Part 4, Putting into play – How to trigger the narrative vehicle

“Putting into play” is part of more than a one-year-long project which goal is to explain from a cognitive and narrative perspective the mind and hands-on approach to the design of an engaging and dynamic game system. With help from cognition-based models, the focus is on the opportunity to explore how our thinking, learning, emotions work when setting out from scratch towards the desired goal.

To make the most out of the series, I recommend reading Part 2 and 3 of the series Putting into play, which provides a guide. If you have already read the previous sections and are used to texts that are long as marathon races. I just would like to prepare you on the change of style where I will focus on a direct and concise text, albeit one small step at the time (at least I will try).

In the previous part, I recommended to bring along a thought or a feeling that you would like to put into play towards a desired outcome in the creation of an engaging and dynamic game system. However, before I get to the point of talking about feelings and thoughts, I will explain what it is that makes the narrative vehicle of meaning-making to propel in relation to the core cognitive activities and how a thought or feeling could be understood in the formulation and setting of a premise.

Since we now have an explicit description of how our mind works (see below) that shows what we are doing when processing information that forms our beliefs, desires and expectations (meanings), which we store in our memory as experiences together with our emotions. I call the citation below, our core cognitive activities:

“The ability to generate inter-domain causal networks, use network understanding to speculate about potential outcomes, test and re-adjust our imaginative hypotheses, and to shift attention from one target to another, while keeping in mind the ultimate goal (e.g., subsistence) over an extended period of time is unique to the human mind of today.”

Gärdenfors, Lombard, 2017

Based on the citation, I will show what it is you are targeting, mind-wise, as a narrative constructor when triggering the narrative vehicle of meaning-making in the creation of a curiosity that encourages perceivers (players) to become engaged/involved.  Since the citation is a bit tricky to access, I will repeat it in five steps. At each step, I will point to a specific part of our core cognitive activities and add a description of the operations performed from a narrative constructor’s (designer’s) perspective in the creation of an engaging experience that attends to how our learning and emotions work.

While reading the five steps, I think several of you who are working with bringing meaning to a game through sounds, graphics, words, level design, AI, physics, and pacing among other elements, will recognise the descriptions from your daily work. But as most of the activities happens on an unconscious level, we hardly notice them, which is why I recommend taking your time to reflect upon the steps.

How to trigger the narrative vehicle of meaning-making






Setting a premise that triggers the narrative vehicle of meaning-making

Having mentioned in the series Don´t show, involve the data needed to set a premise, which triggers the perceiver´s learning, desires, expectations, beliefs, feelings and thoughts. With the help of the five steps, we can now get a clear explanation to which data we need and why we need it when triggering the narrative vehicle of meaning-making in the setting of a premise.

Based on the five steps and the premise above. In the next part, I will be focusing on what it means to proceed from a thought and feeling in the creation of an engaging and dynamic game system.

Since your engagement and responses matter to the development of this series. If you have any questions or if you would like to share your thoughts, don´t hesitate to send me a note (contact added at the end). To make it easier to communicate, you could also use the communication model, which I presented in the previous part. By adding a number from one of the pictures below together with the part of the text you refer to, it will be enough for me to get an idea if something needs to be clarified before moving on.

1. I am with you.
2. I am curious and want to learn more.
3. Now you lost me.

Once again, I would like to give a special thanks to Linnea Österberg for the fantastic illustrations that are helping the invisible activities of the mind to become visible.

Until next time, stay curious!


PS If you are unfamiliar with the narrative and is working with recruiting narrative competence (or any designers) within the game business by the conventions of the narrative to be a story structure as used in other media. Check the “cogwheels” 1- 5 to become oriented in the “mind-wise” work with the conveyance of the narrative from a cognitive perspective.


Return to:

Part 1 Putting into play – A model of causal cognition on game design.
Part 2, Putting into play – On narrative from a cognitive perspective I
Part 3, Putting into play – On narrative from a cognitive perspective II

Recommended readings:

Don’t show, involve (series in three parts)
Narrative bridging on testing an experience (series in three parts)

In the third part, you can, for example, find a similar description of the five steps applied on a three-act structure, which describes the control and pacing in the building of experiences in relation to the expectations.

Additional readings:

A short guide to the 7 grade model of reasoning
Narrative patterns of thinking (posted before the 7-grade model)
Where I work there are no conflicts (posted before the 7-grade model)


Gärdenfors, P., Lombard, M., (2017). Tracking the evolution of causal cognition in humans. In the Journal of Anthropological Sciences 95. p.219-234


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.