1/5/2023 - Technology and Innovation

Importation of narrative in game design

By Hernán Brué

Importation of narrative in game design

What makes a video game good?

A few years ago, in the 90, more precisely, I used to constantly walk the 100 meters that separated my house from my cousin's to play with a device that allowed me to live the adventures of a red clothes plomero with mustache.. . I don't know if what else was holding me was my taste for technology or curiosity to see what challenges I would have to face this character to rescue the princess.

However, at that time, the system did not allow to keep progress and if for some reason we had to stop playing, we would have to start history again from the beginning at another time. Perhaps in this world, shaped by the young minds of two children, Mario would never meet with the princess and the wicked will live eternally with her as a prisoner.

Years later, having played many genres and game styles, having developed other various and, mainly, after having studied a Technique (and on the way to the license) in Video Game Design and Interactive Narrative at the National University of Rafaela, I grant myself the possibility to reflect on the design process of a video game and that is what allows it to develop through its multiple steps.

Can I leave an engaging, fun mechanic and form a story around it? Maybe yes, and that's what often happens, but what motivates you to move forward will feel forced and if you don't build a ludo narrative consonance you can get to generate discomfort in the player. Personally, I think it's much better to start with a reason. What helps you want to take the first step? Let's just answer these questions.

What are the mechanics and dynamics in a game?

First we form a basis and define concepts. We talk about mechanics from a game to every action that the player performs to interact with the rules of the game and modify their state, i.e.: jump, shoot, run, interact with particular objects, etc. Mechanics alone do not say much, so it is defined jointly the concept of dynamics, in reference to all actions and interactions derived from mechanics, and then it is there when we can talk about whether a mechanic is fun, functional and coherent.

What is the narrative in a video game?

On the other hand, we speak of narrative as the set of facts and motives that generate a story and link all elements of the game. The same does not need to be explicit only (often incorporated within what is called Lore) but can carry forward through the same objects and processes with which the player faces. For example, a carved stone can simply be an object more in the game, but if you give it a context and if you associate it with a story, you can become a more meaningful and attractive element for the player.

How to build a good narrative in a game

Returning to the example presented at the beginning, the plomero game (to prevent the great N from making any claim), can be framed within the genus “Plataforms” 2D lateral displacement. His usual mechanics, jump and run, determine an implicit narrative: a set of challenges, through various worlds, to which the player will face to be able to rescue his princess. If you didn't have a big reward at the end of the course, what sense would you have to ski all kinds of alimanhas, jump above infinite voids and avoid cannonballs, finally facing a dragon tortoise that squeezes fire? Perhaps without any reason you can perform the first levels a few times, but with a reason you can accomplish them all, including strengthening yourself to overcome challenges that result in a way more complex than others.

The importance of narrative in creating video games

In conclusion, the narrative is a key element in video game design. From the first platform titles to today's most sophisticated games, the history and the world that is created around you are fundamental to capture the player's attention and motivate to advance.

In the development of a new game, it is important to consider that the game experience goes beyond simply controlling a character that moves between two points in a given genre. Instead, it is a process in which the player builds a purpose and finds meaning in everything he experiences and observes through a set of rules and mechanics. This can motivate the player to advance and discover the various elements the game has to offer, and allows you to connect these elements in a coherent way.

Obviously, each genre will have more narrative load than others. It is not the same silverformero than we are talking about a game of adventures. Also, sometimes, the narrative load decreases to almost invisible levels, because the mechanics and the goal of the game do not propose a suitable environment, that is, perhaps in a hypercasual (games for mobile devices of extremely short games and centered on monetization) the narrative could be considered null, but that, even in these cases, still exists in some or other way.

It is important to have a proper balance in the work and effort that is devoted to the details of a game object, because too much focus on them can be unproductive and from the uneffective technical point of view. That is, si think from the point of view of development, it would be unhappi and even, from the technical point of view, unproductive, that an object of the game has too much work (planning, modeling, programming, etc.) in its details, but that the mechanics, by a poor conception of it in the design process, do not allow you to stop it to observe it and even, perhaps, do not give the importance it has for the narrative.

That is, that the plomero crossed the sea and land risking his life just to find out that he didn't know what he was fighting with an anthropomorphic tortoise that would retain a stranger.

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hernan brue

Hernán Brué

Hi, my name is Hernán Brue, I'm 36 years old and I'm a University Technician in Video Games Development and Interactive Narrative. I am currently living in Rafaela, Santa Fe and serving as a videogame design teacher at the National University of Rafaela (UNRaf). I consider myself a very enthusiastic, adaptable person, and I am always looking for new challenges and opportunities to develop professionally.
During my previous years of training I had the opportunity to experiment with different disciplines, from chemistry to electromechanics, which has allowed me to acquire a wide technical base and experience in the field. I am convinced that this training has provided me with the tools necessary to carry out important projects and work successfully in different fields.

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