The Impact of Narrative Design in Games

Jurie Horneman

If all games have a storytelling side, then all games surely need narrative designers. But would games be better if narrative design came earlier in the development process?

Jurie Horneman has been making games since 1991 and although he doesn’t consider himself a writer, he knows a lot about how storytelling impacts game programming and narrative design.

In his GDC talk The Design in Narrative Design, Jurie looks at how to approach narrative design so as to incorporate storytelling into development, and ultimately improve the player experience. It’s a critical reminder of the impact of narrative design in supporting both fictional and mechanical elements of any game, especially good ones.

From Doom to Ico, Prince of Persia to Portal and more, Jurie uses demonstrates how narrative context can be ‘worked in’ to your game, without the need for obvious overlays and hit count displays. He also touches on using diegetic elements (originating from a source within the ‘story world’) to enhance game mechanics, and a way to get around the extremely disruptive reality of character death. This approach to the narrative design process harmonizes mechanical and fictional game elements, which ultimately supports the suspension of disbelief and quality of player experience.

Check out Jurie Horneman‘s full GDC talk below:

In summary, when it comes to Narrative Design in Games:

  • Although all games involve storytelling, not all game teams need writers.
  • But more game teams should have narrative designers, and more game developers should learn about story telling.
  • Of course more writers should learn about game design, too.

 

 

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  • On April 25, 2017