Story Design for Games as Experience/Emotional Design


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Slides from a Game development class I'm teaching. Focus is on creating meaning through gameplay, rather than employing narrative.

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Story Design for Games as Experience/Emotional Design

  1. 1. Story Design for Games as Experience Design: How to make your games more meaningful and memorable Aki Järvinen Game Development, ITU Spring 2009
  2. 2. Contents <ul><li>Techniques to design meaning into play </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Stories </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Goal structures </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Characters </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Metaphors </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Examples & points of reference </li></ul><ul><li>How to translate these concepts into ‘Unreal’ terms? </li></ul><ul><li>Notes about your concepts’ story potentials </li></ul>
  3. 3. Meaning <ul><li>Even if your game does not have something we could call a ‘story’, it will produce meaning </li></ul><ul><li>Games as systems ; as dynamic wholes with interacting parts – how is meaning generated? </li></ul><ul><li>Hermeneutic circle : one's understanding of the whole is established by reference to the individual parts, and one's understanding of each individual part by reference to the whole. </li></ul><ul><li>Thus, gameplay-related processes of understanding are fundamentally hermeneutical </li></ul>
  4. 4. Meaningful Play <ul><li>&quot;Meaningful play in a game emerges from the relationship between player action and system outcome; it is the process by which a player takes action within the designed system of a game and the system responds to the action. The meaning of an action in a game resides in the relationship between action and outcome.” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Salen & Zimmerman, Rules of Play </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Elements of meaning in games <ul><li>Analysis part: Unraveling hermeneutical circles; identifying their parts </li></ul><ul><li>Design part: Raveling them back together, with new combinations and realizations of parts </li></ul><ul><li>Using stories/gameplay to create the combinations, and deepen them </li></ul>
  6. 6. Story as Information <ul><li>An aspect of game design is how to distribute information, e.g. about goals. </li></ul><ul><li>Structuring that information into a story is one way to do it. </li></ul><ul><li>There are other ways... </li></ul>
  7. 7. Information about goals
  8. 8. Story as embedded goal structure <ul><li>Stories’ motivational function: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Propelling the player from one goal to the next </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Rewarding the player with more information </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Rewarding the player with narrative twists </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Player’s progression in the formal goal structure of a game might be in contradiction with the diegetic progression of the character in the story: </li></ul><ul><li>An achievement for the player ( e.g. advancing to a location ) might be a setback for the character ( once location is reached, story throws character into jail ); rewards are asymmetrical </li></ul>
  9. 9. Story as ‘Texture’
  10. 10. Characters = Agents in a World
  11. 11. Emotional Game Design <ul><li>Emotional game play experiences matter, since emotionally salient material is remembered better than neutral material. </li></ul><ul><li>Emotion creates memorable meaning </li></ul><ul><li>Emotional game design as a means to amplify meanings; to pepper the meaningful elements with emotions </li></ul><ul><li>‘ emotions depend on evaluations of what has happened in relation to the person’s goals and beliefs’ </li></ul><ul><li>‘ emotions emerge at significant junctures in plans’ </li></ul><ul><li>- Keith Oatley, Best Laid Schemes </li></ul><ul><li>-> consequences for design of player choices & conflicts </li></ul>
  12. 12. Events, Agents & Objects in a World <ul><li>‘ emotions are valenced reactions to events, agents, or objects in a world’ </li></ul><ul><li>- Ortony, Collins & Clore: The Cognitive Structure of Emotions </li></ul><ul><li>Designing emotional responses to gameplay is about building worlds with particular events, agents, and objects </li></ul><ul><li>… and designing the player’s relation to, and means to act in that world </li></ul><ul><li>Fable 2 : moral choices as emotional dispositions designed into each choice </li></ul>
  13. 13. Hemingway’s six word story <ul><li>For sale: Baby shoes, never worn. </li></ul><ul><li>‘ For sale’: an action (prospect of a game mechanic) </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Baby shoes’: an object </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Never worn’: an event (/an attribute of shoes) </li></ul><ul><li>The emotional impact is in the implicit relations of these three; in an implied event: a gap </li></ul><ul><li>How does one (game) design such gaps? </li></ul>
  14. 14. Metaphors <ul><li>‘ understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another’ – Lakoff & Johnson </li></ul><ul><li>metaphors support the experience of rules as game play </li></ul><ul><li>Examples: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Game as real estate business” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Game as war” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Game as geometry” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Metaphors help in communicating emotions </li></ul>
  15. 15. Metaphorical objects
  16. 16. Reading: Lens #69 <ul><li>The Lens of Weirdest Thing </li></ul>
  17. 17. Examples <ul><li>...of appropriate scope: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Gravity Bone, made with Quake 2 engine </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Ambiguous meanings can be puzzling in a positive way; they diversify player experiences and create discussions </li></ul>