Pax Panel: Storytelling in Games

This is a pretty great panel hosted by experienced game writers (with very unfortunate audio, but it’s still worth it).

Its overriding theme is pretty clear from the beginning: story and gameplay aren’t mutually exclusive, but different games will pay different amounts of attention to both aspects. A more subtle notion involves the player’s thoughts once they walk away from the game. During play, mechanics and specific gameplay portions may have our attention, but months after playing games (or think about them in our dreams) the shining moments usually involve story: who did you romance, who did you save, did you kill him or set him free? Even in WoW, there’s something to be said about thinking of fights as “dodge the breath attack, kill the minions, then attack his weak point” versus “move out of particle effect, dps priority adds>boss.” There are times when I thought of the latter during a fight, but in retrospect I’d describe it as the former, and even those details are part of the mind theater.

This is one reason I can appreciate ludonarrative dissonance academically, but it isn’t usually a big problem for me if the story is interesting and the gameplay is good. My brain mostly shunts parts of games into their respective playing/reflecting corners. Story mechanics and their interface with gameplay is important, but the broader goal of creating an emergent experience where the player guides the story is by far the memorable portion.

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