Players Don’t Read

Posted on Posted in 2016 Workgroup Topic Proposals

Text is incredibly powerful and possibly our most sophisticated communication tool, and yet it can very difficult to get players to read. This isn’t a judgement, but a challenge. We have made incredible advancements in removing text from our interfaces but what about narrative? How do we tell great stories without text or maybe even without dialog? Video games have often looked to film for inspiration but I find film techniques leave a lot to be desired in the interaction/player autonomy realm. What story telling languages has video games developed that are all our own? And how can we push further forward in this area?

(Yes there are many wonderful games that are text based and there are cool things happening in that area in games. Text based games are great and I love them! This topic is just interested in the other side of that coin.)

3 thoughts on “Players Don’t Read

  1. If I’m understanding this correctly, I’ve seen some talks at various conferences on “environmental storytelling” that seem like they’d fall into this bucket. Things like using environment art to imply enough of the setting that further exposition isn’t needed. (Or, I suppose, the way how you can always tell a game’s genre from the box art or app store icon.) Seems like there’s already a fair amount of knowledge in this space, so where would you propose jumping from to discover new principles?

    That said, I love this, if only because textless games have much lower localization costs 😉

  2. Question for clarification. Will this be about A) communicating narrative strictly speaking (i.e. ‘story’ elements that the player is not required to understand to be able to progress through the game) to the player without text, or B) communicating critical information to the player (that may also be part of the narrative) without using text?

    1. I was intending this to be about narrative communication, not UX design but it could be in the context of a game in which narrative elements are required to be understood by the player to make progress. I am interested in pushing this topic past purely optional, atmospheric elements and into techniques for telling rich, even possibly complex stories without text.

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