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 of the post, I recommend reading Part 2 and 3 of the series Putting into play, which provides an orientation.  

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Part 3, Putting into play – On narrative from a cognitive perspective II

Continuation of Part 2, Putting into play

Realising that our restraint to embrace the cognition-based method, Narrative bridging (Boman, Gyllenbäck, 2010) was a matter of control due to the lack of clear description of how our mind works, and where the familiar story structures and templates constituted a safety. The thorny issue I faced was how to make people aware of their thinking as to access our core cognitive activities. If you have tried talking to people about their thinking and how it works, you will then also know that it is the trickiest thing one can do. If not handled with care, people will, at the most, become aware of you by comparing your thinking with theirs: opinion and meaning-wise. The awareness I am talking about isn’t about being smart or skilled. Instead, it is a matter of being conscious of the mind as a way to become conscious of how emotions, attention, desires, beliefs and intentions relate to our causal thinking and understanding.

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Part 2, Putting into play – On narrative from a cognitive perspective I

The series Putting into play is part of a more than a one-year-long project which began when I received a request from readers. They had noticed how the cognition-based method Narrative bridging (Boman, Gyllenbäck, 2010) provided an overlook and control of the organisation and arrangement of the information (also known as plotting) in the design of an engaging and dynamic game system. Since it is one thing to show how narration and cognition interplay as systems in a game that already exists of which the outcome can be evaluated, but quite another to start from nothing when putting thoughts and feelings into play. When readers expressed curiosity in learning how to use the method from absolute scratch in a hands-on tutorial, a ten-year-old conundrum reemerged concerning the minds-on part of the process.

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Part 1, Putting into play – A model of causal cognition on game design


The title Putting into play is inspired by the term mise-en-scene, which means, “putting into the scene” (or “put on stage”). The term had its origin in theatre and was later picked up by film scholars as to have a way of referring to the practice of directing, planning and controlling the elements for the desired effect on a stage or in a frame of a film. Since the term isn´t established in games but where the concept could provide an overlook of the stylish elements that are to be organised and arranged in the creation of a form; my intention is not to put a new term into play. What I will “put into play” are the thoughts that precede the choice of elements that are to become the parts of the desired form of an engaging and dynamic game system.

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Narrative patterns of thinking

A schemata is a pattern of thinking that describes our seeking for meaning and how we categorise information and store it in small boxes that we call our memory, which forms our experiences and knowledge. What meanings we are creating from a narrative perspective is not easy to tell. However, what isn´t that unpredictable and arbitrary as we might think are the schemata that are running like a goal-oriented vehicle that makes us look for causes and consequences in familiar patterns.

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2 plus 2 but not 4

Thus the reality for they who work with narrative construction within the game industry is to work with a story driven/based genre I will revisit the conditions I described in the first part of the series “Don´t show, involve” when I paired up the writer Vince Gilligan (creator of the television series “Breaking Bad”) and the game designer Jenova Chen (the creator of the online game “Journey”). Since the story and the gameplay are seen as two separate elements within the game industry, which easily leads to the creation of two premises to be merged into one (1) form I will take a closer look at dialogues as a stylish element from the perspective of the narrative as a cognitive and dynamic element and how it can give meaning to an experience.

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Part 3, Don´t show, involve

The series “Don´t show, involve” builds upon the narrative as a cognitive process and how to go from a thought to the plotting of an involving experience. As to get the most out of the third and last part of “Don´t show, involve” I would like to recommend reading the previous parts before continuing.

Part 1 Don´t show, involve – how to propel a thought towards a goal.
Part 2 Don´t show, involve – hands-on plotting towards a goal.

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Part 1, Don´t show, involve

I´m pretty sure you´ve heard the phrase, “Show, don´t tell” as a piece of advice when constructing narratives in film. The origin is said to come from the Russian writer Anton Chekhov who thought writers used too many descriptions and adjectives and should leave the interpretation to the receiver. Today the phrase works as an advising technique for screenwriters to avoid having a character knocking at a door at the same time it says: “I´m knocking on the door to see if my friend is at home”.

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