Part 10 Putting into play – A meaning-maker’s techniques


“Putting into play” is a series that aims to shed light on how to design engaging and motivating game experiences by exploring the interplay between our thinking, learning, and emotions. In the final three parts of the series, covering cognitive aspects of narrative game design, I will fulfil a promise to show how you think when setting the core pillars intended to engage players’ thoughts and feelings.

Four years ago, I initiated Putting into play when I got hold of an article showing seven grades of causal cognition (Gärdenfors, Lombard, 2017) and how we think of causes in terms of forces across space and through time.

Nine parts later, I say as the chef: The longer it takes, the better it tastes.

I will start guiding you through some standards that influence game creators’ practice from accessing the space where the core of our senses, perception, and meaning-making resides. If I succeed in taking you to the outer territories of space, I can conclude this series by showing how you navigate and exert engaging mind forces that trigger the player’s thoughts and feelings.

If it sounds like a good plan, let’s return to where it all started.

The time-traveling mind

The article by Gärdefors and Lombard (2017), presenting the seven-grades model, contained an invaluable piece to the narrative and cognitive puzzle I have tried putting together. The piece made it possible to explain how you employ the players’ thinking and the game medium’s techniques and style when organizing the underlying forces intended to engage the player’s senses, perception, and meaning-making.

The piece was the description of our causal thinking, showing what we all enjoy doing when playing games.

“(…) 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 (…)” (Peter Gärdenfors, Lombard, 2017).

This detailed description of our thinking illuminates our causal reasoning, a cognitive competency considered absolutely central to our thinking about causes and effects as we recall past memories and imagine the future from our present position.

Figure 1 Causal reasoning

Some refer to causal reasoning as a time travel of the mind. The fact is that we don’t need time to imagine an apple by picking up memories of another apple from the past to distinguish an apple from a present position. Space traveling is a much better reference as our causal reasoning concerns how we navigate across space to understand.

The fun with building experiences across space using objects, like an apple, is that you know the players will expect apples to remain apples in the future. Here, the technique of surprising the players comes into play when changing the expected into something unexpected. The object of food barrels in The Last Guardian is an excellent example of this kind of surprise and is often followed by a spoiler warning because they are one-time events – once learned, you can’t unlearn (which is why I won’t leave any further explanations).

However, using the technique requires you to know how the player’s thinking works, as surprises can very well backfire and cause an opposite effect due to the underlying forces of expectations. If you call upon someone’s attention, you also conjure patterns from the past. Therefore, always keep your promises.

In building experiences and expectations, keeping track of past causes and their expected effects is crucial to the game creator’s building of choices/decisions intended to engage and motivate the player’s perception and meaning-making.

Why the underlying forces of the internal activities of thoughts when making a choice are hidden to the eye and left to game creators’ intuition to handle depends a lot on standards and conventions that influence the game creator’s practice.

In the previous section, The Hidden Art of Pacing, I introduced two rules of thumb to access the player’s thinking by letting

  • the player’s internal activities of thinking precede the external physical actions, and
  • think of the player’s causal reasoning as not having a start or end.

From the perspective of the game medium’s technique and style, the rules of thumb help you structure choices and decisions (changes) based on the player’s perception and causal thinking when organizing the parts intended to engage the player’s meaning-making.

To access the thoughts behind the physical actions of making choices, I will shed some light on the standards that stand in our way when trying to access the player’s perception and conception of information from a narrative and cognitive perspective.

Learning by generalization

Many standards in game development are based on experiences from the past, which we maintain by applying them to present and future practice. Making decisions according to facts like “An apple is an apple and not a pear”, helps control the actions of the process. However, some standards can turn into the creator’s worst nightmare – obstacles.

What if the apple turns out not to be an apple? This assumption results in a choice which we individually or collectively control in different ways.

There is a cognitive concept called learning by generalization, which explains how we compare and use similarities to distinguish, for example, an apple from a pear. In a broader meaning, the similarities concern the transfer of knowledge of experiences from the past that we apply as a rule system in the present and future (Gärdenfors, 2021).

