Invogames
A Complete Guide to Game Narrative Design

A Complete Guide to Game Narrative Design

Invogames

|

February 29, 2024

|

4 min read

Have you ever wondered why people play games? Is it because they want to test their skills or put their high-density graphic card to use? 

Gaming is about creating a sense of belongingness, interacting and growing relationships with game characters, and satisfying esteem needs, allowing players to access a mythical land where they rule. 


In this world of pixels, the game design narrative is the backdrop on which it guides its player throughout the story, characters, and worlds.

In a way, this is good. We still have much to discover in narrative design and explore new conventions and expectations. Every narrative game designer comes up with new and exciting ways of engaging players. In today’s blog, we will explore the science and art of game narrative design.

So what is a “Game Narrative,” and how is it different from a “Storytelling”?

What is Game Narrative Design?

Video game narrative design is the interplay between gameplay and the overarching narrative experience. This is where game design and storytelling meet. It is how we know how the player reacts to the story we want to tell. It's not writing that story, writing the individual lines of dialogue, or even plotting out what will happen over the story. 

The Power Of Narrative In Video Games

 

A Narrative in a game is an experience. It transforms a game from a series of missions and challenges into an unforgettable journey. 

A well-made narrative can deeply engage players, making them feel part of the game's world. It's about developing a connection beyond the screen, tapping into the player's emotional side, and creating an everlasting effect.

Different Structures of  Narrative In Games

When you are structuring your game narrative, there are a few rules to it. You may need to make a flowchart for your game narrative, structuring every turning point and specific quests within your game. 

Create a flowchart of your game narrative

Think of it as creating a map for your story with the major turn points. Here, you will arrange your outline in a flowchart format so that you can view the whole picture. You add plot points, update character biographies, plan the story's evolution, and find possible side missions. 

If you intend to add side quests, just indicate on your flow chart where they might appear and concentrate on organizing your main plot elements instead of worrying about the specifics of those quests at this stage. Here is an example of a flowchart to help you see how yours might appear. 

There are many various kinds of games that actually have a storyline, and some of them even combine several distinct kinds of storytelling. Three primary categories of storylines: branching, linear, and interconnected.

There are several different ways to structure your games. 

There are many various kinds of games that actually have a storyline, and some of them even combine several distinct kinds of storytelling. Three primary categories of storylines: branching, linear, and interconnected.

Linear

A linear narrative prevents the player from going backward, moving forward, or changing the plot in any way. Instead, it follows a fairly definite sequence of events. Popular titles in this genre are Prince of Persia and Super Mario Bros. As all of them follow a clear straight path from start to end. 

Interconnected

The narrative approach known as the "string of pearls" describes a game's overall linear progression that the player can modify. 

A degree of interactivity in this approach allows the player to select from a variety of tasks and side quests. Among the well-known titles are Final Fantasy and Uncharted.

Branching

A more intricate story that is essential to the player's decisions is a branching narrative. With this kind of storytelling, the player has the ability to steer the plot's development and alter the conclusion based on their decisions. The well-known horror game Until Dawn on the PlayStation 4 serves as one example. 

These are created through gameplay mechanics and player actions, often unique to each player's experience.

Each narrative type presents diverse experiences and challenges in game design, dealing with various player preferences and improving replayability.

How to Structure A Compelling Game Narrative?

A compelling game narrative follows the players' journey. The centerpiece is the first glance,


Introduction

A compelling game narrative follows the players' journey. The centerpiece is the first glance, the introduction, how you introduce the game to the audience, its rules, and how your character leads everyday life. You get the drill? Think of it as a bedrock of your game narrative. 

The Incident 

The incident is the point of the story where everything changes. An event that impulses the primary player to set on a course of action. For example in the game SUper Mario, a plumber named and his brother travel through the Mushroom Kingdom to save the princess abducted by an evil Bowser.

Rising Action

This is the core of your game. As the story gains momentum, the actions get more intense. This series of heightened events drives the character forward, leading conflicts, adversaries, and, importantly, crossing thresholds.

Each obstacle becomes more complex than the previous, introducing new challenges and levels as the player progresses. 

The Midpoint

The midpoint is the turning point in your game narrative. The main character faces a significant barrier at this point, experiencing a turning moment. It is a point where your character rethinks his whole mission and gets driven by emotions that change the course of the game narrative. 

The Climax

As the story progresses, the climax becomes the focal point. This is where your character faces the ultimate head-on challenge. This is the moment of highest stakes, intense action, and filled with emotional catharsis, where the whole character development pays off. 

Take it as the final and toughest battle in your game, the point introduced in the beginning of the game and has now climbed to highest intensity.  

The Conclusion

Your narrative must come to a satisfactory conclusion. This is the part where you can see the consequences of your decision taken throughout the game. As your character experiences the impact of their actions on the game world. 

4 Tips for a Great Game Narrative Design

Here are a few tips for creative narrative writing. These are the four things that most wish they knew as a successful narrative designer. Hopefully, they will help you with your upcoming game.


Here are a few tips for creative narrative writing. These are the four things that most wish they knew as a successful narrative designer. Hopefully, they will help you with your upcoming game.  

