informa
/
Featured Blog

The Edge of Story

The concept of narrative is not absolute. It is merely a label for a cluster of emotional triggers which games happen to share with certain traditional media.

Crossposted from my website: http://tynansylvester.com/2012/04/the-edge-of-story/

Imagine a game of Left 4 Dead in which a player sacrifices his life so his friend may survive a zombie attack. How do we classify this moment?  Is it a story, a piece of mechanics-driven gameplay, or something authored into the game?

We can make cases for any of them. It’s a story because it can be recounted like a story. It’s a game mechanical interaction because it wasn’t authored into the game exactly as it occurred.

Yet, it was authored into the possibility space of the game mechanics, which were specifically designed to generate dramatic moments like this on a regular basis. It is both a story and not. Depending on how you look at it, it has no author, one author (the designer), or many authors (the designer, players, and the game systems).

We’ve broken our classification system because we’re using it outside its domain. Terms likestory and author were created to work in the context of traditional, fixed, recounted stories. There’s no reason to assume they work in games. And, in their unmodified, original forms, they don’t.

The concept of narrative is not absolute. It is merely a label for a cluster of emotional triggers which games happen to share with certain traditional media.

Character development, recounted or related sequences of events, and pre-defined events are examples of design elements which fall under the umbrella of narrative.

But this umbrella is not defined by any well-thought-out logical distinction. It is an evolved cultural convention – nothing more. There is no sharp line between fiction, story, narrative, and mechanics, and the emotional mechanisms games use to affect players often don’t fall cleanly into these categories.

Latest Jobs

Sucker Punch Productions

Bellevue, Washington
08.27.21
Combat Designer

Xbox Graphics

Redmond, Washington
08.27.21
Senior Software Engineer: GPU Compilers

Insomniac Games

Burbank, California
08.27.21
Systems Designer

Deep Silver Volition

Champaign, Illinois
08.27.21
Senior Environment Artist
More Jobs   

CONNECT WITH US

Register for a
Subscribe to
Follow us

Game Developer Account

Game Developer Newsletter

@gamedevdotcom

Register for a

Game Developer Account

Gain full access to resources (events, white paper, webinars, reports, etc)
Single sign-on to all Informa products

Register
Subscribe to

Game Developer Newsletter

Get daily Game Developer top stories every morning straight into your inbox

Subscribe
Follow us

@gamedevdotcom

Follow us @gamedevdotcom to stay up-to-date with the latest news & insider information about events & more