Learning by generalization encompasses a lot of what I’ve mentioned throughout this series. For example, the concept explains why we like staying with the familiar. It also means we sometimes get stuck and repeat ourselves because we apply rule systems of the past on processes of the present and future. When we intuitively sense repetition, we also hear people expressing a desire to “think outside the box”.

Illustration by Linnea Österberg

However, the antidote to getting stuck in similarities of standards, conventions, and preconceptions is curiosity (see Part 5 and Part 6).

One of the rule systems we repeatedly apply concerns the narrative. It’s about the transfer from media to games of event-driven story structures and templates of the three-act and folktales structures like Hero’s Journey. The rule system has inhibiting effects on the organization of parts intended to engage the players’ meaning-making when trying to access their perception as a dynamic and underlying force.

To describe how players perceive and process information, I have used, throughout this series, the three narrative principles of logic, time, and space.

  • Logic concerns our causal interpretation of relations between events. An event counts as a cause and effect, a similarity or difference determined by an agent within a context.
  • Events can occur in virtually any time span (duration) and take place any number of times (frequency), and
  • Space informs about relevant surroundings, positions, and paths assumed by the agent.

David Bordwell derived the narrative principles in 1985 from analyzing spectators’ perceptions of movies. No one has made an equivalent mapping of the narrative principles of the player’s perception in games.

This is exactly why I turned to the field of cognition: to develop new narrative and cognitive models and methods (see, for example, Narrative Bridging ) in order to map and describe how to fully make use of the narrative as a meaning-making and engaging force.

Visit the cognitive domain

When navigating the cognitive domain, it’s important to consider its division between natural science and the humanities. The two fields focus on different areas of learning: computer-, animal-, and human learning. Bearing in mind this division will help you find the cognitive models that can be used to map the underlying forces driving the player’s perception and meaning-making.

The current standard in the domain of cognition is the distinction between sensation and perception (Gärdenfors, 2020).


  • Sensation concerns the signals we receive through our senses by what is happening right now to our bodies (hearing, feeling, seeing, smelling, tasting).
  • Perception regards the interpretation of the signals by sensors, thereby reducing the complexity of the patterns of entities we perceive.

The activity of reducing complexity has previously been referred to as sense-making – how to create a sense or meaning out of the causal, temporal, and spatial links presented before the player’s senses (see section The Hidden Art of Pacing).

  • Conception concerns how we formulate meanings from the patterns we perceive.

But the image above isn’t correct.

To depict science’s mapping of our senses and perception, the image below is more accurate.

Based on the transfer of knowledge from the past, the outer space of conception is not a part of science standards. Now it’s up to me to name this space simply because I need to call it something to explain the narrative as a meaning-making mechanism (but keep the figures in mind as they will play an essential part later on in getting us past standards to explore space).

Learning by generalization also applies in the field of science, but scientists have scientific methods to check that the meanings they create are true.

The tough work is to handle rule systems of dominating standards known as paradigms.

Ever since Darwin published his theory of evolution, science’s focus has been on mapping the brain and senses within the immediate reach of the body. The knowledge is based on comparing similarities between human and animal reasoning. Animal agency, which is the first of seven grades in the model of causal cognition (Gärdenfors, Lombard, 2017), has fit very well with the development of computer reasoning, as the computer’s causal reasoning across space can’t equal human awareness and meaning-making. In this way, the experiences (knowledge) built within science have generated the dominating standard of a behavioristic view on how motivation works from the immediate stimuli of the brain and body.

The underlying forces of internal activities driving intrinsic motivation is still uncharted space, as our creation of meanings is still argued to be imprecise. Due to the unexplored space of the internal movements of meaning-making, Gärdenfors’ description of our causal thinking sticks out. Simply expressed, he is trying to extend both the perceptual and the conceptual space, thereby changing a paradigm.

