Research #4: The relation of story and rules

The below article investigates the relationship between narrative and the rules of a game. The central project of the article is to distinguish between the rules involved in game play, and investigate how these rules relate to narrative.

The main conclusion of the article is that a game’s rules, that is the structures which govern play, can adjust to match the narrative, and thus the rules and narrative of the game shouldn’t be considered independently of one another. For instance, consider “Star Wars: Bounty Hunter”; some levels a player is equipped with a jet pack and thus has the ability to fly at their leisure, while in other levels a player doesn’t have a jet pack, and so cannot fly. Usually the levels without the jet pack are preceded by a cut-scene which explains why your character doesn’t have a jet pack. Thus the narrative of the game serves as an explanation of the whether or not character can fly. A further distinction one could make is between rule changes necessitated by narrative turns, and rule changes merely explained by narrative turns. For instance, in “Bounty Hunter” it seems that the narrative is used to explain why some levels give the player the ability to fly, and why some levels don’t. The narrative thus seems to exist to benefit the rule changes in the gameplay. But in other games, like “Grand Theft Auto” rule changes like the ability to fly after the player steals a plane, seem to be necessitated by turns in the narrative, which is to say the narrative takes an active role in shaping the rules of the game, rather than vice versa.


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