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  • Master's Thesis: Storytelling in Single Player Action Computer Games

    [12.28.06]
    - Wilhelm Österberg
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    Abstract

    Stories have been told in computer games for as long as the games medium has existed. Their quality has in most cases been poor, and the modes of storytelling used have been haphazard at best; the story often even interfering with the gameplay experience. This has begun to change in recent years, with new technology rapidly expanding the possibilities of the games medium and computer games reaching the mass-market and high profitability. Game development being a young craft and game storytelling even younger, there are still no acknowledged methods or systems for storytelling in games however.

    This Master Thesis examines the storytelling of games in the single player action genre by looking at four representatives of the genre: Just Cause, Gun, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Fable. First, eleven tools used for conveying story in games are identified and explained. These form the toolbox available for constructing the story part of a game. Secondly, the four benefits of having stories in games are defined, with the further discussion focusing on three of them: cohesiveness, motivation and immersion. Lastly, combined use of the tools for maximising the positive effects of story in the action genre is discussed and some practical suggestions are made.

    These results are a first step towards a methodology for telling stories in computer games. Defining the objectives of stories in games is important for bringing an awareness of what the purpose of a game's story component is. Lining up the tools available tells us how we can reach these objectives. This knowledge can act as a foundation for taking the craft of storytelling in games further in the future, bringing it from an intrinsic craft to a more conscious working methodology.

    "Storytelling in Single Player Action Computer Games - The Tools of the Trade" by Wilhelm Österberg, Royal Institute of Technology, 64 pages, Adobe Acrobat.

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