First, the article will discuss the notion of narrative game mechanics, and its theoretical groundings. Second, it will showcase the Narrative Design Canvas as a practical instrument for teaching narrative design. This canvas can be used by students to analyze and design narrative games. It helps them to recognize and establish a connection between a game’s written narrative (expressed for example in dialogues and cutscenes) and a game’s mechanics. The article concludes with a closer look at the game Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Using the canvas, the game’s narrative design will be analyzed. This analysis reveals how the game succeeds in creating an engaging narrative experience by articulating developments in the authored storyline through changes in the game mechanics.
Using a step-by-step approach, the narrative design canvas helps you to: • Turn a basic idea into a detailed concept • Create a concept that integrates narrative context, player interaction and player experience • Map and discuss the internal consistency of the concept. How to use the canvas? Step 1: Write down your initial idea on top of the canvas. Try to keep it short. You can follow this basic format: ‘The theme of this interactive narrative is [one or two words]. The interactive narrative is about [one or two sentences]’. The purpose of writing down your idea is twofold: it forces you to be explicit about what you want to make. It also gives you guidance when you are working on step two and three. Reading back your original idea every once in a while, helps you to regain focus on those aspects that matter most in your concept. In the process, your initial idea can also change. This is not a bad thing. Just write down any changes on the canvas. Step 2: Fill in the empty fields of the canvas. The second step helps you to consider the integration of narrative, interaction and player experience. Only with this integration in place, an engaging interactive narrative can be created. You don't want to end up with a lesser experience for the player. When working on step two, follow this basic rule: -You can start on any of the empty fields on the canvas. However, always fill in the other two fields on the same horizontal ladder, before you move to another field. Step 3: Throw three dice and use markers to map the internal consistency of your concept For the last step, you need three dice (preferably blue, yellow and green) and two markers (green and red). Throw the three dice, check the numbers, and see what fields on the canvas you have thrown (when you throw a six, you are free to choose any number). Now, try to make an argument why these fields are well connected. If you find the argument convincing, draw a green line between the fields. If you find the argument unconvincing, draw a red line between the fields. Repeat this step at least five times. Slowly, you will start to see where the internal consistency of your concept needs work, and where it is already solid. Re-work the canvas until you are happy with all the fields.
This paper shares the results of an interactive digital narrative (IDN) project, conducted at HKU University of the Arts Utrecht. We consider the potential of ‘IDN for change’, before we describe the project, the underlying design approach and the educational approaches. A particularfocus of this paper is on pedagogical considerations. We describe the educational challenges we have encountered during the project as well as the pedagogical interventions we have implemented to counter these difficulties. On this basis, we discuss a more general perspective on the state and issues in IDN-focused pedagogy.
Ludonarrative aspects have not been the focus of video game studies. During the foundational phase of the discipline, the focus was placed on game mechanics and on understanding what distinguishes games from earlier forms like the movie or the novel. In recent years, however, the growing field of narrative-focused games (e.g. Dear Esther (The Chinese Room 2008), Gone Home (The Fullbright Company 2013), Telltale Games’ productions like The Walking Dead (Telltale Games 2012), The Wolf Amongst Us (Telltale Games 2013), Firewatch (Campo Santo 2016)) have alerted us to the possibilities of narrative expressions that embrace the affordances and unique possibilities of digital interactivity. In other words – these games do not attempt to ‘interactivize’ print literature or the movie, but instead explore a different and so far largely unexplored space of interactive digital narration. This development needs to be reflected in video game teaching. Yet, so far, narrative has been a stepchild in games education. Most game design degree programs feature only a single course on the topic. Our approach instead is to offer a minor concentration within a game design program.
In recent years, interactive narrative design has become the main activity of a diverse group professionals working in video games, agencies, museums, at broadcasters, and online newspapers. At the same time, there has been no degree program in interactive narrative design, which indicates that many narrative designers are self-trained. By starting an educational program we aim to address this problem, using the opportunity to also include perspectives outside of games.
While there have been many discussions about the purpose of game studies programs over the years (e.g., the GDC games Educator summit, the teaching game studies workshops at past DIGRA conferences1 ), relatively few of those discussions resulted in publications on concrete pedagogical strategies. In fact, despite the broadly shared aim of educating independent, critical, and even innovative game scholars and designers (as opposed to a compliant workforce for the AAA industry) (cf. Bogost et al. 2005), game pedagogy literature has maintained a relatively conventional approach to teaching.
This paper outlines a roadmap for interactive narrative research that integrates disparate parts while focusing on identifying and experimentally veri‐ fying IDN design conventions and on developing a pedagogy to further the devel‐ opment of a professional discipline of IDN creators. This effort connects several key areas, in which the authors have worked before and which are now brought together. These include a specific theory, an approach towards interactive narra‐ tive design and its evaluation, an expanded understanding of the manifestations constituting the field, the pedagogy of educating creators of IDN artifacts and a perspective on the cultural significance of these creative expressions as tools to represent complexity.