The excavation of Stone Age Hunting technology was only one of many steps to highlight how human reasoning diverges from that of animals. Now, the seven grade model constitutes a base for developing robotics to think more like humans. And where the interest in developing human curiosity in machines to distinguish alien objects from rocks at NASA is in the news (Hi Steve Chein at NASA – no need to invent curiosity AI, it’s all here).

The reason Gärdenfors’ research is of interest from a game creator’s perspective is that his mapping of our thinking doesn’t only help us understand our own and the players’ thinking. It illuminates how to approach subfields of artificial intelligence and the current aspirations of developing narratives that “tell stories in a new way” (the so-called emergent and procedural narrative systems).

However, if we want to take on the narrative as a meaning-making mechanism, we need to visit the linguistic and semantic domains as they are the ones who administer the results from our meaning-making.

Visit the linguistic and semantic domain

The field of linguistics and semantics constitutes the system that categorizes and classifies our language and the meanings we create. It means they perform the function of administering our meaning-making (narrative constructions) so we can look at the meanings we create and see what they mean.

For example, I know “space of conception” isn’t a part of the standard approach to perception since the term can’t be found in the linguistics and semantics glossaries. However, using a linguistic dictionary will help you discern why we convert objects and actions into nouns and verbs when breaking down the structure of sentences into programmable parts.

In cognitive linguistics, an agent is a classification of an object that exerts an action of a force. A patient is the recipient object of the force. We can use the terms to describe the game creator’s craft of engaging the player as

an agent (creator) (noun) 

who exerts (manner verb) 

a force (cause and effect) 

at (preposition) 

the patients (players) (noun)

By illuminating actions as a cause of a force, Gärdenfors’ mapping of our causal thinking makes it possible to access our internal thoughts as an underlying force leading to an effect. It gives the craft of engaging the player’s mind a Jedi feel when thinking in terms of exerting forces at the players (which we will return to later).

Through the classifications of language, we can connect the narrative principles of perception to games.

  • The preposition “at” indicates space.
  • Cause and effect concerns logic.
  • Time unfolds dynamic forces of events and actions.

We can also see how the terms: agent, action, event, object, force, and patient run like a common thread through physics, artificial intelligence, and programming paradigms created to organize and structure programming languages. I recommend looking at the different programming paradigms, and you will see it’s not written in stone which paradigm is the best. Programming also evolves, which I find very exciting.

Finally, according to a linguistic glossary, the narrative is described as follows:

A narrative discourse is a discourse that is an account of events, usually in the past, that employs verbs of speech, motion, and action to describe a series of events that are contingent one on another, and that typically focuses on one or more performers of actions.

The description of the narrative contains many similar terms connecting a storyteller’s tale and a game creator’s conveyance of meaning-making and motivating forces. However, the problems I intend to illuminate in a moment reside in how 

  • the event is considered a dynamic force related to time, and
  • how the verb tenses of past in opposite of the real-time event…
  • moves focus from the player’s perception from a present position in…
  • favor of an object’s perspective on the past.

Since the narrative principle of space informs about the agent’s surroundings, positions, and paths, I will introduce the meaning-maker.

The meaning-maker

The meaning-maker is not a new role but a way to illuminate how you orientate through paths and surroundings of the mind when organizing and arranging the parts intended to engage the player’s senses and meaning-making from a narrative and cognitive perspective.

The meaning-maker is a symbol intended to illustrate how you approach the narrative differently depending on the medium at hand.

By taking a meaning-maker’s perspective and using the narrative principles, it becomes much easier to distinguish between the narrative and cognitive techniques of a game creator’s building of the player’s engagement from those of a storyteller’s techniques when writing a book or screenplay.

I will start by showing you the meaning-maker’s techniques and then move to the storyteller’s techniques so you can compare similarities and differences.

The narrative principles and models I’ve shared so far in Putting into play will evolve as we go. With the help of Gärdenfors’s latest extension of the conceptual space, a concept established within linguistics and semantics, I aspire to make the meaning-making and engaging forces of game narratives appear more clearly when concluding this series.

