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Nonlinear Story and Games

Project Description

Although stories in games have become more sophisticated over time, their use of nonlinear techniques has not yet become as prevalent as in traditional media like novels and films. Writers have largely excluded nonlinear techniques from their toolbox, possibly because of fears of introducing inconsistencies when player actions alter past events. However, as we show through a survey of common nonlinear techniques seen in television, novels, and film, games can and have avoided these inconsistencies while maintaining gameplay agency. Many players prefer a high quality static story incorporated into strong gameplay, making the insight from this discussion immediately useful in designing nonlinear game stories. We also discuss some ways in which nonlinear techniques can offer both gameplay and story agency, hopefully bringing the quality of game stories one step closer to their traditional counterparts.


Carmichael, G., Mould, D. Chronologically Nonlinear Techniques in Traditional Media and Games. In Proceedings of Foundations of Digital Games 2014 (WIP)Download the PDF.