Narrative Designer Manifesto – The Narrative Design Exploratorium™

Narrative Designer Manifesto

Since the beginning of the video game industry story, or narrative, has always seemed to be given the backseat in development. Elements of games like repetitive combative play mechanics, audio and ever improving visual graphics are given priority over story except in rare production environments. The industry continually strives to incorporate cinematic like interactive storytelling, but for the most part seems to miss the mark, bringing writers in at the end of production to make sense of the mess, leaving a lot of games looking as undeveloped derivatives.

This is changing, evidence of that fact is abound; maturing next generation gaming audiences are demanding more rich narrative experiences through better-crafted game and story play; not simply a repetitive set of mechanics with over embellished cut-scenes. Some pioneers have brought the medium and the craft forward, but now is a time which demands more than iterative product development we need a restructuring of the business as a whole to reflect the importance of story in video games.

Most current video game production models treat story as a misnomer at most, given small budget allotments as a disposable commodity. Writers are contracted for brief periods, usually off-site, and rarely have the chance to work with a team to define the direction of a game. It would be as if the ever-famous PIXAR Studios began production by animating for a year, or more, to figure out what the movie and animation is, then after a long period of development, and looming deadlines, scrapping together some contracted talent to make some sense out of the omni-directional chaos with a written script.

The video game industry has subscribed to a model that does just that. For sake of players, game-makers and purse holders all, a model akin to traditional media production where the preproduction planning of a product by professionally trained interactive storytellers, narrative designers, through written documentation which acts as reference for a team during agile development, must be implemented.

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About this NDE Article

This page contains a single article by Stephen E. Dinehart published on May 13, 2008 5:37 PM.

What is an ideal game narrative? was the previous entry in this blog.

Video Games as Gesamtkunstwerk: the total artwork is the next entry in this blog.

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Author Stephen E. Dinehart is a producer, designer, writer, and artist. You can find out more about him on his self-titled website.

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