The meaning-maker’s techniques

As a meaning-maker, you take the players’ position when looking at the entities and components intended to be presented before the players’ senses.

Taking the players’ position is based on their causal reasoning of retrieving memories from the past when imagining the future from the present position.

Figure 2 A meaning-makers approach to the player’s causal reasoning

From the player’s present position, you build experiences and expectations based on the change’s causes and effects from the player’s counterfactual reasoning of making choices/decisions.

The causation (logic) you build with the player’s causal reasoning in mind can be recognized by its generation of a “What if” when reasoning about the past, present, and future.

“What if” is simply a way of identifying the media-specific element of choice through language.

The building of choice (change) requires you to access the narrative principles of space by considering the player’s causal reasoning as an awareness independent of time. It means you approach space as separated from time, and where the time dimension emerges where the players choose to move/act.

Here is a simple illustration of what I mean.

The purple cogwheel represents the motion of the player’s choice that emerging time across space.

The circle represents the players’ awareness of the space they didn’t choose (change).

Figure 3 A meaning-maker’s techniques

According to standards in programming, an event can be a state, which means nothing changes. Things that don’t change are static, which is the opposite of dynamic.

In building a choice/change from a meaning-maker’s perspective, you always consider the actions of the player’s causal reasoning dynamic since the choice of path is a part of the experiences and expectations the players build across space and through time.

  • The cogwheel represents the dynamic force of the player’s choice from the current position.
  • The circle represents the player’s awareness of the space they didn’t choose (change).

From the perspective of the medium at hand and the computer’s reasoning

  • The cogwheel represents a dynamic force of a change triggering a real-time interval of an event.
  • The circle represents a state of an event waiting for a signal indicating a change to be triggered by the player’s choice (move).

The changes concern events, objects, actions, and places of the world (space), which we will return to later as it involves how the player perceives and conceives dynamic patterns. 

Regarding the player’s causal reasoning in creating a choice, you consider the pathway of the player’s awareness of space and the player’s choice as a dynamic force triggering a real-time interval of an event.

Summing up the meaning-maker’s approach to the medium according to the narrative principles,

  • space is invariant to time
  • time emerges from the player’s choice, and
  • causation (logic) emerges from the player’s causal reasoning and awareness of space

Let’s take a look at the storyteller’s techniques to compare similarities and differences in their approaches to the medium at hand.

The storyteller’s techniques

When writing a book or screenplay, the storyteller creates causation (logic) by simulating (and stimulating) the reader’s causal reasoning by using verb tenses of the present, past, and future.

Figure 4 A storyteller’s techniques

There is a range of techniques creating so-called cognitive gaps in how the storyteller arranges the verb tenses and nouns to engage anticipation, curiosity, suspense, and surprise.

The example above shows the storytelling technique we call foreshadowing, which is known for creating suspense. The causal relation between events is sequenced to give the reader a glimpse of a character’s future; the storyteller then changes to the past and lets the events unfold over time and meet at the end of a present.

The future, past, and present tenses of verbs show the sequences of

  • what will happen,
  • what has happened, and
  • what is happening right now

and illustrate how the storyteller approaches causal, temporal, and spatial networks when triggering and guiding the reader’s perception and meaning-making over time.

The focus on verb tenses to tell or show the reader what happens in the world is why a storyteller takes a character’s perspective to convey cause and effect. The switch of perspective compared to the meaning-maker’s approach to the player’s causal reasoning depends entirely on the medium at hand. To engage the reader’s or audience’s perception and meaning-making, the storyteller structures events, objects, actions, and places/locations in different ways according to an agent-character.

The illustration above also shows how the time dimension embeds the story interval to have a start and an end. The causation (logic) and the temporal element form a horizontal pathway of motion toward the end.

