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  • Storytelling In Games: Structure And Devices

    - Robert Renke

  • Notable adaptations of the Aristotelian model for screenwriting include Robert McKee's(1998) central plot and Syd Field's paradigm(1979). According to Callum Langstroth(2021), "McKee's story structure is great for emphasizing thematic growth from beginning to middle to end. While Field's paradigm gives you a way to describe the action that builds up to McKee's key beats."

    Figure 4: Langstroth, C. (2021). How to Misuse Story Structure for Video Game Narrative Design.

    Figure 5: Langstroth, C. (2021). How to Misuse Story Structure for Video Game Narrative Design.

    In his blog, Langstroth(2021) conveys that those structures are never a one-fits-all solution, and proceeds to present his fusion of the two above models. Langstroth's "Frankenstein paradigm", based on Field's paradigm while giving more importance to the inciting incident and adding the crisis, climax, and resolution elements from McKee's central plot, shows how traditional models can be adapted according to each situation:

    Figure 6: Langstroth, C. (2021). How to Misuse Story Structure for Video Game Narrative Design.

    The most adapted framework is possibly Joseph Campbell's monomyth or "hero's journey".

    Campbell's monomyth is based on the same principles as any of the above. We can notice the same elements: Campbell's "call to adventure" equals Field's first plot point, the first threshold represents a first challenge for the protagonist and marks the beginning of the second act, a series of challenges of fluctuating intensity follows leading to a period of crisis, then climax(threshold), and finally resolution.

    Figure 7: Lecture Notes on Interactive Storytelling - Scientific Figure on ResearchGate. Available from: [accessed 21 Feb, 2022] 


    • Aristotelian structure: classic 3-act structure - beginning, middle, and end, divided into hierarchical causes of plot, character, thought, language, pattern, and spectacle on a scale from formal to material causes

    • McKee's central plot: 3-act structure emphasizing the singular points in time of inciting incident, crisis, climax, and resolution, with progressive complications over the second act

    • Syd Field's paradigm: 3-act structure similar to McKee's central plot, placing a midpoint and two pinches along the second act to mark tension heights

    • Hero's Journey or Monomyth: Joseph Campbell's structure outlines a journey with return after transformation, and separating the inner, or normal world(pre inciting incident and post-resolution) from the outer world


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