Gaming is unique amongst narrative forms in that it’s the only one that requires effort to see the whole story. Rather than simply watching a screen or turning a page, the player has to earn their progress by taking part in the story.
Yes, some games downplay narrative, if not do away with it entirely, but a well-crafted narrative can help a game succeed. In fact, some of the biggest critical hits in gaming history, such as The Last of Us, Ghost of Tsushima or Final Fantasy VII have utilized narrative design to strong effect, and GameAnalytics has examined the role narrative design has on creating an immersive game.
The three C's
The article stresses the importance of the three C’s: Character, conflict, and change. Without a central character with personality and motivations, it’s hard to be invested in a story. Without conflict, there’s no story worth telling. Without change, there’s no hope for a payoff.
However, unlike other narrative forms, GameAnalytics argues that the “difference between a normal story and a game is that the player is the one that causes the change.”
As such, the article states that developers should use a story to inform their design.
“If you’ve made a game where the player surfs, racing to the finish – ask yourself why the character is surfing. Are they escaping something behind them? Does it represent some inner turmoil, where you’re controlling the good thought and must reach the end before the bad thoughts?”
By focusing on narrative design, even in a relatively simple game such as Subway Surfer or Temple Run, developers can craft a game that draws attention from the player.
The article is the first in a series about the importance of narrative design in gaming. Future articles will go into more detail about how to incorporate stories into gaming.
We recently spoke to King’s narrative design director Abigail Rindo regarding the importance of narrative design in Candy Crush Saga.