Effects of applying the storyteller’s techniques and structures to games

To facilitate an overview of the storyteller’s techniques and structures’ effect on the reader’s causal reasoning and illustrate the challenges of applying the storyteller’s structure to games, the meaning-maker’s (purple) and storyteller’s (green) respective approaches to logic, time and space are illustrated in the diagram below.

Figure 5 Fusing meaning-making and storytelling techniques

Seen from a meaning-maker’s perspective (purple) on the reader’s present position (1), the causal relationship between the events told by the storyteller (green 4, 5, and 7) makes the reader expect (3) future events and actions based on causes from the past (2).

By fusing the meaning-maker’s and the storyteller’s approaches, you can see how the technique of foreshadowing creates a shift (back and forth) between the reader’s reasoning and the temporality of the character.

  • The experience from the readers’ past (purple 2) is the character’s future (green 4) that engages the readers’ reasoning from their present position (purple 1), which is the character’s past (green 5). Based on the character’s future (green 4) and past (green 5), the readers make inferences (purple 3) about the character’s future outcome (green 7).

By looking at the storyteller’s structure from a meaning-maker’s perspective, it is easier to understand why the storyteller’s structure applied to games creates a prompting, almost dictating feeling when calling attention to what happens to characters and the world.

Through language, we can discern how the storyteller’s structures and techniques compared to the game creator’s development of engagement, differ in their approach to space and time.

The effect of the storyteller’s building of causation across space and time, known as twists, triggers counterfactual reasoning that generates, in terms of language, reader’s questions

  • What has happened? (green 4)
  • How did it happen? (green 5)
  • What will happen? (green 7)

The illustration highlights how the meaning-maker’s approach to space from the player’s perspective and present position (purple 1) opens up a vertical pathway of choice (purple 1 and 6) based on the player’s awareness of space (independent of time), which generate the question

  • What if? (purple 1 and 6)

Actions and events unfold in chronological order (green 4 and 5) due to the temporality of the storyteller’s event-driven story structure. The state of the event (green 7), “waiting” for the reader, is at the end of the horizontal pathway of motion.

Try asking “What if…?”, from the reader’s perspective. Then you sense how the question implies a dynamic force of change that comes from making a choice/decision (purple 1 and 6). The reader can’t do this change as the storyteller has already decided how the events unfold.

The only one who can basically ask “what if…?” as an agent of change is the storyteller while creating the story and making decisions on the arrangement of events, objects, actions, and places according to the media-specific features at hand.

Another effect of applying the storyteller’s structure, techniques, and templates as a game creator is that you get entangled in developing the character’s/object’s intentions and behaviors, which moves you away from the player’s senses, perception, and meaning-making.

Getting too tangled up in the storyteller’s causal, spatial and temporal network can result in a large number of explanatory issues in order to make the player understand why things are happening in the world.

A standard action in the industry to minimize the explanatory elements is to apply familiar rule systems of similarities from the past, such as thematic events of survival and combat and the template of the “Hero’s Journey”. As everyone knows what is expected of a hero and what it means to survive and fight evil, the development can focus on the “other parts.”

The “other parts” are usually related to the technique, where we can discern how standards in science influence practice.

The influence of science on game creator’s practice

Combining the rule systems of an event-driven story structure with a scientific view on perception related to the external stimuli of the brain and body, the pacing and flow models commonly look as follows:

Figure 6 Example of a common flow model

According to standards in causal cognition, the sensation of an intention implies a purpose/goal.

To stimulate the brain and body, goal-setting constitutes a crucial part of triggering the players’ activities. The goal (1) is set on mastering skills of thematic events based on the physical activities (verbs) such as

– combating, gathering, collecting, collaborating, finding, searching, surviving, harvesting, crafting, building, etc.

The engagement space of the events is identified by tension (2) of low or high activity in building skills over time (3). When it comes to building experiences (4) over time, the focus is on balancing the players’ skills and difficulties to reach the goal of mastery (1).

Time and logic frame the events with a start and end. The response (from the computer) to the player at the end shows how well the goal was mastered.

