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GDC Europe 2013 Session Scheduler

Please note: the information on this page reflects GDC Europe 2013.

Export Schedule:

Once Upon a Time: Giving Players the Freedom to Create Their Own Story

James Brown  |  Lead Level Designer, Epic Games

Location: Congress Saal 1

Format: Lecture
Track: Design
Vault Recording: Video

Designers spend much of their time coming up with environments, game mechanics and combat encounters that help tell their game's story. But there's a second story to each game, the one created by the individual player's moment-to-moment actions in the game. With these two conflicting stories going on (the authored storyline and the more organic player's story), which takes precedence and can they co-exist within the framework of a single video game? This talk examines the popular techniques for storytelling in games and attempts to explain how almost everybody has it wrong.


Games (due to their interactive nature) tell stories in ways that differ from other forms of media. Games, in fact, don't necessarily tell stories at all, but provide a framework in which stories can be told. Designers must be cognizant of this fact and approach storytelling from a unique perspective that empowers their players. As our forms of media evolve, so does the psychology of the player/reader/recipient of the story. We must also evolve as designers and storytellers, and cannot do so without a better understanding of what we're trying to achieve.

Intended Audience

This talk is primarily targeted at level designers and game designers, but absolutely has crossover significance to writers, artists, cinematic teams and producers, as they all play a role in how a game gets made and where the story takes place. Gameplay programmers may find aspects of the talk applicable, as it discusses camera position and other aspects that tangentially impact their workflow, especially if they are heavily involved in game design.