
f. an audience.

You can see how these apply equally to movies and books and games. If one of these elements of story is weak, the story is usually weak. When I say “weak,” I mean it doesn’t leave us with a powerful feeling.
That’s what story exists in games for. The gameplay is “How?” The story is “How do I feel?” Ultimately, it’s “Why do I care?”

The key difference, of course, is that storytelling is all about “I make choices for you,” while gameplay is “You make the choices.” So delivering a great story in a game has to take that into account.
On the top level of the game, we have a series of cinematics that tell each playable character’s story. The gameplay aspect is that you have to complete story missions to get to the next cinematic. That’s pretty familiar.

The other levels are environmental storytelling. There are things you see and things you hear as you run around trying to stay alive long enough to craft your way out of the predicament you’re in.
So, these are things that the Wellies and the Wastrels say to each other and to you. They show you the world you’re living in, and how they feel about it.
These are the things Arthur says to them and to himself. These show you how he feels about things. They show you who he is.

For example, you may feel good about killing a Wastrel, but he usually doesn’t. That’s unusual, in a game hero.

There’s dear old Uncle Jack. He’s always happy and upbeat, but you can listen between the lines. Why is he telling people how to identify cholera? Why is he talking about flour substitutes?
You’ll see posters that tell you what the rules of the world are, and what the history of this world is. You learn that Britain lost the war. You start to get a sense of what it is exactly that everyone is trying so hard not to remember.

You might find letters in the mailboxes that tell you more about the people around you, and what their stories might be.

I’m trying hard to create a sense that the NPCs are not software agents that are there to give you things if you poke at them in the right way. They’re people in a fictional world, that have their own stories – their own goals, and their own obstacles – that would be doing something even if you weren’t looking.

The key to everything in the game is that what’s not said is as important as what’s said. The game’s story is a puzzle you can put together through repeated playthroughs. (You won’t get the whole puzzle in any one playthrough.)

Tl;dr: the cinematics are straightforward, linear narrative. Everything else is a puzzle.

And, eventually, once the story comes out, you may discover that the cinematics don’t tell you everything either, and there may be a bit of a puzzle there, too.

Rest of the AMA here.



Post a Comment

Back to Complications Ensue main blog page.

This page is powered by Blogger.