Tip # 1 Start Gameplay With Story

Beginners in narrative writing often make the mistake of creating disconnected stories, prioritizing awesomeness over gameplay integration. This leads to disjointed player experiences, demonstrated by Mortal Kombat X's mismatched story and gameplay. 

Professional writers emphasize "verbing," analyzing gameplay mechanics to identify verbs (e.g., fighting, exploring) for emotional storytelling. 

By shaping the narrative around player actions, the goal is to make gameplay an integral and emotionally compelling part of the gaming experience, creating synergy between story and mechanics.

Tip # 2 Game Narrative isn't Words

Your game narrative needs more than just cutscenes and dialogue to get what is considered a good game narrative. Pay attention to the broad potential for storytelling within a game. 

Narrative design, a vital skill, demands every element—writing, gameplay, game environment design, and more—to contribute to the story. The story, fundamentally an idea, extends beyond dialogue, with various game components conveying different facets. 

For instance, environment art can speak volumes without explicit writing, allowing players to piece together narratives. The use of music in games, like in Far Cry 3, exemplifies how combining elements such as gameplay and audio design can enhance character arcs and storytelling. 

Tip # 3 Narrative Is A Form Of Feedback

The challenge with narrative in video games lies in its non-interactivity; players can't read while actively playing. Though voice acting can be absorbed during gameplay, it demands moments of low concentration. 

Effective game writing requires strategic placement, considering both when it's presented and how much is delivered at once. The "feedback loop" concept becomes crucial, aligning writing with the three-part player cycle: action, effect, and feedback. 

Writing should function as a form of feedback, informing players about the consequences of their actions within the game world. 

Tip # 4 Prioritize the Environment over Sequence. 

Unlike books or movies, a video game is an interactive environment where players dictate the story through their actions. 

This demands a unique approach to the environment, where the narrative designer creates a world that emotionally engages your players. Even in games with a linear plot, the environment shapes the player's journey, as seen in The Last of Us.

Understanding that game environments impact narratives allows for diverse storytelling structures, from branching narratives to modular and emergent stories. Emphasize the importance of the environment as the bedrock for storytelling.

InvoGames’ Expertise in Game Narrative Design

Hire our game designers, who specialize in creating characters that resonate with players. We develop their motivations, personalities, and arcs to ensure players contribute meaningfully to the narrative.

Have you ever wondered why people play games? Is it because they want to test their skills or put their high-density graphic card to use? 

Gaming is about creating a sense of belongingness, interacting and growing relationships with game characters, and satisfying esteem needs, allowing players to access a mythical land where they rule. 


In this world of pixels, the game design narrative is the backdrop on which it guides its player throughout the story, characters, and worlds.

In a way, this is good. We still have much to discover in narrative design and explore new conventions and expectations. Every narrative game designer comes up with new and exciting ways of engaging players. In today’s blog, we will explore the science and art of game narrative design.

So what is a “Game Narrative,” and how is it different from a “Storytelling”?

What is Game Narrative Design?

Video game narrative design is the interplay between gameplay and the overarching narrative experience. This is where game design and storytelling meet. It is how we know how the player reacts to the story we want to tell. It's not writing that story, writing the individual lines of dialogue, or even plotting out what will happen over the story. 

The Power Of Narrative In Video Games

 

A Narrative in a game is an experience. It transforms a game from a series of missions and challenges into an unforgettable journey. 

A well-made narrative can deeply engage players, making them feel part of the game's world. It's about developing a connection beyond the screen, tapping into the player's emotional side, and creating an everlasting effect.

Different Structures of  Narrative In Games

When you are structuring your game narrative, there are a few rules to it. You may need to make a flowchart for your game narrative, structuring every turning point and specific quests within your game. 

Create a flowchart of your game narrative

Think of it as creating a map for your story with the major turn points. Here, you will arrange your outline in a flowchart format so that you can view the whole picture. You add plot points, update character biographies, plan the story's evolution, and find possible side missions. 

If you intend to add side quests, just indicate on your flow chart where they might appear and concentrate on organizing your main plot elements instead of worrying about the specifics of those quests at this stage. Here is an example of a flowchart to help you see how yours might appear. 

There are many various kinds of games that actually have a storyline, and some of them even combine several distinct kinds of storytelling. Three primary categories of storylines: branching, linear, and interconnected.

There are several different ways to structure your games. 

There are many various kinds of games that actually have a storyline, and some of them even combine several distinct kinds of storytelling. Three primary categories of storylines: branching, linear, and interconnected.

Linear

A linear narrative prevents the player from going backward, moving forward, or changing the plot in any way. Instead, it follows a fairly definite sequence of events. Popular titles in this genre are Prince of Persia and Super Mario Bros. As all of them follow a clear straight path from start to end. 

Interconnected

The narrative approach known as the "string of pearls" describes a game's overall linear progression that the player can modify. 

A degree of interactivity in this approach allows the player to select from a variety of tasks and side quests. Among the well-known titles are Final Fantasy and Uncharted.

Branching

A more intricate story that is essential to the player's decisions is a branching narrative. With this kind of storytelling, the player has the ability to steer the plot's development and alter the conclusion based on their decisions. The well-known horror game Until Dawn on the PlayStation 4 serves as one example. 

