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Feature: Marrying Narrative & Play Through Technique

In Gamasutra's latest feature, writer and game designer Chuck Jordan addresses the debate over whether gameplay and storytelling are truly compatible.
In Gamasutra's latest feature, writer and game designer Chuck Jordan addresses the debate over whether gameplay and storytelling are truly compatible. When it comes to the topic of bringing the two together, writes Jordan, "Almost of all the discussion starts with the same basic assumption, that 'video game storytelling' is the uneasy combination of two fundamentally opposing elements: story and gameplay." "The idea is that story -- defined here as the developer's narrative -- is inherently passive for the player. Gameplay, on the other hand, is inherently active. Since the defining characteristic of interactive entertainment is interactivity, it would seem that story and gameplay aren't just in opposition, but downright antagonistic." However, he writes, this is an overly simplistic interpretation that ignores many of the tenents of active storytelling that are exhibited in different genres -- in partiuclarly suspense and horror, which play with more direct storytelling and audience expectations, respectively. "What [these genres] have in common is that the audience is never completely immersed in the story, but at least one step removed from it. The audience remains aware that what they're watching isn't real, but they're still completely engaged in the experience. They're not just passively waiting for the next scene or story development, but actively participating," Jordan writes. This, he says, can be the key to storytelling in games. To find out exactly how, read today's Gamasutra feature -- The Brain That Couldn't Die: Active Storytelling in Video Games -- which is live now.

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