Can we tell stories in games?

An age old question that many game designers have started challenging for decades, yet it is only recently we started to see more and more successful works that integrate the way stories are told into virtual worlds.

“Papers, please”  is a brilliant example.

Would you play a game about a guy whose job is something as repetitive as clearing papers for customs? The nature of the job seems boring enough, yet underneath this exterior is an intricately woven story that makes you feel more about the world than some big budget block busters can even come close to.

A world filled with terror and legal constrictions, where your failure in your job can cost your family their lives. A world where a lot is showed, and little is told, giving players the points to let them draw the lines themselves. I recall in one level, after clearing a man and letting him through, he whispered, “My wife is behind. Please let her through.”

The lady that came next suddenly was no longer just another character to clear, but someone else’s wife. Suddenly there was so much weight in what I was doing. I could let her in at the expense of my own wages, possible leading to my family starving in later game, or I could deny her and separate the two couple. The story was in my control. My actions had real weight and for a second there, I did not know what to do.

I choose the former, and was punished with a pay cut but was rewarded with a token from the lady and a heartfelt thank you.

And I’ll admit, even until now, it still feels good.

I believe that that should be the nature of narrative in game.


An interaction can be simple but yet the choices we make can have weight.


Another example is ” This war of mine”

I never thought I’ll ever play a game that was hard to play emotionally but the war torn world of the game changed my mind.

It took every element of a zombie survival game and removed the zombies and became one of the most powerful and gripping tales.

The choices I make comes back to haunt me.

Stealing from an old lady makes me sick. Choosing between running from a fight or helping another felt like a real choice.

A wrong move meant that I would die. Yet I didn’t know what the right moves were either.





I believe that such interactions add layers of meaning into the story.


There is real weight in the decisions that we make in the game, we feel that it is real and hence the decisions in the game matter.