These are created through gameplay mechanics and player actions, often unique to each player's experience.

Each narrative type presents diverse experiences and challenges in game design, dealing with various player preferences and improving replayability.

How to Structure A Compelling Game Narrative?

A compelling game narrative follows the players' journey. The centerpiece is the first glance,


Introduction

A compelling game narrative follows the players' journey. The centerpiece is the first glance, the introduction, how you introduce the game to the audience, its rules, and how your character leads everyday life. You get the drill? Think of it as a bedrock of your game narrative. 

The Incident 

The incident is the point of the story where everything changes. An event that impulses the primary player to set on a course of action. For example in the game SUper Mario, a plumber named and his brother travel through the Mushroom Kingdom to save the princess abducted by an evil Bowser.

Rising Action

This is the core of your game. As the story gains momentum, the actions get more intense. This series of heightened events drives the character forward, leading conflicts, adversaries, and, importantly, crossing thresholds.

Each obstacle becomes more complex than the previous, introducing new challenges and levels as the player progresses. 

The Midpoint

The midpoint is the turning point in your game narrative. The main character faces a significant barrier at this point, experiencing a turning moment. It is a point where your character rethinks his whole mission and gets driven by emotions that change the course of the game narrative. 

The Climax

As the story progresses, the climax becomes the focal point. This is where your character faces the ultimate head-on challenge. This is the moment of highest stakes, intense action, and filled with emotional catharsis, where the whole character development pays off. 

Take it as the final and toughest battle in your game, the point introduced in the beginning of the game and has now climbed to highest intensity.  

The Conclusion

Your narrative must come to a satisfactory conclusion. This is the part where you can see the consequences of your decision taken throughout the game. As your character experiences the impact of their actions on the game world. 

4 Tips for a Great Game Narrative Design

Here are a few tips for creative narrative writing. These are the four things that most wish they knew as a successful narrative designer. Hopefully, they will help you with your upcoming game.


Here are a few tips for creative narrative writing. These are the four things that most wish they knew as a successful narrative designer. Hopefully, they will help you with your upcoming game.  

Tip # 1 Start Gameplay With Story

Beginners in narrative writing often make the mistake of creating disconnected stories, prioritizing awesomeness over gameplay integration. This leads to disjointed player experiences, demonstrated by Mortal Kombat X's mismatched story and gameplay. 

Professional writers emphasize "verbing," analyzing gameplay mechanics to identify verbs (e.g., fighting, exploring) for emotional storytelling. 

By shaping the narrative around player actions, the goal is to make gameplay an integral and emotionally compelling part of the gaming experience, creating synergy between story and mechanics.

Tip # 2 Game Narrative isn't Words

Your game narrative needs more than just cutscenes and dialogue to get what is considered a good game narrative. Pay attention to the broad potential for storytelling within a game. 

Narrative design, a vital skill, demands every element—writing, gameplay, game environment design, and more—to contribute to the story. The story, fundamentally an idea, extends beyond dialogue, with various game components conveying different facets. 

For instance, environment art can speak volumes without explicit writing, allowing players to piece together narratives. The use of music in games, like in Far Cry 3, exemplifies how combining elements such as gameplay and audio design can enhance character arcs and storytelling. 

Tip # 3 Narrative Is A Form Of Feedback

The challenge with narrative in video games lies in its non-interactivity; players can't read while actively playing. Though voice acting can be absorbed during gameplay, it demands moments of low concentration. 

Effective game writing requires strategic placement, considering both when it's presented and how much is delivered at once. The "feedback loop" concept becomes crucial, aligning writing with the three-part player cycle: action, effect, and feedback. 

Writing should function as a form of feedback, informing players about the consequences of their actions within the game world. 

Tip # 4 Prioritize the Environment over Sequence. 

Unlike books or movies, a video game is an interactive environment where players dictate the story through their actions. 

This demands a unique approach to the environment, where the narrative designer creates a world that emotionally engages your players. Even in games with a linear plot, the environment shapes the player's journey, as seen in The Last of Us.

Understanding that game environments impact narratives allows for diverse storytelling structures, from branching narratives to modular and emergent stories. Emphasize the importance of the environment as the bedrock for storytelling.

InvoGames’ Expertise in Game Narrative Design

Hire our game designers, who specialize in creating characters that resonate with players. We develop their motivations, personalities, and arcs to ensure players contribute meaningfully to the narrative.

frequently asked questions

The creative team defines the story framework and major emotional aspects of a game during the narrative game design phase of the development process. 

A game must have tension, excitement, major wins, and a feeling of achievement in order to be entertaining. Your plot should contain engaging objectives and things players are interested in obtaining if you want to elicit these emotions in your players.

An interesting core conflict that propels the narrative, well-developed and immersive game world, well-paced event progression that keeps players engaged and enthralled are all necessary components of a great video game plot.

Writer InvoGames

Written By:

Kammil Sarbuland
Content Writer

Know More About Gaming Industry

1 / 4

InvoGames
InvoGames
InvoGamesInvoGames
Phone
WhatsApp Icon