Mindmap: Narrative Architecture

Examples for all 4 types of narrative architecture in games

Evocative spaces (spaces that evoke other narratives): Papers, Please

Papers, Please evokes the bleak aesthetics of wartime in the early 20th century. In this sense, it’s very much an evocative space—design choices are clearly intended to set the player up to feel a certain kind of story (struggle, fascism, etc.). It’s also an enacted story in that player actions change the course of the game.

Enacting stories (spaces that allow the player to witness or act out a story through their actions): Stardew Valley

I was torn between calling this an emergent narrative over enacted story, but ultimately the story in Stardew Valley is pretty scripted, and the player only has agency over how fast the narrative progresses/replaceable details like who to marry. This makes it feel more like an enacted story.

Embedded narratives (spaces that tell a story through artifacts/exploration): Slenderman (not linked because I refuse to look at images of Slenderman)

Most horror games are embedded narratives. The story is told through piecing together artifacts scattered throughout a space. Slenderman is a good example.

Emergent narratives (spaces that give players toys to construct their own stories): Dungeons & Dragons

While it has many game-y elements (die rolls, hit points, levels) these ultimately exist to serve the greater purpose of collaborative storytelling. D&D is pure emergent narrative: it provides structure, but players can create whatever story they like within the bounds of this structure.

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