Part I of Narrative Tactics focuses on general storytelling (player agency, worldbuilding, characters, storytelling with little or no story, dialogue, and quests). Part II covers particular genres and demographics (writing for specific demographics, licensed IP, branding games, educational games, and F2P). Additionally, Carl Varnado will provide a supplemental online essay on transmedia mobile games. Watch this space for more info on that.
Each chapter analyzes real games and explores best practices in case studies, giving attention to the unique technological and narrative challenges of the mobile space and what makes storytelling unique in mobile and social games. The ends of chapters provide checklists and tips to help readers with their own projects.
Many thanks to Heather Albano and Rachel Ginsberg for being such great beta readers and to Richard Dansky and Alex Kain for supporting the book’s concept!
“Livable and Believable Despite the Limitations: Worldbuilding,”
“Not Just Tutorial Hosts: Characters,”
“More Than Pretty Words: Functional Dialogue,” and
“Playing With Values: Branding Games.”
I’m very grateful to have several narrative designers and game writers join me and contribute chapters:
Elizabeth LaPensée and Betsy Brey
Chapter: “From Musical Mechanics to Emotional Beats: Story for Non-Story Games”
Betsy Brey is a Ph.D. candidate specializing in game studies at the University of Waterloo’s Department of English Language and Literature. Her research focuses on the narratological impacts of game mechanics and how game stories are created throughout gameplay processes. In particular, she researches mechanics and storytelling in roleplaying games. She works with the University of Waterloo’s Games Institute, where her research has been funded with a Mitacs partnership. She is also the Editor-in-Chief for First Person Scholar, an open-access, multidisciplinary game studies publication.
Elizabeth LaPensée, Ph.D. is an award-winning designer, writer, artist, and researcher of Indigenous-led media, such as games and comics. She is settler-Irish, Anishinaabe with relations from Bay Mills Indian Community and Michif. She is an Assistant Professor of Media & Information and Writing, Rhetoric & American Cultures at Michigan State University. She designed and created art for Thunderbird Strike (2017), a lightning-searing side-scroller game that won Best Digital Media at imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival. She was a writer for Where the Water Tastes like Wine (2017), awarded Developers Choice at IndieCade.
Chapter: “To Each Their Own: Writing for Demographics”
Megan Fausti is the narrative designer for Battle Chef Brigade and an advocate for weirder, more compassionate games at Adult Swim Games. During her time at ASG, she’s worked on everything they’ve published since Oblitus, for a total of over 30 shipped games across PC, VR, console, and mobile. In her free time she loves videogames, matcha lattes, and nature documentaries.
Chapter: “How the Folk Tale Got Its Leopard: Writing for Educational Games”
Erin Hoffman-John is the Chief Designer and CEO of Sense of Wonder, an independent mobile developer of “smart fun” games. Prior to these roles, she led game design at GlassLab, a three-year initiative to establish integrated formative assessment educational games, which was supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Macarthur Foundation. Her game credits include Mars Generation One: Argubot Academy, Kung Fu Panda World, and GoPets. She is also the author of a fantasy trilogy with Pyr Books.
For more information, visit www.makingwonder.com, www.glasslabgames.org, and @gryphoness on Twitter.
Chapters: “I Seek the Grail (in Five Minutes or Less): Designing and Writing Quests for Mobile Games” and “The Continued Adventures: Writing for Licensed Mobile Games”
Jessica Sliwinski has over a decade of experience in the videogame industry, having written for everything from AAA MMOs to indie mobile games. After four years writing quest content for BioWare’s Star Wars: The Old Republic and its first expansion, Rise of the Hutt Cartel, she got a crash course in mobile game design at Zynga, writing for The Ville. Now in her sixth year as Lead Narrative Designer for Disruptor Beam, Jessica uses lessons learned from creating both expansive cinematic experiences and single-string quest intros to inform narrative design for story-driven mobile games, such as The Walking Dead: March to War, Star Trek Timelines, and Game of Thrones Ascent.
Chapter: “Buy Gems to Woo Your Lover: Free-to-Play Narratives”
Eddy Webb (with a “y,” thank you) is a writer, design consultant, and game and narrative designer for videogames and RPGs. He’s worked on over a hundred books and games during his career. He has created unique game universes, such as the world of Pugmire. He’s also partnered with companies to work on established properties like Futurama, Firefly, Red Dwarf, the WWE, and Sherlock Holmes. He’s even won a few awards over the past decade or so. In his spare time, he advocates for more inclusion of people with hearing loss. He can be found at pugsteady.com and eddyfate.com.
You’ll be able to purchase Narrative Tactics for Mobile and Social Games: Pocket-Sized Storytelling from the usual online suspects, as well as from CRC’s website.