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  • Storytelling In Games: Setting And Tools

    - Robert Renke

  • Emergent Story

    The third and last of Sylvester's(2013) tools is emergent story. Emergent story is the one generated during play, by the interaction of game mechanics and players.

    Designers indirectly author a game's emergent story when they design game mechanics. According to Sylvester(2013), "players of Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood have experienced millions of unique emergent stories about medieval battles, daring assassinations, and harrowing rooftop escapes. But none of these players has ever experienced the story of a medieval assassin brushing his teeth in the morning. Tooth brushing isn't a game mechanic in Brotherhood, so stories about it cannot emerge from that game. By setting up Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood's mechanics in a specific way, its designers determined which kinds of stories it is capable of generating. In this way, they indirectly authored the emergent stories it generates, even if they didn't script individual events."

    Kaufman(2019) sees the relationship of scripted and emergent story as a virtuous cycle, rather than a straight line: user stories are generated from authored content, which, in turn, can be scripted for reactivity.

    Figure 4: Kaufman, R. (2019). Narrative Nuances in Free-To-Play Mobile Games. Game Developers Conference.



    • Narrative structure: the organizational framework by which a story is ordered

      • Examples: linear, 3-act, maze and rhizome

    • Setting: Time and place over which the story unfolds

      • Examples: era, time of the year, geographic location, geological features

    • Narrative tool or device: method by which part of the story is transmitted

      • Mechanical narrative tools: cutscenes, camera perspective, collectables, tooltips, item descriptions, environment art, etc.

      • Literary devices: metaphores, allegories, sarcasm, omission, etc.

    • Scripted story: Category of narrative tools englobing tools used to display strictly authored, unobstructable events

      • Examples: authored dialogue, cutscenes, quests to some degree

    • Soft scripting: Category of narrative tools in which the player maintains some degree of authority while the scripted sequence is presented

      • Examples: optional scenes, sequences with reduced movement options

    • World narrative: Category of narrative tools englobing any tool in which the story unfolds through the space and its content

      • Examples: environment art, hidden content, collectables

    • Explorative story space: digital space comprised of world narrative elements and its placing within that space

    • Emergent story: story that emerge from the player's mind, as opposed to being told by the narrative team

      • Examples: word of mouth, streamer's content, fan art


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