SXSW preview: Game story and gameplay

You didn’t think we were done yet, did you? We posted two weeks ago about game story and art direction in preparation for our Core Conversation at South by Southwest (SxSW). But since we’re all about a multidisciplinary approach, we’re not stopping there — we’ll be discussing a few techniques in the weeks to come. But first, if you want to create passion and meaningful games through story, you will need to master the greatest tool in your arsenal: gameplay.

I often hear new developers asking this question: “Which is more important in a game, story or gameplay?” If I ruled the nation of games, I would flog anyone who dared ask this question! It is based on a faulty premise, that story and gameplay are discrete elements in a game. If you suffer from this misconception, I highly recommend you repeat this mantra to yourself several times a day, perhaps clicking your heels together as you do:

The story is in the gameplay.

The story is in the gameplay.

As you may already know, one of the first rules of storytelling is “Show, don’t tell.” In games, it’s “Do, don’t show or tell.” In short, your players experience the story first by what they do in the game. The path ahead for the game industry is to develop innovative gameplay that is not only fun, but that more thoroughly embeds story and meaning into the game.

I often refer to PRINCE OF PERSIA as a great example of using gameplay to convey story and meaning. SPOILERS AHEAD! Why can you rewind combat and travel backward in time? The theme of the game centers around this very issue. The gameplay itself foreshadows the end, where you ultimately travel back in time before the inciting event of the game. The story supports the gameplay, and the gameplay supports the story.

Ready to share your own examples of gameplay that delivers story, or hear about new ones? Join the conversation March 10th at SxSW in Austin! In the meantime, stay tuned for more SxSW preview as we tackle another discipline you need to master to create passion and meaning in games!

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Filed under Game Design, Writing

One response to “SXSW preview: Game story and gameplay

  1. Pingback: Mapping the Brainysphere: 29 blogs switched-on gamers should read « Subject Navigator

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