The Importance of Narratives in Video Games

By Rachel Gabuyo Yee Shu Hui, a Republic Polytechnic Diploma in Mass Communication student

Gamers previously focused on game play and overlooked the storylines in video games. But in recent years, gamers have become savvier and expect the narrative in video games to be as good as the game mechanics.

Cognizant of this paradigm shift, the National Book Development Council of Singapore (NBDCS) organised a game writing workshop at the All In! Young Writers Festival 2016, last 13 March at the National Library Building. Participants were guided to write the first few pages of their gaming script, and the first draft could then be developed and eventually pitched to a gaming studio.

The workshop was helmed by Ms Toiya Kristen Finely, who serves as an Executive Board Member of the Game Writing Special Interest Group of the International Game Developers Association.

“A long time ago, stories in games could be terrible,” said Ms Finley. “Players would notice they were terrible but they would not care so much. But now we have role playing games that would be story focused and so the story became more and more important.”

Prior the workshop, Ms Finley also conducted a five-hour workshop for media and literary professionals last March 11, which was co-organised by NBDCS and National Trades Union Congress, and supported by the Media Development Authority (MDA).

Mr Abdul Malek, a participant at Ms Finley’s workshop, said he gained new insight from attending the session. “I learnt that when you design a game, the narrative plays a part in the gameplay itself,” shared the 27-year-old. “You can implement it in the game and it makes the whole world better rather than to separate gameplay and story.”

With more video games now having very strong narratives, Ms Finley hopes to see better stories in future games. “The more good stories we have, the more pressure there is going be on the game development community to have great stories in games,” she said.

NBDCS launched All In! Young Writers Festival in 2009 as a way to bridge the gap between budding content creators and industry professionals. This year’s event is the first where international speakers were invited to share their expertise on gamification, development journalism and documentary production.