Over the past month, I’ve been working on a couple of game projects — an interactive tale based on a classic folk tale and a narrative adventure. The first of these has been completed and launched and the second is currently in development.
Bluebeard: An Interactive Tale
After oodles of work, I finally completed my first Twine interactive tale. Bluebeard: An Interactive Tale is based on the French folk tale, “Bluebeard,” relating the story of a young woman who weds a wealthy man harboring deadly secrets.
The interactive tale features a branching narrative with a total of seven possible endings.
It’s been an interesting process adapting a linear tale into a text game with multiple endings (which I plan to write more on later). Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about crafting branching narratives, and I’m so proud of this project.
What Lies Underneath is a small narrative game built using the Bitsy game maker (created by Adam Le Doux), an open source tool designed to be simple enough for just about anyone to make their own games.
The game is being developed as part of the Greenlight Jam, which is designed to have participants work through each stage of the game development process — from ideation to prototyping, production, and release of the final product.
Thus far, I’ve worked through the first two stages, ideation and prototyping, for the game, which I shared a little bit about on Itch.io, where you can also play the prototype of the game.
Recently, I finished reading Character Development and Storytelling for Games by Lee Sheldon. The author has a long history of working both in the games industry, as well as in television and fiction — enabling him to draw directly form his own personal experience in a variety of mediums.
Sheldon’s book provides a significant amount of interesting detail about character creation (roles, traits, encounters, etc.) and the ways in which games differ from other storytelling mediums. He uses examples from a variety of sources, including classic literature, film, and television, as well as games, in order to provide evidence for the theories on storytelling, theme, and structure that he presents. He makes some interesting connections between these different mediums. However, sometimes his chapters are so heavy with references (many of which I’ve never heard of) that I sometimes found it somewhat overwhelming to process the lessons he is trying to impart.
My copy of the book was the first edition, published in 2004. While discussions of character and story are everlasting, when the book speaks about the future of games, it sometimes felt a bit out of date. Apparently, a second edition was published in 2013, which likely provides a more modern perspective and up-to-date cultural references.
Regardless, one section in particular presented me with a new way of thinking about story — namely, modular storytelling and how it can help blend gameplay and story into interactive narratives. And I was surprised to learn that classic literature could provide an early example of this kind of structure.
I feel like I’ve completed more games in 2021 than I have in the entire last decade, and most of those games occurred in the last few months of the year — partially initiated by the Game Writing Master Class that I took, which inspired me to explore gameplay from a new point of view.
In general, I’ve found that games provide a unique escape from the day to day grind, whether its the heart-pounding exploration of a horror game to the delightful antics of a more relaxing puzzler. Out of all the games that I completed, here were some of my favorite experiences.
Sometimes I have bad days, or even weeks. Over the past few years, these bad days have manifested for me in two opposing and yet integrated ways. The first is a deep longing for solitude, a desire to find some far off place away from people and the world, somewhere I don’t have to interact with or perform for anyone. The second is a strong feeling of disconnect from the people around me, bringing on a sense of loneliness that seeps through even in a crowded room and carrying with it the belief that no one would notice if I was gone.
So many people experience such things. Depression, sorrow, and anxiety can feel like being lost at sea, floating on desperate dark emotions with no sign of land or refuge in sight. Sea of Solitude, a game developed by Jo-Mei Games, powerfully expresses these experiences through the exploration and healing of its watery world.
Hosted by published authors working in a variety of genres and with decades of experience in the industry, the Writing Excuses podcast offers quick 15-20 minute long episodes packed with insightful writing, craft, and business advice.Â This year, the podcast has shifted its format to focus on eight-episode intensive courses that drill down into a particular subject — in this case, game writing.
Along with regular hosts Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Taylor, the eight episodes on game writing were led by two guest hosts, Cassandra Khaw and James L. Sutter, both of whom have extensive experience writing for games. Kaw has worked as a senior scriptwriter for Ubisoft Montreal and as a freelance writer for various indie video game developers. Sutter is a co-creator of the Pathfinder and Starfinder table-top roleplaying games.