Narrative Physics

Echo Bazaar creator Failbetter Games hosted guest blogger and game designer Elizabeth Shoemaker Sampat for a series on narrative development in gaming. Sampat argues that all games are simulations, falling into different categories —for example physically-simulative in which the focus is the physics engine (like Pong) or narratively-simulative.

Sampat also discussion two distinct narrative development styles: Right to Dream is the style in which the goal is primarily world-exploration, the style of Echo Bazaar. Sampat writes, “The experience isn’t about changing anything; instead, it’s about learning what more is there, as opposed to changing the things you’ve already discovered.” The other play style is the “Story Now” concept in which the player is just thrown into the middle of a situation and the action tells the story. This style requires less world-building but more attention to the narrative action, for which Sampat provides a well-explained diagram.

The series is interesting—particularly the second post —in relating the player’s actions and game mechanics to narrative exposition. Agency must lead to narrative escalation in order for the game to succeed narratively and for the player to feel she has affected that narrative.