Narrative Design Analysis

One of the best ways to learn about narrative design is to simply play games and experience the stories they tell first hand. EASY PEASY! However there is a difference between playing something and looking deeply at how it tells its story. This is where the Narrative Design Analysis template I use comes in handy.

I starting doing game design analysis notes years ago based on an old Gamasutra article I can no longer find. (Sorry to the person who inspired this, I want to give you credit!) Then as my work focus shifted from game design to narrative design I altered the template to be more useful to me.

Just have the template set up in your notes app of choice. Then copy and fill it out when you’ve either finished a game’s story or decided to stop playing it. For lots of games I keep it fairly high level but for a few I will go super in depth and break things down accordingly. Some of the prompts require more detail than others to fully answer but the whole thing usually takes me around 10-20mins to fill out.

The Narrative Design prompts are the main focus with the General Notes serving as mini review/context for the narrative notes.

Things to remember:

  • Bullet points are your friend and will keep things concise!
  • This is for you so use whatever personal short hand you prefer.
  • Re-read the notes you’ve made every once in a while.
  • You will miss things and that’s fine, the methods and ideas that jump out to you are key.

Anyway here is the template followed by a filled out example:

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Dear Leader – Edutainment Done Right

I’m a big fan of any game that goes above and beyond in delivering a message or truth while also providing its players with entertainment. Sadly a lot of games geared around educating their players do the first bit really well: playing a game and learning stuff. However they often fall down when it comes to the entainment part of Edutainment. Something which other mediums have perfected quite easily.

Edutainment games are also often entertainment products for children that are largely aimed at the parents and schools who end up buying them. Who then wonder why their 12 year olds are still playing Fortnite when they should instead be solving math problems with their new robot best friend A.B.A.C.U.S or some other fluffy nonsense.

For me edutainment done right should incite discussion and further exploration of a subject rather than being a one stop shop. It should challenge players to think differently and as a result learn by doing. Playing into the strength of games as a medium, the act of play.

This is where Dear Leader comes in.

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