Every so often storytelling changes. Sometimes it’s a little change, like Twitterfiction. Then there are bigger changes when anyone who makes stories and their worlds must take notice. I believe games are such a change.
There are arguments that games aren’t a storytelling medium. If I want to tell a story, purely and with full control, I’ll write a novel. That’s why I write novels, and you can read about some of them here. I also make worlds, and I’ve yet to see a medium better for building a world than the video game.
Games are a mixture of play and story. This is as important as any world-building. World is just information, be it visual, aural or written. Play is how gamers experience that world, and is therefore the most important. Narrative design is how we craft that experience to shape the player’s perception and reaction to the world using story. How do we shape play when it is one of the most freeing activities human beings have? I tend to think that games are spaces, and that designers and storytellers make them in much the same way. This requires no small amount of written prose, but is also a craft of its own, taking into account facets of traditional storytelling, cognitive game design, mythopoeia and many other disciplines as well. It is inherently collaborative when so many specialists are telling a story together. That presents a challenge but I believe it is games’ greatest power.
Games provide the potential to present a world that is created and experienced in every different way, and which are therefore true to our own experiences no matter how realistic they are.
So many debates are wrapped up in this, all from different disciplines. Ludology or narratology? Photorealistic or anime style? Open-world or platformer? Hard or scaling difficulty? Single or multiplayer? All of these are about creating a world. In that way, they are all storytelling in games. They are all collaborative questions, and all dependent on the situation at hand. These are questions creators have had to deal with for centuries. In the game development world, they can be dealt with together.
So what am I, in all of that? Well, this site might be a better guide than anything I can write here. I try to bring people together and bridge all those disciplines–I’ve dabbled in more than a few of them. I’m a storyteller and not just a writer; I specialize in building worlds and I’ve studied mythopoeia–the practice of constructing histories and cultures in a world; I’ve been playing with stories and games since I was born. I know what’s worked before and I try to find out what might work now. It helps to always be learning and games, full of strange and wonderful people doing strange and wonderful things, provide the perfect platform for that.