On Making Two Games at Once and Other Creativities

Game covers. The one on the left reads "Bluebeard: An Interactive Tale" in a red band overtop an old illustration of an intense man handing a woman a set of keys. The one on the right features green and brown pixel art of a creepy cabin in the woods, with the worlds "What Lies Underneath" in the sky above.

Sometimes you need to move at a slow and steady pace towards progress, dipping your toes in the pool and inching in little by little until you’re used to the chilly water — and sometimes you need to just launch yourself off a rock, plunging straight into the center of the lake with the hope that you’ll make it back to shore.

Guess which one I’ve been doing over the last month or so.

I’ve realized for a couple of years now that I wanted to write and build narratives for games. And so, I’ve been learning about the art of game narratives, which is beautifully varied and complex — ranging from heavily scripted games like The Last of Us to completely wordless experiences like Journey, with a vast number of other variants along the outskirts and in between.

While I’ve been exploring game narratives, I have also been toying around with making interactive narratives myself. Or rather, I have been noodling on a single interactive text, a Twine* adaptation of the classic French folk tale, “Bluebeard.” Having written a retelling of the story, in which I explored a number of alternative endings, I figured it would be a relatively straightforward process to add gameplay choices that branch off to each of those endings.

Spoiler: It was not that easy.

After a period of struggling — not only over the process, but also due to the frustrations of trying to maintain a creative life amidst daily obligations — I realized I needed an extra push to help me get to done. Fortunately, I stumbled across The “Finish It” Narrative Game Jam** in May. The focus of the jam was to complete an in-progress narrative game or interactive fiction project between May 12-31. This seemed like a perfect way to push myself toward finishing my current project, and I immediately signed up.

A day or so after signing up for the Finish It Jam, I was told about the Greenlight Jam by a game writing friend. The Greenlight Jam featured a unique format, having multiple deadlines over the course of about a month (May 16th to June 19th), focused on the various stages of game design, from ideation to prototyping, production, and final release of the game. Drawn in by this concept, I had an Ah, what the hell moment and signed up before even considering the fact that the two jams overlapped or the incredible amount of work that would be involved.

And I’m so glad I did.

Continue reading on The Narrative Thread.

Don Quixote and Modular Storytelling

(The top image of Don Quixote battling the windmill is from Wikimedia Commons.)
Image: Don Quixote battling the windmill is from Wikimedia Commons.

Recently, I finished reading Character Development and Storytelling for Games by Lee Sheldon. The author has a long history of working both in the games industry, as well as in television and fiction — enabling him to draw directly form his own personal experience in a variety of mediums.

Sheldon’s book provides a significant amount of interesting detail about character creation (roles, traits, encounters, etc.) and the ways in which games differ from other storytelling mediums. He uses examples from a variety of sources, including classic literature, film, and television, as well as games, in order to provide evidence for the theories on storytelling, theme, and structure that he presents. He makes some interesting connections between these different mediums. However, sometimes his chapters are so heavy with references (many of which I’ve never heard of) that I sometimes found it somewhat overwhelming to process the lessons he is trying to impart.

My copy of the book was the first edition, published in 2004. While discussions of character and story are everlasting, when the book speaks about the future of games, it sometimes felt a bit out of date. Apparently, a second edition was published in 2013, which likely provides a more modern perspective and up-to-date cultural references.

Regardless, one section in particular presented me with a new way of thinking about story — namely, modular storytelling and how it can help blend gameplay and story into interactive narratives. And I was surprised to learn that classic literature could provide an early example of this kind of structure.

Continue reading…

Culture Consumption: December 2021

Hi, lovelies. Here’s my month in books, movies, television, games, and podcasts.

For those interested, here are my favorite books, movies and shows, and games for the last year.

Books

Character Development and Storytelling For Games by Lee SheldonI recently finished Character Development and Storytelling For Games by Lee Sheldon. It was an interesting read and the author draws on his experience in both games and television to discuss ways of approaching character and story development.

Note that what I read was the 1st edition from 2004, so while the book’s talk of characters and story are everlasting, some of the discussions about the future of games felt a little outdated. Apparently, a 2nd edition was published in 2013, which likely provides a more modern perspective

One section in particular presented me with a new way of thinking about story — namely, modular storytelling and how it can help blend gameplay and story into interactive narratives. I wrote a bit about what I learned over here.

Continue reading “Culture Consumption: December 2021”