Discover the titles every aspiring narrative designer should have in their personal library
The simple video games that entertained us for hours decades ago seem downright prehistoric when compared to today's blockbusters. With a style and narrative much closer to cinema, video games have become authentic works of art in which dialogs and stories have an impressive weight.
In this new reality, professionals like Víctor Ojuel (@victor_ojuel)–narrative designer for video games–are a key piece for the development of titles. Books, of course, are an inexhaustible source of inspiration for video game writers like him, so Victor is sharing with the Domestika community which books have influenced his professional career:
The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, by Christopher Vogler
It is, or should be, the bedside book for any professional scriptwriter. Although this book was written with Hollywood film productions in mind, Victor thinks it is an essential reference manual for those who want to start writing video game narratives because he uses the theory behind The Hero with a Thousand Faces with an efficient approach.
The bibliography of Raymond Chandler
Raymond Chandler's work was crucial in helping Victor develop his style as a narrative designer. When he discovered his novels, he found a fresher writing style and expanded his narrative vision by imitating his style. Chandler's work also served as a turning point for the noir novel in popular culture, very much what is currently happening with video games. Just for that, they deserve a read.
Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers From Start to Finish, by James Scott Bell
Victor considers this book the perfect resource for those who struggle to transform brilliant but often vague ideas into a coherent plot. Although it was written for book writers, it is ideal for any kind of media, such as video games, because it contains lessons that help create a story's structure.
Creating Emotion in Games: The Craft and Art of Emotioneering, by David E. Freeman
Of all this selection, this is the only book focused exclusively on video games. It contains many resources and tips to develop the main character's personality, giving them an emotional profile and creating a bond with the player. It is a somewhat advanced and extensive manual but written in a very accessible tone.
The script. Story: Substance, structure, style, and principles of scriptwriting, by Robert McKee
McKee's name belongs in the library of any film-writer, but his techniques are perfectly applicable to today's world of video games. This book should be read, says Víctor Ojuel, with a particular critical spirit. "McKee tends to be very exhaustive, and his teachings should be taken as suggestions, not dogmas."
The Art of Game Design: A Book of Ales, by Jesse Schnell
As the name suggests, more than a simple writing manual, this is a toolbox with multiple "lenses" through which we can consider the design of a video game. It focuses more on the visual than on the narrative design, but it contains excellent lessons that can be applied when writing video game scripts. Victor, for example, underscores how the book teaches different ways of seeing the same problem, rather than using specific fixed rules.
The Ultimate Guide to Video Game Writing and Design, by Flint Dille
This book is focused on the authors' experience as writers for AAA games, but some of its lessons are also applicable to independent development. "Although my personal experience working in indie games might differ from yours, there are many points in common (marked by the fact of being a freelancer working for clients) that are relevant for anyone who wants to dedicate themselves to creating video game narratives," says Víctor. It is a title much more focused on the realities of the professional world than on narrative theory.