Borderlands Zed
INFR 1330 (2014) Basic Introduction to Game Design

Dramatic Elements of Games and Narrative Design

Cite this article as: Lennart Nacke. (September 19, 2014). Dramatic Elements of Games and Narrative Design. The Acagamic. Retrieved December 10, 2018, from http://www.acagamic.com/courses/infr1330-2014/dramatic-elements-of-games-and-narrative-design/.

Welcome to the third week of class in the course: Basic Introduction to Game Design. Make sure to read the syllabus and course information before you continue. Today, we are going to discuss the dramatic elements of games and the narrative design behind games. This text follows closely from our textbooks (Game Design Workshop, Chapters 4 and Challenges for Game Designers, Chapter 13); it also takes inspiration from the Salen and Zimmerman book Rules of Play (Chapter 26).

Otis in Monkey Island

The Secret of Monkey Island (Lucasfilm Games, 1990) created a wealth of memorable characters (here the prisoner Otis) often with great humour.

Narrative Design

While there has been some debate on the significance of narrative in games (the ludology vs. narratology debate), story can be highly relevant for creating your gameplay and will help give your formal game elements necessary meaning. Narrative in general helps us to process information and make sense of things in our lives. Narratives are everywhere and they are used for everything. It is obvious that they can be found in the medium of games, whether it is a story that helps us makes sense of the game or a story told by the game. Literary theorist J. Hillis Miller defines components of a narrative in the following:

  • Situation. Stories revolve around changing states (going from an initial state towards a sequence of changing states), which are representative of the events that drive a story.
  • Form. Stories provide common anchors in them, which allow us to process them using patterns and repetitions. Every aspect of a story and a theme can have patterns and repetitions to it.
  • Character. In stories, we like to personify events to make them relevant to us. The character of a story (and this can be different from personas in stories) is created out of signs.

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Pac-Man Things
INFR 1330 (2014) Basic Introduction to Game Design

The formal systems of games and game design atoms

Cite this article as: Lennart Nacke. (September 12, 2014). The formal systems of games and game design atoms. The Acagamic. Retrieved December 10, 2018, from http://www.acagamic.com/courses/infr1330-2014/the-formal-systems-of-games-and-game-design-atoms/.

Welcome to the second week of class in the course: Basic Introduction to Game Design. Make sure to read the syllabus and course information before you continue. Today, we are going to discuss the formal system structures of games (an introduction to its formal and dramatic elements) and game design atoms. This text follows closely from our textbooks (Game Design Workshop, Chapters 2 & 3 and Challenges for Game Designers, Chapter 2); it also takes inspiration from the Salen and Zimmerman book Rules of Play (Chapters 5,6,7). Keep in mind that game design is a field of practice and even when you are reading all the information from this course, there is no substitute for working on some games at home for practice.

The Definition of Games

Rather than pondering on the exact definitions of game here (many of which can be found in Rules of Play, Chapter 7), we want to look at what’s most useful to us as game designers.

“Design is the process by which a designer creates a context to be encountered by a participant, from which meaning emerges.” (Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman)

This quote from the Rules of Play book encapsulates the main items that we should focus on as game designers: (1) Context, which can be the spaces, objects, story and behaviours that you encounter in games. (2) Participants are your players that act upon your game context for example via manipulation or exploration. They inhabit your game world to play. (3) Meaning is a concept that we have already mentioned last week when we talked about meaningful choice. When players take actions in your game, meaningful play should emerge from the agency that players feel. Meaning here is tied to the value of significance of something encountered in a game for the individual player. Even in real life, meaning is important to us because it helps us navigate through our world and interpret the people and the world around us. Our everyday interactions are essentially guided by meaning-making. Continue reading

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