Midterm - Chapter 4

Scenarios and Storytelling

Why Do We Tell Stories?

  • Carl Jung and the "Collective Unconciousness"
    • Universal themes and archetypes.
    • Supported by Characters and Story Types in:
      • Art
      • Literature
      • Film
      • Music
      • TV
      • Games

Where Do Ideas Come From?

  • Reality and the escape thereof.
  • Fact and Fantasy.
  • Truth and fiction.
  • The context of YOUR experience.

Hollywood Three-Act

Three parts. Integrates with the Monomyth.

  • 1. Act 1 (Beginning)
    • Capture Attention
    • Introduce Problem
      • 1 - 5 of the Monomyth.
  • 2. Act 2 (Middle)
    • Provide Tension
    • Present Obstacles
      • 6 - 9 of the Monomyth.
  • 3. Act 3 (End)
    • Provide Closure
    • Resolve Problem
      • 10 - 12 of the Monomyth.


12 Parts. Can be integrated with the Hollywood Three Act, and not all parts are used in all iterations.

  • 1. Ordinary World
    • Hero's ordinary world is established.
  • 2. Call to Adventure
    • Hero is introduced to "alternate world" and asked to go on a quest or journey.
  • 3. Refusal of the Call
    • Hero refuses call, not ready to leave ordinary world. Usually feels uncomfortable about the refusal.
  • 4. Meeting with the Mentor
    • Hero gets helpful (and often personal) information about their quest.
  • 5. Crossing the First Threshold
    • Hero abandons their world because of the info they receive.
      • End of Act 1.
  • 6. Tests/Allies/Enemies
    • Challenges, hero meets allies, faces fears.
      • Start of Act 2.
  • 7. Approach the Innermost Cave
    • More tests and preparation for the ordeal.
  • 8. Ordeal
    • The biggest challenge thus far, hero must face the big bad. Weaknesses revealed.
    • 9. Reward (Seizing the Sword)
    • Hero receives a reward.
      • End of Act 2.
  • 10. The Road Back
    • Hero gets to choose whether to go back to the ordinary world (and usually does). Start of Act 3.
  • 11. Resurrection
    • Hero has to face death one last time. Villain may come back.
  • 12. Return with the Elixir
    • Hero returns, usually with something that can help the Ordinary World (Elixir), forever changed.
      • End of Act 3.
        • End of story.

Story-Telling Elements

  • Premise (High Concept)
    • Brief summary of the game - plot, play, etc.
      • Should tell the player the game's genre and what is unique about the game.
  • Backstory
    • What's happened up until this point (start of the game).
      • Often intro'd at the beginning. Only a small bit of information.
  • Synopsis
    • Can be ongoing, explains the backstory/characters/world/etc in more detail.
  • Theme
    • What the game is about.
      • Ex: "Freedom", "Friendship", "Getting Stronger to Kill the Heck out of Monsters"
  • Setting
    • The world that the player will be exploring. Can be real or fantasy.


  • How the story unfolds, rather than why.
    • Can be part of story structure.
    • Can be dictated by Gameplay.
      • Gameplay can affect the plot.
  • Balancing Conflict
    • When a player is on the brink of disaster but narrowly escapes.
  • Shifting Focus
    • A method of drawing the player back into the storyline.
      • Widening the scope - more subquests, new characters, new objects, new areas.
  • Foreshadowing
    • Alerting the audience about upcoming events.
      • Should happen in retrospect, character/player should not know the meaning of it at the time.
  • Suspension of Disbelief
    • How you convince people that what's happening is "real".
      • Players/Audiences will accept anything as long as you set rules for it.
  • Realism
    • Mimic the real world as much as possible.
      • Use harmony (nothing out of place) and avoid anachronisms (wearing watches in a medial setting).

Game Story Devices

  • Interactivity
    • The story's not controlled by one author — the player can be a co-author, or write the story themselves.
  • Non-Linearity
    • The player can choose any number of paths throughout the game, instead of following Point A to Point B (linear). MOST games are non-linear, leaving the story progression to be chosen by the player.
  • Player Control
    • Character customization the most common method.
    • Multiple paths and world-building tools are also popular.
    • Often adds to replayability.
  • Collaboration
    • Players storytelling with each other, basically.
    • A big part of MMORPGs.
    • Game Development Team may start the storyline and allow the players to expand it.
    • Story tree (pg. 139).
  • Immersion
    • What gets people deeply involved in the game's world.
      • Strong storylines, rich graphics and expansive worlds are common immersion tools (often all together).
        • Cinematics
          • Cut-scenes (an animated sequence with no player input). Another immersion method, related to graphics.
            • Good graphics =/= cutscenes, though cutscenes need good graphics.
          • May work but could irritate the player, instead being seen as interrupting "their" story.
    • Scripted Event
      • Time-based or triggered by the player's actions.
        • Differs from cutscenes in two ways.
          • 1. Usually uses game's graphics instead of the higher-quality stuff usually reserved for cutscenes.
          • 2. Players can interact with a scripted event, but usually only on rare occasions (and not much).

Game Storytelling & Documentation

  • Three Documents:
    • 1. Concept - Basic vision & premise.
      • Sometimes expanded into a proposal - more detail on story & characters.
    • 2. Story treatment - Short (one to two pages) summary of game's story. Should include theme, structure, and plot elements.
    • 3. Game design document - For the development team, includes plot elements related to gameplay.

Gameplay: The Real Storytelling Device?

  • Is gameplay, not the script or any storytelling elements, the real storytelling device in video games? Chapter 4 doesn't provide the answer, but it is discussed in future chapters. (Mostly Chapter 6.)
  • Game play is the essential storytelling component in games, it allows the players to take on the role of the story teller. Writers are not often hired to write a game's story as game designers need to incorporate compelling challenges first and a well-crafted plot second.

The Relationship Triangle

  • The relationship triangle is the relationship between three different characters, such as two characters that dislike each other, but like a third character.
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