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Narrative matters

I hear too often “Nobody gives a darn about narrative in games”. Or “no one reads on mobile”.

But every successful game I know has a strong narrative component. Narrative is not the line of text, it is the sequence of events that creates a story together with the players.

use a star -> dialogue -> select decoration -> room upgrade -> dialogue -> new tasks -> new level

This is narrative.

swipe -> match -> explosion -> cascade -> match -> special tile -> … -> TASTY!

This is also narrative.

arena overview -> goal -> countdown -> GO! -> move character -> spot enemy -> hide -> collect gem

And this as well.

The story stack

Often we stuff a mediocre game with readable content in hopes that players will get hooked “for the story”. In this case, the risks of having an expensive and poorly thought-out product increase. A story should always be seen as the last step of a good game.

  • Fantasy comes first
  • Then come the actions that can be performed on the fantasy
  • Then comes the system of resources, rewards, and the game economy
  • The world is built on this
  • Stories can happen in the world.

If we start from the other side, however, it works for visual novels but not for mechanic based games.

Published inGame DesignNarrative

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