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Polygon: How to write a video game story [Long-Form Feature]


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You'll have to set aside some time to read this, but it goes into a lot.



I’ve learned a ton of storytelling tips and techniques that shape the story, that add to its most intense beats, and that create an ending that feels satisfying and whole, at least to me. I feel the class has made me a better writer, and it’s made me understand game design more fully.


I’ve also learned to further appreciate how games are taking basic theories about story and subverting them in the name of fun and interactivity. When I play Reigns: Game of Thrones, I’m struck by how cleverly each character, each quest, and each decision follows a pattern of inciting incident, crisis, and resolution (though not always in that order).


Few games can (or should) blindly follow a three-act shape. But understanding form is how artists learn to subvert and surprise. This is the value of the course.


The biggest lesson is that writers of games aren’t merely storytellers; they are kinetic designers. Like all writers, they must create words by conjuring imagery. But they must also operate in the realm of action. The story is about the characters, of course. It’s also about what the player sees. But, most importantly, it’s about what the player does in the context of the narrative. Marrying character, action, and player together is the trick. This requires three-dimensional thinking that I now know for certain is a tough skill to master. My admiration for good game writers increases.


I still have no plans to make a game, but I’ll write up Olivia as a short story for my weekly fiction writers group. She exists in the world now. She and the nun have taught me something about what it means to be a person.


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32 minutes ago, XxEvil AshxX said:

I'm trying to write a book right now, that's difficult enough.


Writing a damn short story is difficult enough. Writing a whole novel? Damn. Writing dozens of hours in a game, with side missions and sometimes different story paths depending on choices? Holy shit.

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