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BGDL 10 - Jerry Hawthorne: The Importance of Story in Games

Jerry Hawthorne, designer of Mice and Mystics, discusses the importance of story in games.

Jerry specializes in narrative driven games and has numerous games to his credit. He goes into why people enjoy story in games so much and how you can inject more story into your games. Finally, he gives great advice on what to do first when creating a story driven game.

My favorite idea from the interview: "Create a story. Not a series of incidents."

Check out the episode here:


Great podcast as usual! I've

Great podcast as usual! I've been a story writer all my life, just never published! I've been realizing that there is a story developing in my mind around my current game project, and after listening to the podcast, I've started thinking about how I can work a little of that in.

The problem is, there really isn't any good place to incorporate it other than in the intro in the manual. I have tons of cards, but they're resources, lab equipment, Alchemy experiments, and Strategy/sabotage, and they don't really have a place to add story elements.

Any ideas for how to add story elements in such a case, without cluttering the game?

My game has resources too...

My game's cards are "dual-sided". As such one side is the "Resource". On that side we are working with a Science Fiction Writer to help produce three (3) line blurbs like:

These tell "fragments" of short stories and ultimately add some more depth to the theme in the game... because people want to read the stories to understand better what their Faction is all about.

Amazingly sometimes ideas take on a life of their own: the writer added mottos to each one of the Faction. As such one of them is simple to remember and probably annoying to other players if he chants his motto each time he wins a battle! LOL

But what I am talking about is FLAVOR TEXT. Just added to seem random - but actually telling interesting short stories... If you wanted to, I'm sure on your "Resource" cards - you could maybe tell stories about your "WORLD" and give more depth to the theme of your game...

Just a suggestion. Cheers.

Hit or miss...

The other thing I wanted to mention... is before "choosing" a writer, get them to do a smaller or maybe a couple smaller assignments. To sort of get a feel for the type of ideas that will be brought to the table (so to speak).

Our first writer was from the UK and at that time we need 60 cards to be complimented with 60 sets of "Flavor Text" which I had devised in a way to order the short stories by "resource". So all the "Minerals" would when sorted create a small "short" story you could read.

The content for those 60 cards was enough. And although I felt the stories to be a bit repetitive ... they were okay for the 1 Player Box Sets.

Fast forward from August 2016 to TODAY and we have a completely different beast!

Since we now have a Four (4) Player Big Box Set and we have "fleshed out" Four (4) distinct Factions, each one with their own asymmetric ability ... the stories that were written no longer suffice.

Having already had the experience dealing with one writer made it possible to hire the "right" writer for the job. And figuring out "where" I felt we needed some creative writing also helped the writer get into "context" too.

Although we are still in the process... So far the content has been original and following guidelines that are part of the process. We initially had the writer pen one (1) page of "Backstories/Bios" for the Four (4) Factions...

And that turned out super interesting, with Founding Leaders and characteristics of each Faction coming "out of the page" to help spark players imaginations. We are currently on the 2nd assignment with laying down "Intel Reports"... That's what we thought of going with for the Four (4) Factions: tell events relating to Intel Reports about each Faction... Just to flesh out the stories that will unfold...

Waiting for more content to be reviewed... See what kind of ideas are put to pen... And hopefully we have some "extra" content that can better immerse players into the game...

There's always a way

I never thought of resource cards as a place for anything story-wise, but you're right, there's always a way to work something new in.

How did you get your card image to display so large? And in a reply? I can only get images uploaded to the original post.

I'll have to think about my resources - I'm using small "mini" decks to save table space, so not much room on the cards, but I can reconsider. I have player reminder cards for costs of a few things in the game, and I think I can use the other side of those cards for "characters" (each player could assume a role, if only for flavor). Or instead of characters, perhaps something to describe the "Domain" (faction).

If resources can have flavor text, so can laboratory equipment, right? Those cards are bigger, so more space to work with.

My Alchemy cards have ingredients and reactions needed, but they're the largest cards in the game. Definitely going to see what I can come up with to "flavor" these...!

If I could figure out how to paste a pic here...

There I FIXED it for you...

If you want to see the SOURCE, do a QUOTE and you'll see the link.

How I got it to work???

Okay you VIEW the image on G-Drive and then on the IMAGE, you RIGHT-CLICK "Open image in new tab"... That's the DIRECT LINK you use in the SRC.

And then you just ADD the width="500px" in the < img > tag... (Inside).

Just do a QUOTE and you'll get the exact syntax.


Let's see if this works now

Trying to fix this

Resource cards with flavor!

Instead of the above card (for Alchemy) I decided to use one type of resource card - the "Research" card - as a good place to add flavor text to bring in small bits of story elements, specifically in the form of quotes of the 6 characters available to choose from.


And one other for a little humor...not sure if it fits into a "serious" themed game, but can't help but try!

I know, I've got a bit of an issue with the words standing out against certain parts of the book image in the background - gotta go back and do some better burn effects on the book or something...

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blog | by Dr. Radut