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Mark William Nations

List of Narrative Gameplay Options

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I was thinking it would be productive to brainstorm a list of possible actions for a character in a story that could conceivably be converted into gameplay. Specific examples are good too, but the goal is to identify generalized descriptions of narrative actions that are valid for a myriad of gameplay scenarios. By all means, please add more to the list if you can think of some I haven't covered (or that aren't a combination of the following):

- Player must acquire an item / a person

(hard to get to)

- Player must convince an NPC to do something or stop something

- Player must hide an item / a person

(hard to prevent others from finding)

- Player must find an item / a person

(hard to locate)

- Player must help someone overcome an emotional burden

(heal others' pain / dismiss others' woes)

- Player must force upon someone an emotional burden

(It's better to break it to them -> dialogue)

- Player must uncover a mystery

(go in search of clues, investigate characters & testimonies, etc.)

- Player must circumvent an obstacle blocking progression, physically

(bridge collapsed)

- Player must resolve conflicts between various parties

(party members fighting each other, break social / political disagreements through action or discourse)

- Player must develop skill in a particular field

(training -> tutorial, unlock new ability, gain entrance to new story arc)

- Player must earn the approval/favor of another character

(complete whatever tasks earns favor of Master / political leader / Father, etc.)

- Player must best another character at some skill

(demonstrate "mastery" of practiced skill over a rival of some sorts)

- Player must evade danger

(initiate travel somewhere to avoid pursuit, challenge of evading attacks headed towards the player, etc.)

- Player must deliver an item somewhere

(Index to Halo Control Room, Severed Head to bandit leader, etc.)

- Player must protect another character

(escort mission, defeat enemies out of need to protect allies)

- Player must go to a certain place

(either find it if location unknown, or get to the place if difficult to get to)

- Player must overcome one of their own emotional burdens

(restore self-confidence by completing a difficult task)

- Player must restore a social connection to its rightful form

(get Johnny to forgive Mary by helping Mary to complete a task)

- Player must prove something to be true in the face of uncertain opposition

(Prove innocence of friend despite evidence stacked against, search for clues, etc.)

- Player must earn/win the love of another individual

(woo a character -> get items / complete tasks to win their trust/love, etc.)

- Player must preserve the honor of himself or another character as a result of an insult or wrongdoing: vengeance

(defeat the one who mistreated your community, accomplish a difficult task on behalf of a friend who was cheated from their success by the villain)

Edited by facehead1992

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Have you read Polti's 36 Dramatic Situations? He lists more situations than you do (you have 21 if I'm counting right) but some of them probably aren't suitable for translation into gameplay; in other words, I'm challenging game designers to translate them anyway. Regardless, you will most likely find not only that his list contains additional possibilities, but that two or more of his Dramatic Situations fall under one of your Narrative Gameplay Options or combine more than one or even that your list has things he never thought of! To give some examples, I believe your first option -- "Player must acquire an item / a person" -- encompasses Polti's "Daring Enterprise", "Obtaining", and "Ambition", and that "Player must develop skill in a particular field" has no analogue in Polti (probably because he never read a Shonen manga).


What this suggests is that neither your options nor his situations comprise the elements of narrative, gameplay or otherwise. This in no way invalidates your enumeration, of course, it only implies a certain status -- namely that it is informal, or to put it differently, that it is fine for a bit of gameplay to fall between or outside of your archetypes, if it fulfills its function/s well. Naturally, if you can work your list into a definitive periodic table, or if someone else develops one, this status would change (I doubt this possibility, and perhaps you do too, but there is a strain of game design that sees itself as a proto-science a la alchemy in the age of Boyle).

Edited by Dodopod

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