Gamasutra is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
View All     RSS
February 28, 2020
arrowPress Releases

If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM Tech sites:

Feature: The Uneasy Merging of Narrative and Gameplay

Feature: The Uneasy Merging of Narrative and Gameplay

January 26, 2010 | By Staff

January 26, 2010 | By Staff
    Post A Comment
More: Console/PC

A new Gamasutra feature closely examines the long-standing topic of the relationship between gameplay and narrative. As game designers are afforded more tools to convey different forms of narrative, they have more opportunities than ever to tie that into gameplay, said Rainbow Studios senior game designer Ara Shirinian.

He explained his definitions of narrative and gameplay as follows:

"Gameplay is relatively simple to define for our purposes. Any action in the game that is occurs by way of interaction between the player and the game, we call gameplay.

"Generically speaking, a narrative is just the description of a series of events. At its most atomic level, virtually any visual component of a game can carry a sort of narrative with it, telling you something about its context and history.

"When we normally talk about narrative in the context of games, we mean things like cutscenes, plots, relationships between characters, and stories that are expressed continuously through the course of a game.

"However, a scene of two characters arguing about where to go next is as valid a narrative as simply looking at a graphic of a bright blood-stained and nicked sword.

"The main difference is one of complexity and sophistication. In the latter example, the narrative is expressed as a single visual: I see a sword, it has recently drawn blood, it has struck a very hard object. In the former example, the narrative is communicated via visuals, like setting and choice of dress, but also via actor performance, which includes all kinds of details like gesticulation, subtle body language, voice, and so on.

"There's an important implication here -- if a game has any discernable graphics at all, there is always some sort of story, or narrative, being told to you (or at least being interpreted by you) as you play. Indeed, humans are really good at constructing narratives about what happened to that bloody, nicked sword, even if one wasn't offered or intended. Even pure action/zero story games cannot be wholly divorced from narrative, because the player will always extract meaning, and thereby a story, from graphics.

"The point is that there exist very different levels and techniques of narrative expression, and each comes with its corresponding set of prerequisites that must be satisfied before the player (or viewer) is able to apprehend a game's narrative."

For more fascinating reading on the relationship between gameplay and narrative, and how this relationship can take on a wide array of forms, read the full Gamasutra feature, available today.

Related Jobs

Vicarious Visions / Activision
Vicarious Visions / Activision — Albany, New York, United States

Senior Software Engineer
Sucker Punch Productions
Sucker Punch Productions — Bellevue, Washington, United States

Gameplay Programmer
Bohemia Interactive
Bohemia Interactive — Pattaya, Thailand

Senior Artist
Remedy Entertainment
Remedy Entertainment — Espoo, Finland

Lead Environment Artist

Loading Comments

loader image