Designer David Ghozland writes today about designing for motivation on Gamasutra. Altogether a great article, it nonetheless brings to light many biases about the role of dialog and writing in games. For many games, writing offers motivation in a game in a way that game design alone cannot.
Ghozland starts off by saying the needs of the player:
are artificially created by the game design according to the tacit agreement with the player. This silent agreement takes the form of a promise stated by the game design at the time of the presentation of the game’s universe and the game itself. For example, a RPG promises character growth combined with a measure of empowerment.
It’s curious that he insists on this silent agreement. Many an RPG game has begun with dialog such as “You are destined for great things.” Dialog acts as the motivator for the player, so he knows where to go next and what he will get in return: “Save the princess and I’ll give you the Sword of Bad-Assness.”
But, you say, dialog then merely acts as a way to deliver the game design. I agree, because dialog and gameplay work in conjunction to deliver another major aspect of game design: the story. As the designer who is also a writer well knows, motivation to save the princess may only come after the princess has become a fully fleshed out character. Ultimately, the story and game design work hand in hand to create motivation on many levels.
What games have you played where story motivated you as much as getting to the next big thing?