How to Use Environment Storytelling in Games

Storytelling in Games

Games have long ceased to be primitive sets of mechanics. Now they are multifaceted works, which sometimes amaze gamers by their depth. You can see it, even if you play online casino slots by modern developers. 

In books and movies, we only see what we want to be shown, whereas in many games we are free to decide how and what to do. So, we can tell stories through locations and objects.

What Is Environment Storytelling

Environment Storytelling is a way of revealing a story through the use of level design.

For example, the creators of the TV series Supernatural revealed a character through a single frame. Another example is Half-Life 2, where the story of a seven-hour war was told through headlines in newspapers.

While some games add only small clues to level design, others can tell a huge part of the story through the environment. One such game is The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit by DOTNOD Entertainment and Square Enix, whose events take place in the Life is Strange universe.

It may seem like a simple game about a boy who imagines he’s a superhero, fantasizing, talking to toys, and blowing up a snowman. Many people even laughed at the game because of that.

The game is actually about the life of a boy, Chris, who lives with his father after his mother dies. And if you study the locations carefully, you’ll notice things that many people miss.

For example, through Environment Storytelling, you can find out who Chris’s mother was, what her relationship was with her husband and son, what she did, and so on. It is through storytelling through the environment that we learn the depth of the story.

The beauty of games like this is that the narrative rarely goes in head-on – you find some fragments of the story yourself with the perspective of the different characters. In The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, the number of pieces you find affects how you relate to the characters.

Walking Simulations

This was an example of a game where exploration of the environment adds new facets to the story. Yet, there are games where almost all of the gameplay consists of such exploration. These games are called walking simulation games.

Most of the time you can’t do anything except explore the locations and different objects. You are collecting the information about the story by bits and pieces. So, this game looks like a puzzle.

One of the best games of this genre is Return of the Obra Dinn. In it, you have to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of 60 people and, for each person, determine what that person is and how he or she died. More often than not, to answer these two simple questions, you will have to study several other cases.

How to Add Environment Storytelling to Your Game

Narrative through the environment forces the player to become a detective who must solve the mystery of what happened. So, it is logical to take advantage of the techniques that detective authors use.

Writers often think through the crimes and motives at the beginning. So, the reader has to disclose the chronology of events in retrospect (from new to old). That is, the author knows from the beginning who, whom, why, and how to kill or kill. The reader, on the other hand, sees the murder first and only then learns the personalities of the characters, their relationships to each other, and so on.

If you think through the whole story first, it will be easier to tie together all the evidence later. If you make up the clues as you go along, you’ll have to rewrite the whole story each time so that the new fragments don’t contradict the past. 

It is also important to show the story in small fragments and from different perspectives. If the player finds a note from character A to character B, it should contain the opinion of character A. It may, of course, differ from the opinion of the second character.

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