Video games are breathtaking audiovisual experiences. We enjoy the gameplay, but usually, what we remember is the story. Those moments that made us get excited, that character we fell in love with, or that surprise in the story that left us shocked, are started by writing a script.
The first concept we must be clear about is the difference between a novel or movie and a video game script. A novel is a closed narrative structure, a video game is controlled by the player through the game mechanics, our job as scriptwriters is to create those playable and fun situations.
Write characters and environments
Facing a blank page and writing from the beginning could be stressful enough, even if you have been doing this for many years. It’s not just to write custom papers online – there is something titanic about it, like David against Goliath, Theseus against the Minotaur… that would be a good story for a videogame.
What I recommend is dividing the tasks. Create cards in which you can work independently on each character’s story, the main plot, the world, the enemies, the reason for each mission, and its connection with the game mechanics.
A good idea would be to start with our hero. More is needed to say his name or that he is super strong and attractive. We must define the character: lonely, tormented, daring… his background story, who he is, what he has done before getting to that story, and why he gets involved in the plot.
Our example is going to be a Greek hero, banished from his homeland and hated by his friends. A strange secret accompanies him, so he hides his face behind a mask.
Once the main character is defined, we describe the universe where he will be. If it is a Greek hero, we would describe the cities, the landscapes, if it takes place on the coast or in the mountains, if there are magical caves or great temples.
In short, these cards are repositories where we put everything we can think of.
The heart of any compelling video game lies in its story. It is the driving force that propels players forward, immersing them in a world where their actions have consequences and their choices matter. Crafting a captivating story for a video game involves a delicate balance between linear narrative elements and player agency. Unlike novels or movies, where the audience passively observes the unfolding events, video games empower players to actively shape the story through their decisions and actions.
The event part in a video game script comprises the sequence of key moments and incidents that unfold throughout the game’s narrative. These events are crucial as they drive the story forward, engage the player, and shape the overall gaming experience. They serve as the building blocks of the game’s plot, offering challenges, surprises, and emotional connections that keep players invested in the virtual world.
The hero is strolling with his noble steed until the story slaps him in the face, and he has to solve the mystery of what happens to our protagonist to get involved.
This part is fundamental as it will help the player identify with the protagonist. He has to want to solve that mystery, not do it by simple inertia.
The missions are small stories within a big story.
The plot consists, in turn, of smaller narrative structures, such as episodes or incidents, what we call missions in video games. These missions affect the main story itself, and the player can solve them in many ways and in order.
For example, suppose the protagonist must find a gem to defeat a mythological being. In that case, we must write a complete narrative structure within the plot, with its event, implication, action, and resolution. The missions are small stories within a big story.
We will surely need to add new characters in this part. We go to our tabs and do the same as with our hero, we gut him separately, and then, when he is well-defined, we put him inside the plot.
When the plot is perfectly developed, a technique that always works is to surprise the player by showing him that he has been tricked.
In what he thought were nightmares, our hero was being controlled by a deity forcing him to do horrible things. At that moment, he realizes that the enemy he has been searching for so long is himself. Now he has to search for his new enemy, the deity that controls him.
A good ending will leave an excellent taste in the player’s mouth.
There are two tricks for this: the open ending, which leaves some mystery unresolved and the player thinking for days, or create confusion so that no one imagines the end.
When our Greek hero finds the divinity that has controlled him for years, he discovers that the only way to kill her is to kill himself since the bond they share is so strong that only with his death will he be able to defeat her. At the end of the game, when everything is resolved, a child is born with the same birthmark as the hero. He has been reincarnated and has won over the gods.
Once the story is written, we must adapt it to the game mechanics. If we have a plot inside a Greek temple, we must write with gameplay in mind: our hero must unlock a door to find a medallion hidden in an ancient library. As he enters inside, the floor collapses, and he falls into catacombs filled with skeletons of ancient monks who attack him to protect the medallion.
This simple plot would be a joke in a novel, but in a video game, it brings us the need to find an object (mission), solve a puzzle, and explore a library (game mechanics). When the floor falls, a new scenario appears and a change of pace throws us right into the action with the fight against the skeletons (game mechanics). That is, we have gameplay!
Write a lot and be very critical as a last piece of advice. The first thing you wrote isn’t perfect – review it calmly, read it, and rewrite it several times. And, of course, read as much as you can: books, comics, scripts…
With these tips, you will start an adventure that will take you to magical places full of playability.
A computer engineer by day, gamer by night. He grew up playing Mario and contra, and just like every other 90s kid, he got passionate about mobile gaming. He had done bachelors in computer science and played fps and MOBA games for years.