When adding an event-driven story structure to the external activities, the pacing models look as follows:

Figure 7 Mixing story- and action-driven events

The diagram illustrates a binary tension between the story-driven events and the dynamic events of external physical activities.

The question is, which curve represents the player’s thinking?

Or rather: how do we assess the player’s causal thinking and awareness of space?

Including the player’s causal reasoning in a story-driven game

Applying a storyteller’s structure to the game creates an imaginary feeling of having adapted the player’s thoughts to the media-specific features of the game. Taking the meaning-maker’s approach to the player’s causal reasoning, however, will help you discern the underlying forces of how the player perceives the meanings you create.

In this unique example from an earlier post, a design team explicitly expresses the player’s causal reasoning when forming the gameplay core in the story-driven game Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.

Below is a picture from the speech where the lead quest designer Pawel Sasko shows a flow model depicting how the team considered the player’s causal reasoning in the quest design.

Pawel Sasko explains an “interpretation-hypothesizing” model

At the bottom left of the image (above), you can see how the player’s causal reasoning is represented by a grey-colored box saying: “Anticipation of evil.”

The green-colored boxes define two events, “Burning stables” and “Journey”.

The red boxes identify the place (stable), the character object (Baron), and the physical action (fistfight).

The blue boxes define the end of the event and a confession (cut scene) where the intentional entity of changing the player’s experiences and expectations is predicted to happen.

The diagram below offers an overview of the event structure in relation to the player’s causal reasoning.

The underlying structure is the one of a storyteller. The time dimension embeds the story events’ interval to have a start and end. Over time, the cause and effect form a horizontal pathway of motion (force) of how the events (green 2 and 3) unfold chronologically.

The cogwheels represent the dynamic force of the intended change across space.

The team intends to change the player’s mind (expectations) at the end of the event (green 2) by making the player “anticipate evil” at the start of the event. From a meaning-maker’s perspective, it means that the team has built experiences of a past (purple 5) seen from the player’s present position (purple 1), influencing expectations on the future (purple 4) – the “anticipation of evil.”

According to a common standard regarding event cognition and the story’s event structure, the dynamic force (change/twist) is considered to occur between events (cutscene). It means the computer runs the events directed by the force of change based on the story structure’s logic and time, which explains why we say a game is story-driven and why we are dealing with binary flows.

To access the narrative as a meaning-making and engaging force, we need to look beyond standards to discern how the underlying forces of the event’s components

  • object (Baron),
  • place (Stable)
  • the physical action of (Fistfight)

are organized.

Through the object (Baron), the team has created an underlying force intended to change the player’s experience/meanings from the past (purple 5) about the object-Baron’s great evil.

The components of the place (stable) and the action (fistfight) constitute a sub-event embedded in the main event (green 2), whose purpose is to emphasize the force intended to change the player’s expectations (purple 4) at the end of the event.

The dynamic force conveyed by the causation between the components is intended to amplify the feeling of evil, emerging as a surprising effect at the end of the event when object-Baron turns out to be less evil than anticipated.

The technique of creating a surprise is based on changing the player’s understanding of the present (purple 1) based on the rule systems of experiences built in the past (purple 5). The experiences also cover similarities of thematic events and templates from the past, making the player compare the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt with earlier iterations of Witcher and other story-event-driven games. Here, learning by generalization applies.

According to Sasko’s speech, the surprise, i.e., the effect on the result, is intended to make the player feel empathy, remorse, or regret for Baron at the end of the event. From a meaning-maker’s perspective, emotional effects may not precisely be conceived as expected. What matters is that the dynamic forces of change (purple 1) make the player more likely to accompany a less evil object-Baron into the next event of the “Journey” (green 3).

The force that encourages the player to move with Baron to the next event implies a change of the spatial pathway that can be compared to the reader’s movement when turning the book page to find out what happens next. But there is a significant difference that may be tricky to discern until you know how the narrative applies differently according to the medium.

