Good storytelling, in games, films or books, still relies on the imagination of the audience to do the bulk of the work. Games do have an extra advantage that the player is handed the possibilities of interacting with the story. But how do you turn an immersive story into an immersive game?
During our research we found out that in a lot of games the story is separate from the gameplay. Apparently it is difficult to integrate storytelling with the gameplay or the story is seen as an extra layer which can give some context but does not contribute in any meaningful way to the game. However, narrative design becomes quite important if you want to evoke engagement and emotional involvement of players in a game. Films are quite good in evoking emotions in the audience. Add these storytelling techniques with interactivity and we get narrative design.
Good narrative design is about balancing the gameplay and the narrative. It is about how you tell the story of the game without disrupting the flow of the gameplay and how the gameplay advances the story. Any narrative game has to be challenging and immersive. Any imbalance between the narrative and the gameplay leads to ludonarrative dissonance, which jars the player out of his or her immersion in the game. We have seen that immersive narrative games have a vast array of different techniques to integrate story and gameplay. A good narrative designer keeps the following points in mind to develop a good narrative game: a premise, strong characters, the point of view, the role of the player, challenges, and narrative game mechanics.
Own research on interactive storytelling (in collaboration with the Lost Road Games team):
- Let’s start: Storytelling 101
- Storytelling in games: The 9 Commandments of Narrative Design
- Interactive storytelling for professionals: Joe McCoy’s Narrative Design Framework