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"Narrative and Gameplay in Game Design" by Sherry Jones (Apr. 4, 2013)


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I was invited by Games MOOC ( to discuss the following topic on a Youtube live webcast:

Games MOOC - Live Event - "Narrative and Gameplay in Game Design" (April 4, 2013, 7PM MST)

"Narratology and ludology are two theories that have divided scholars in game studies; the debate arises from determining which theory is most effective for game design. Sherry will address the "narratology vs. ludology" debate, as well as the current game design trend to marry narrative with gameplay. She will also cover the key elements of narration that can facilitate game progression."

April 4, 2013 - Youtube - "Narrative and Gameplay in Game Design"

This slideshow is featured in the live webcast.

Published in: Education

"Narrative and Gameplay in Game Design" by Sherry Jones (Apr. 4, 2013)

  1. 1. "Narrative and Gameplay in Game Design" Sherry Jones Philosophy, Rhetoric, Game Studies Twitter @autnes Slides: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
  2. 2. Watch Live Webcast to this Presentation!
  3. 3. A Very Brief Introduction to Game Studies Game Studies is a complex, interdisciplinary field that involves the study of game systems, game structures, and gameplay through the lenses of philosophy, psychology, sociology, economics, semiotics, engineering, and others. Narratology and Ludology are 2 dominant schools of thought in the field, and a heated debate between the schools have divided digital game scholars.
  4. 4. What is Narratology? Study of games as narrative structures: "The term narratology had to be invented to unify the works that scholars from different disciplines were doing about narrative" (Frasca, 1999) Source: "Ludology Meets Narratology: Similitude and differences between (video)games and narrative"
  5. 5. What is Ludology? Study of games as formal systems: "We will propose the term ludology (from ludus, the Latin word for "game"), to refer to the yet non-existent 'discipline that studies game and play activities." (Frasca, 1999) Source: "Ludology Meets Narratology: Similitude and differences between (video)games and narrative"
  6. 6. Narratology vs. Ludology? Narratological view: ● Games are narrative forms/literature that can be studied using narrative theories Source: com/photos/56017589@N07/5184511774/ Ludological view: ● Games are formal systems that should be studied in terms of rules (not visuals) Source: com/photos/tamaleaver/8232648817/
  7. 7. Neuroscience of Narratives ● Narrative is a cognitive structure for meaning- making. ● The narrative structure serves as a mental tool for “conceptually framing” the world for comprehension. ● We think of our experience of the world in narratives in order to make sense of the world.Source: com/photos/lovelornpoets/6034634225/
  8. 8. Emotions of Narratives "One interesting aspect of comprehension is the evocation of emotions that occurs when we read, hear, or watch a narrative." "Emotions are an integral part of the narrative experience and likely one of the main reasons why stories appear to have such universal appeal." (Wallentin et. al., 2011) Source: "Neuroscience of Narrative Emotion"
  9. 9. Psychology of Narratives "How people react psychologically to narrated events is influenced by the way in which events are framed by a narrator and appeal to different values, knowledge, and experiences of listeners." (Damasio et. al., 2013) Source: "Neurobiology of Narrative Framing" "State-of-the-art neuro-imaging and cognitive neuropsychology both uphold the idea that we create our "selves" through narrative." (Bickle and Keating, 2010) Source: "Storytelling 2.0: When new narratives meet old brains"
  10. 10. Everything is a Narrative!
  11. 11. Argument Against "Everything is a Narrative" "Narratives may be fundamental to human thought, but this does not mean that everything should be described in narrative terms. And that something can be presented in narrative form does not mean that it is narrative." "Games and stories actually do not translate to each other in the way that novels and movies do." (Juul, 2001) Source: "Games Telling Stories?"
  12. 12. Yet, Gamers Desire Stories! Source:
  13. 13. Abstract vs. Character Games "The more abstract the game, the less the need for a story to tie it all together." "But once you add actual characters to the game -- especially human characters -- there's something hardwired in us that makes us want a story to give context to the action. It's not required by the game. But it's desired by the player." (Dean, 2005) Source: "Ludology Meets Narratology: The Study of Video Games"
  14. 14. English/Writing Studies of Narratives ● Narrative is a pattern of organization for writing and a rhetorical mode for persuasion. ● The focal point of a narrative is the conflict (a problem that exists between two sides). ● Without conflict(s), the narrative has no meaning. Source: Man_Cutscene.svg/
  15. 15. Meaning of Fictional Narratives "In fiction, authors will create meaning by introducing conflicts in the life of a character. The way a character responds to these conflicts is part of what gives a story meaning." (Layne and Lewis, 2009) Source: "Plot, Theme, the Narrative Arc, and Narrative Patterns"
  16. 16. Elements of Narration Elements of narration helps one understand a narrative's meaning. They are like arrangeable "Lego Blocks." Here are the basic elements: ● Setting - Time and Place ● Character - Those involved in the conflict ● Conflict - A problem between 2 sides ● Plot - Sequence of events ● Action (Rising/Falling) - To progress story ● Climax - When all actions culminate to peak ● Resolution - How conflict is being solved ● Conclusion - Is the conflict solved (or not)?
  17. 17. "Good" Narrative . . . ● Places focus on the conflict(s). ● Develops multiple narrative elements. ● Organizes elements like Lego Blocks (linear v. nonlinear). ● Emphasizes some elements over others (ex. setting and characters). ● Uses actions for pacing and progression. Source: 293559142
  18. 18. So, why is "conflict" such a dominant element in narrative writing?
  19. 19. Philosophy of Language on Conflict According to Philosopher Jacques Derrida: ● We think in language, which sets limits on how we think about the world. ● Inherent in language are polarities that make us think about things in binaries (good vs. bad, beautiful vs. ugly, high vs. low, etc.). We tend to assign higher value to one concept over its opposing term. Source: "Jacques Derrida: Duality, Hierarchy, Priority"
  20. 20. We already think in "conflictive terms" due to thinking in language. Of course, English/Writing Studies show that “conflict” is not the only element needed to make engaging narratives.
  21. 21. Calls for Better Narrative Games Logical Actions and Emotional Development? "One of the weaknesses is a problem of verbs. Video game verbs tend to be running, shooting, a movie, and the verbs are different -- talking, asking, games are really good at the below-the- neck verbs." "We suck at tragedy. It's not really a thing for us. If we're doing interactive Romeo and Juliet, what happens? Oh my god, she died. Go back to the beginning. Go us. Not everything has to be a tragedy, but it's unfortunate that this is off-limits to us." (Schell, 2013) Source: "Jesse Schell's Search for the Shakespeare of Games" http://www.gamasutra. com/view/news/189370/Jesse_Schells_search_for_the_Shakespeare_of_video_games.php
  22. 22. Current Trend in Game Design: "The Walking Dead" "The Walking Dead, Mirror Neurons, and Empathy" (Madigan, 2012) http: // and-empathy/ Source:
  23. 23. Current Trend in Game Design: "Journey" "The Time to Evolve Emotional Content Is Now" (Lien, 2013) http://www. content-is-now-developers-say Source: 0_cinema_960.0.jpg
  24. 24. Current Trend in Game Design: "Amnesia" "Amnesia" (Duncan, 2011) http://3amthinkings.wordpress. com/2011/03/29/amnesia/ Source:
  25. 25. Questions? Comments? Gamer/Instructor Twitter @autnes Visual Bio Access to Slideshow!: