Narrative is not a game mechanic

20 Jan
January 20, 2012

You guys know I love narrative, right? I really, really do. I’ll play a mediocre game for a decent story, and most of my favourite games involve a compelling narrative that pulled me through the experience. In fact, I usually don’t finish a game unless I’m into the narrative, I’ll lose interest.

That being said, this article is spot on. Both about narrative and its analysis of game design, the problems of QTEs etc. I love narrative, but you should always build your game with an eye on ‘if I strip out the text, sound, movies etc, what’s left? What is the player actually doing? Is that much of an enjoyable experience?’

I’ll just leave it here for you to read, shall I?

2 replies
  1. Evan says:

    I had a bit of a problem with this article… or at least with its title and departure point.

    “The commonest use of a completely parallel medium that does not actually interact with the game system is narrative.”

    I find this kind of ridiculous. Can a game system not express narrative? Are the actions you do in the game not part of the narrative? It seems like a really archaic perspective.

    I totally agree with him about structures of games where the feedback greatly overshadows the input and simulation. I agree with the conclusions he draws…

    But I feel that completely separating narrative from the game mechanics is a dangerously old fashioned way of looking at games.

  2. gareth says:

    Well…I agree that it’s probably not a good idea to think of narrative as separate from the gameplay in all cases (easy example : adventure games), you can generally strip a game of all narrative and graphics and be left with the core gameplay mechanics intact.

    I think the place he’s coming from is rage against things like quick time events, where developers want their game to be ‘cinematic’ but then remember they’re making games, not movies, so they throw some QTEs in there for ‘interaction’ and congratulate themselves on a job well done.


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