Narrative Design. What is it? What does it take?

Zachary Croslow
4 min readMay 2, 2017


Narrative is an aspect of game development that peeks my interest the most. Be it through the story, lore, quests or character dialogue , narrative is an element that stands foremost to me. It gives life and history to even the smallest of objects, it invokes feelings that would otherwise go unnoticed.

So what exactly is narrative? More appropriately, how does a narrative designer begin to breath life into a empty world? Through this report, I delve into just that.

Narrative and what it means to games.

With movies, a viewer can sit down and be visually taken through set story line, but their experience will mostly certainly always be the same. The same can be said for book as well, although multiple re reads of the same book can yield new and enriching concepts, the structure of the story will always remain constant.

In video games however, players interact with narrative on a completely different level. Players become the story. Their actions and their decisions shape the way the story is told, no ones first experience while playing is identical to another.

What Is A Narrative Designer?

According to, written and edited by narrative design pioneer Stephen Dinehart, the role of a narrative designer in the game development process is to: “champion story, craft compelling narrative elements, and define the systems in which they’ll be delivered to the player.”

They are essentially the author to a video game. They may have creative input with the design process of a game, but realistically their main duty is to create a narrative bridge between one scene and the next. For example, If a Designer wanted to the player move from, say, a desert planet to a arctic landscape, they would commission a Narrative Designer to create a reasonable and creative reason for doing so.

It is imperative for a Narrative Designer to understand and visualise the tone of the game. They will be writing connections between object and scenes that range from overarching main storyline to why that particular rock is placed in that particular spot. Theses connections, no matter how small, make or break any game.

They’ll need to be open and unfazed by sudden shifts or changes in the design process. They need to be able to adapt their story based on the most minute of story board changes. Sometimes they are needed to create or refine already existing scripts, sometimes they are there for writing flavour text or descriptions for items.

What are the requirements needed to become a narrative designer?

Evidence of your work is a must. Either represent this through your portfolio or your own website. They should include links to your interactive games, either on Twine or through using Unity tools like Fungus.

A book that keeps being highly recommended through my research is “Video Game Storytelling: What Every Developer Needs to Know about Narrative Techniques”. In it, Evan Skolnick provides a comprehensive yet easy-to-follow guide to storytelling basics and how they can be applied at every stage of the development process

How will I incorporate this research into my design process.

Through this research, what I’ve learned here is that to be a narrative designers, it takes more than just having a strong passion for story telling and reading. It takes commitment, I must be willing to emerge myself with a foreign world and to help build upon it.

I must be diligent and structured with my story building so as not to creating inconsistencies and to prevent ‘ludonarrative dissonance’, which is the unpleasant situation where you’re asking players to do something they don’t want to do…or prevent them from doing what they want.

I must keep up to date with any structural changes to the story and to give input when I see any narrative problems. But the main overall concept that I brought out of this, is that to be a good narrator, you must be willing to make sacrifices and be willing to change and flex, you must also have evidence of your story telling creativity.

Ill be using Fungus and Twine a whole lot over the break between trimesters, I’ll be uploading and reporting my process as the weeks go by so stay tuned.