For the rest of this term, my year 10s and I are having the joy of exploring narrative structures in gaming. Both my students and I see this as an exciting opportunity to delve deeply into narrative driven games and the importance of writing as well as that fine blend of writing, interface and interactivity within games.
We have certainly met some hiccups along the way, the big one being what they want to play and what they are allowed to play being two different things. Some want to examine adventure, some want to examine strategy, others simulation games.
I do want them to know the difference between emergent and embedded narrative structures. However, our focus is on narrative driven games and how the writer is no different from the playwright or author – they need the hook, they need character motivation and reader (in this case player) motivation. When we teach students how to write short stories we tell them ‘hook your reader’, ‘make your reader want to read on’. The game writer needs to do this too. The player needs to want to keep playing.
I want them to explore the nuances of games. I want them to go beyond just the story line to the interactivity. I don’t want them focusing on cutscenes only. I want them to take note of how the controller feels when you are Ellie rather than Joel in ‘The Last of Us’. I want them to understand choice, motivation, point of view, perspectives.
In English we learn through stories. We learn about life through stories. I want my students to draw the conclusion that the stories in games are another way to learn about life and that maybe, just maybe, one or two of them will realise that a strong story driven game can be a good related text when we do concept studies.