Storytelling & Gamification

Storytelling is popular and for the last decade the question: What is the story? has been paramount in all design. In gamification and game design, it is crucial to figure out which story to tell. The story must be clear from the start as the narrative and the experience is based on it. 

Infographic created by

All stories have a beginning, middle and an end, and the narrative unfolds through a series of events. The narrative reaches a climax in a particular place, normally where the main character meets their biggest challenge, and then calms down towards the end. The narrative flow and the flow in the game must be right. 

Before we play a game, we get to know the story. We are told which our role is and what the objective is. When we read a book or listen to a storyteller, we seldom get to influence the events. It is a linear narrative by an author who often tries to trick and surprise the reader.

The plot in each story is very important to the listener or the reader. The same goes for games. Although deep down we know that the game always ends in the same way, no matter what we do, we enjoy it more if we believe we can influence the outcome.[1] Most games finish with the objective being reached. We throw dice and try to get to the finish line in as few throws as possible. But the snakes and ladders complicate matters and make it a non-linear progression. We enjoy this more than taking turns throwing a die to see who is first to reach 100. 

Infographic created by Andrzej Marczewski.

If we are given a real choice of changing the course of the game, the game become more personal and we feel we have more power. For example when the game leads us to different places based on whether we turn left or right. We influence the progression. This complicates matters when designing the game but increases its quality and popularity. The same goes for experiences of any kind. The more personal it is and the visitor gets a choice of creating their own story to participate in, the more memorable the experience becomes. People may also be ready to try again and again to see what happens if they don’t select the same option as the last time – the story becomes interactive.

[1] Marczewski, Andrzej. 2018. “Narratives and storytelling in gamification”.

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