Literature’s fuzzy melding of two separate imaginations, the writer and the reader, has always resulted in a form of interactivity. 

This has been taken more literally and expanded upon in the games world, where players are given direct agency over the unfolding story. As an unusually collaborative art form requiring high levels of technical expertise, games provide new storytelling opportunities and challenges which break away from linear page turning.

A vital role which has emerged is that of the narrative designer, which blends traditional writing skill with an understanding of game design. Tom Jubert has worked as narrative designer on critically acclaimed games including The Talos PrincipleFTLThe Swapper and Subnautica. He’s a Writers’ Guild Award nominee, was selected for Forbes’ 2014 “30 under 30” list and has lectured on story design at London Southbank University.

Here, Tom discusses the role of narrative designed and how games writing relates to traditional literatures.

What’s the difference between a ‘narrative designer’ and a ‘writer’?

A writer is hired by a studio once the studio has worked out internally what texts they need, how story functions in the game, how art reflects story, etc. To a writer, a studio says, "Here's a bare bones plot, here's a spreadsheet laying out where the dialogues are, please fill in the blanks." A narrative designer by contrast takes on some of the responsibility otherwise held by the creative director for integrating story with the other departments. A narrative designer might be working closely with concept artists and level designers; they might be iterating on gameplay mechanics to bring them in line with the story; they are thinking much more holistically about the game experience.

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