The classic three act story structure — a setting and character setup followed by a confrontation that ends in a resolution — is popular among writers in all media. But ditching this convention, despite having been proved a successful storytelling method, is a beneficial move for video games because of the medium’s unique demands.
Speaking in a panel at GDC this morning, Riot Games narrative lead Tom Abernathy and Microsoft Game Studios’ designer Richard Rouse III said video games have storytelling opportunities that film and TV aren’t as suited for. Because of this, games require different structural needs when it comes to their stories. The Hollywood-favored three act structure — which was adopted in the third century around the time of Aristotle — isn’t always the best fit for video games.
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Smart. Storytelling in games has been handled as if it was filmic for far too long. Game writers need to be able to tell stories that suit the fundamental interactive nature of games.
I think the reason why I rarely enjoy stories in games is that there often seems to be a fight between the writer and the designer; the writer wants to make sure the player sees and hears things in a specific order so that a particular story can be told, but the designer wants to give the player the ability to choose where they go and what they do. Those two things conflict, and for me it often feels like a very messy, unfocused experience.