There doesn’t seem to be a lot going on in the game scene right now (at least for people not interested in motion controls, ever-more-unsettling modern war shooters and misjudged forum policies), so I’m taking advantage of the quiet time to go back some of the basic structures in games. Today I’m taking a first-principles look at the kinds of stories videogames tell.
It’s generally agreed that there are two types of game stories: what the script says and what the player does. Or as Valve writer Erik Wolpaw put it in a presentation at the Game Developers Conference in 2008:
Games tell two stories: the story story – the narrative story that’s the sum total of a game’s cutscenes and dialogue; and the gameplay story – the story described by the actions the player takes in the game world.
Game designer Marc LeBlanc proposed the names “embedded narrative”, for the story set into the game by the designers, and “emergent narrative”, for the story that emerges from the process of playing.
There’s a third type of story in videogames, but I’ll get to that in a minute. Continue reading →