Media’s impact on expectations

The book and the game create different expectations on the possibilities provided by the medium. Through the team’s construction of the causal, spatial, and temporal links compared to the storyteller’s, the media-specific features emerge. The player expects to interact by altering the outcome, which the reader doesn’t anticipate.

Based on the expectations on the game medium (to be interactive), the underlying forces of the components include a sub-sub-event generating a feeling that the actions from the player’s present position may affect future outcomes. When the player acts across space and time, the components of the events create suspense by generating the question

  • “What if my actions have meaning? What will happen then?”.

Appealing to the player’s perception and causal reasoning, the design team builds an engagement based on “what if…?” and connects it to the storyteller’s generation of “what will happen in the future?” by creating an eventuality regarding the change of the character’s path through the player’s choice of actions.

The underlying forces of the team’s expectations on the result of the player’s perception of the event (green 2) and its components can be summarized as follows.

  1. The goal space of the player’s anticipation of evil constitutes the expected result of the main event.
  2. The components of objects, actions, and places of the sub-event (2) embedded in the main event (1) constitute the move of change, i.e., surprise, to the player’s anticipation of evil.
  3. The player’s expectations on the medium and the possibility to alter the outcome are conveyed by the components as a sub-sub event (3) (cogwheel) or a state of an event (circle) and show the player’s awareness of space. Here, the creation of alternative outcomes resides in how you consider the player’s causal reasoning, awareness, and understanding of space.

The underlying forces depicted by the events can be difficult to access if you don’t consider the player’s perception and causal reasoning when formulating the goal space.

To influence current standards is easier said than done. This is confirmed by the example from the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt  by its uniqueness of having a team that expresses the goal space of a thematic event based on the player’s actions of thinking:

  • Expecting, anticipating, hypothesizing, interpreting, imagining, predicting, forecasting, estimating, planning, comparing, distinguishing, reflecting, contemplating, deciding.

A way to make the player’s internal thinking activities a natural part of the process is to separate space from the time dimension. That is when the designer gains access to the center of the player’s senses and perception, setting out to organize the engaging and meaning-making forces of the narrative as a cognitive process. That’s why I’m planning to take you on a space trip in the coming part to spotlight the dimensions of causal reasoning, awareness, and understanding across space – independent of time.

Don’t hesitate to ask questions and share your thoughts, as it’s through your engagement this series exists.

Until next time, stay curious!


Coming up soon

Part 11, Putting into play – A meaning-maker’s space
Part 12, Putting into play – A meaning-maker’s forces

Previous posts on Narrative Construction

The Nemesis of Narrative – The cost of standardizing event-driven story structures in games.

Hands-on guide: Predicting players’ thinking

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

Part 4, Putting into play – How to trigger the narrative vehicle
Part 5, Putting into play – On organizing thoughts and feelings
Part 6, Putting into play – On organizing engaging and dynamic forces

Part 7, Putting into play – The Hidden Art of Pacing 1 (3)
Part 8, Putting into play – The Hidden Art of Pacing 2 (3)
Part 9, Putting into play – The Hidden Art of Pacing 3 (3)


Bordwell, D 1985. Narration in the Fiction Film.

Research portal, Peter Gärdenfors, Senior Professor at Lund’s University, Sweden.

Gärdenfors, P 2021, ‘Causal reasoning and event cognition as evolutionary determinants of language structure‘, Entropy, vol. 23, nr. 7, 843. 

Gärdenfors, P 2020, ‘Events and Causal Mappings Modeled in Conceptual Spaces‘, Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 11, 630. 

Gärdenfors, P 2020, ‘Primary Cognitive Categories Are Determined by Their Invariances‘, Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 11, 584017. 

Lombard, M & Gärdenfors, P 2017, ‘Tracking the evolution of causal cognition in humans’, Journal of Anthropological Sciences, vol. 95, s. 219-234. 

Interested in NASA’s development of Curiosity AI? See also Reinforcement Learning

Watch Pawel Sasko’s talk at Digital Dragon on Youtube

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