Monday, December 8, 2014

Game Stories: First-Stage Recap

This week, Game Stories changes things up a little.

DUN-DUN-DUNNNNNNNNNNNNNNH!

I've done six posts in the series, talking about the narrative elements of various games, and I think it's time for a bit of a refresher, because I want to move on to some big places here. Today, I'll go back over the first part of the series, summing up what we've learned so far about narrative in games. Then, I'll talk about where I hope to take this series.


  • Shadowrun: Crossfire--I talked about how the basic Obstacle mechanics tell a small sort of story that brings in all of the members on the runners' team. In this game, micro-sized subplots pile up against one another and keep complicating the run as they make it more challenging.
  • Carcassonne--I discussed the way that this game creates a world of its own, developing a physical artifact as you play it. Each player develops the story of the world of Carcassonne one piece at a time, and it's different every time.
  • Countdowns of DOOM--This post was about a common mechanism found in a number of games, particularly cooperative games: the countdown clock. I went over the three key elements to a countdown clock: threat, reminder, and progress.
  • Hanabi--This was a personal favorite of mine, and this time, I went into some unique territory for Game Stories: I discussed how a game narrative can involve invoking a particular mood. For Hanabi, the post was about how information control leads to a particular atmosphere of hilarious confusion and miscommunication.
  • Coup--Here, I introduced the blog audience to the bluffing game Coup, a game that defines characters with distinctive abilities which interact with one another in some way. I talked about how you can create strong characterization with an iconic character power.
  • Marvel Legendary--Finally, this was my first post in the series: I talked about how the decks for Nightcrawler and Angel do a great job of making you feel like you're playing with the actual characters. How? By giving them abilities that instinctively remind you of what the characters do in the comics.

So What's Next?
I'm thinking of these first six posts as a springboard for later ones. I've covered some very ground-level stuff--mood, distinct character abilities, and packing bite-sized stories into the game. I want to start moving up and looking at what happens when these elements come together. I'll keep interspersing the more detailed looks at narrative mechanisms in games, but Game Stories posts are headed in a higher-level direction.

I'll start talking about how a game uses several different mechanisms to build a specific narrative as a whole. I'll talk more about games that I've already covered here, building on the first post and introducing other story mechanics that combine with it. There's a lot of layers in many board games, and each layer builds on the narrative that's being told.

At some point, though I might save that for after the next recap, I want to start putting together these ideas into an example, building the basic mechanics for a game from scratch. (I know, it sounds impressive, but it really isn't. Most of the work in game design happens after you come up with the initial idea.)

Stay tuned, and I hope you enjoy it!