What is a “Master of Narrative Design”? – The Narrative Design Exploratorium™

What is a “Master of Narrative Design”?

Most recently I was asked by a rather famous game writer, whom I’ve been trying to interview, how I decide who is a candidate for the Master of Narrative Design series, rather than a Game Writer in the Trenches on the Narrative Design Exploratorium. It was the first time I was asked, realizing ego, not just my own, was at stake I did my best to cushion the response. Apparently to some being a game writer in the trenches is inherently less sexy than being a master. I suppose understandably so. That being said, it was a great question, and it got me thinking.
Despite my Masters Degree from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts in Interactive Media,
I wouldn’t call myself a master. Though I intend to be one day, but the
decision of my qualification will certainly not be my own. I’ve been
wrestling with the Interactive Narrative Designer position for 3 years
now, and do a good amount of game writing, but a game writer alone I am
not. Therein, I don’t know if I’d qualify for either series!

are people that have been writing, designing and/or producing
interactive narrative experiences for 20+ years. Secondly, they are
individuals whom have made  a serious contribution to the video game
industry in their tenure. It’s a bit false in the sense that few people
have been Interactive Narrative Designers for more that 5 years, let
alone 20, since the position was only established recently in the
industry. That being said, there have been many people drawn to games
and immersive experiences over the past 50 years because of the
potential associated with participatory, or interactive, storytelling.
I select these individuals because of their passion to create
top-quality video game experiences that are imbued with the kind of
meaning previously only associated with other arts. Yes, to me
interactive narrative is an art. Lastly, they are individuals whom
inspire me, and that I have most likely met in my time in interactive

Game writers on the other hand are just that, folk that have been
working in games for less than 20 years and are still in trenches of
development trying to make a name, and some damn good games while
they’re at it. For the most part these are freelancers that work as
contractors in games, and they only write, staying away from other
roles like design and production. They are passionate, talented people
whom are pushing the media forward.

With all this in mind, the
differentiation is by no means meant to be a judgment call on the
caliber of these individuals or their work. It is simply a way for me
to create more content and scope the nature of the content. Sometimes
my questions might be similar for the two series, but, it’s the answers
that should seem different; as naturally masters have a slightly
different perspective, one which is provided to them by the wisdom of
their tenure. I hope all my readers continue to enjoy the series, and
that anyone I may have offended will forgive my apparent judgment
calls. All I seek is to remain in a quality, cutting-edge, dialogue
with my peers and mentors in the interactive entertainment industry. 
Thanks for your time.

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This page contains a single article by Stephen E. Dinehart published on January 30, 2009 7:10 AM.

Game Writers in the Trenches™ 4: Jeff Spock was the previous entry in this blog.

Masters of Narrative Design 8™: Bob Bates 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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