The importance of story

This semester, my group is working on a transformational game for the non-profit Games for Change. We were given the controversial topic of gun violence in America, which was really difficult to come up with an idea for. Of course, we did eventually settle with an idea. I covered our brainstorming and idea evaluation process in a previous post, which I strongly encourage anybody who is working on a transformational game to read.

The goal of our game is to get the audience to understand the motivations and communicate respectfully with others who have different viewpoints from them on the topic of gun control. We specifically chose to focus on gun ownership for self defense and protection, as our research showed that that was the most common reason among gun owners.

The gameplay of our game is something like Twitch plays interactive theater. The audience controls the speech of an actor on stage by sending in conversation points via a web interface we built. This first actor then voices this out to the second actor, who responds accordingly. In this way, the audience discovers and directs the story as it unfolds on stage.

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We’re done brainstorming. What next?

Your team has had a successful brainstorming session (or sessions), and now you guys have a ton of ideas. Now what? How do you narrow it down? This might seem like a daunting task, especially for larger projects which have a hundred or more ideas. A Google search will turn up millions of suggestions, but for this post, I’ll be focusing specifically on narrowing down your ideas for a transformational game. Why transformational games? Because that’s what my team is currently working on (more on that later). The general process for narrowing down your ideas isn’t sufficient, and there is woefully little relevant material about this on Google.

Transformational games are developed with the intention to create a real world change in the player which persists outside of the game, be it in the form of knowledge, belief, behavior, etc. It’s an umbrella term which encompasses other categories, like educational games, training simulators, games for health, and so on. The two key ideas here are transfer (the change extends to the real world) and persistence (the change remains after the game is over).

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