STORY for VIDEO GAMES

Strong narrative is key to engaging and retaining players. This course teaches the story-structure essentials that will help you craft richer and more compelling games.

Over seven weeks you’ll master story principles for games. You’ll investigate the relationship between player and protagonist, discover how to merge story and gameplay, and find ways to use those skills in a development team.

There’s a balance of theory – the five-act structure ideas set out in John Yorke’s acclaimed book, Into The Woods – with highly practical exercises based on games from Overwatch to The Walking Dead and The Witness.

At the end of the course you’ll write a story treatment for a game, and get feedback from story expert John Yorke and Heavy Rain lead Designer Caroline Marchal. The course is for anyone who works in the gaming industry as well as writers intrigued by the possibilities of interactive stories.

This is a professional development course and so you may be able to get funding from your employer to do it. All participants who successfully complete the course will receive a certificate of completion evidencing their learning and study hours.

Course Director John Yorke

Course Director Caroline Marchal

Course Tutor tbc

Course Moderator Emily Ronan

Heavy Rain, Story for video games, Caroline Marchal, John Yorke, Video games writing, narrative games, narrative theory

Only 20% of players complete games — that’s very low. But the completion rate of narrative games is 60–70% — three times higher. 

Caroline Marchal

Lead Game Designer, Heavy Rain and Beyond - Two Souls

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Start date: 14 January 2019
Duration: 7 weeks
Skill level: Intermediate
Session length: Weekly
Sessions: 6
Price: £1,200 (inc. VAT where applicable)

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Story for Video Games has been designed for anyone who loves and plays video games, and is interested in how to tell engaging game stories. It explores the principles of storytelling and goes deeper than traditional scriptwriting courses by applying these principles to video games.

It’s ideal if you’re a writer looking to work in a different, ever-expanding medium, a video game professional looking to create richer and more engaging experiences, or a student wanting to work in the industry.

We teach this course in groups of up to 15 people. You can book as an individual or you can block-book a dedicated class exclusively for your team.

The course is suitable if you:

  • Are involved in developing or publishing video games, be it as a designer, producer, artist or programmer, etc.
  • Are new to video game writing and want to learn how to plan and structure your work
  • Want to understand what a development team needs from a writer
  • Want to learn how to see the underlying framework behind all stories everywhere — both in video games and traditional media
  • Want to join a friendly and supportive group of learners
  • Can dedicate 4–5 hours per week for the duration of the course

 

 

Massively successful video games like Metal Gear SolidGrand Theft Auto or The Witcher feature exciting gameplay AND great stories. This course focuses on story’s primary colours, the fundamental principles you need to write great narrative, and on the techniques to adapt these principles to video games.

There’s a balance of theory and practice but in each session you’ll work through practical exercises based on acclaimed video games — from Uncharted to Life is Strange — and films and TV shows like The Godfather or Battlestar Galactica.

SESSION 1: The protagonist and the player
We start with an in-depth analysis of what a protagonist is, their desire and their relationship to the player. You’ll learn about good characterisation and how the identification process works.
SESSION 2: Key elements of story
In addition to a protagonist and a desire, every story needs an antagonist, an inciting incident, a journey, a crisis, a climax and a resolution. We’ll analyse all these elements in detail and how they work in games.

 

 

 

 

At the end of this session you’ll have the chance to ask John your questions

SESSION 3: Understanding story structure
We’ll focus on the ten questions you need to ask to make sure your story isn’t broken, and how you can structure it in three and five acts. By the end of the session, you’ll be able to deconstruct any story.
SESSION 4: Merging story and gameplay
The key challenge in game writing is to make story and gameplay work together. For this, you need to know your verbs, understand agency, choice, pacing and much more.

 

 

 

 

At the end of this session you’ll have the chance to ask Caroline your questions.

SESSION 5: 12 storytelling tips for games
How you tell your story is as important as what the story is. A great story told badly is worse than an okay story told elegantly. Find out how to perfect your storytelling with 15 essential tips.
SESSION 6: Writing in a development team
In this final session you’ll learn what a development team needs from a writer — how you can contribute to, improve and make an impact on the quality of the final experience. This session will last two weeks.

 

 

 

 

At the end of the course you’ll use what you’ve learned to write a treatment for your own game story idea, which you can submit to receive written feedback notes from your tutors.

We teach this course in our online classroom, which is open 24/7 so you can fit learning around your work, family and friends. You’ll work in a small group of learners so you can discuss ideas, ask questions and share your writing as you progress through the weekly sessions.

You’ll learn from:

  • Short podcasts from John Yorke and Caroline Marchal
  • Short videos from John and Caroline
  • Written guidance notes and carefully selected reading and playing lists devised by John and Caroline
  • Practical exercises and prompts, devised by John and Caroline to help you experiment and practise your skills as you work toward developing your own game ideas
  • Guided discussions with your group
  • The chance to ask John and Caroline questions
  • The opportunity to share your work and give and receive feedback from fellow writers
  • Detailed tutor feedback on your treatment at the end of the course

You’ll need:

  • 4-5 hours per week to work through the course
  • Access to the following games:
    • Reigns (Windows/Mac/Linux, Android/iOS)
    • The Writer Will Do Something (browser)
    • Prior knowledge of The Last of Us (PS3/PS4) is ideal but not mandatory
  • A laptop or computer* with:
    • A reliable broadband internet connection
    • Speakers or headphones
    • The latest version of Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Edge, or Safari
    • Microsoft Word. If you don’t have this you can download Open Office free
    • Adobe Reader, latest version. Download free
    • QuickTime Player, latest version. Download free
    • Adobe Flash Player 10 or higher

*You can access the course from a tablet or smartphone, but we recommend using a laptop or computer, as this makes it easier to share your work files with your writing group.

Join our alumni

After your course, you can join our online alumni where you’ll meet our growing network of past students. The alumni is a friendly group of writers who support each other as they continue to explore and develop their writing.

Within our online alumni area you can:

  • Rejoin your classmates on a private forum and access an archived version of your course materials and forum posts
  • Meet alumni from other courses and groups and share your work for feedback on our alumni critiquing forum
  • Join in on discussions about reading, writing, editing and ideas on our general discussion forum. This is also where we share news and useful info
  • Retain access to our resources area, which has interesting and informative links
  • Chat with other people online using the alumni area live chatroom. We also host live chats with guests here


Mentoring and one-to-one feedback

The John Yorke Story tutor team offer mentoring, script reads and reports. We are happy to quote by job or script, or to arrange a longer mentoring scheme as you work on a specific story idea. We’ll create a package to suit you, so for more information please email susannah@profwritingacademy.com

Taking things further

If you’d like to continue on to another John Yorke Story or Professional Writing Academy course, we’ll give you a discount. Please get in touch for more details.

FREE ACCESS TO OUR INDUSTRY GUIDE

FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY

We’re giving free access to our much-coveted guide: Three Strategies to Make Your Game a Winner. Enter your email address below to download the guide.

I want studios that make story-based games to start taking their stories more seriously. And that doesn’t mean hiring a big shot writer from Hollywood; it means that story becomes integral to making your game. I don’t see how you can achieve that without having an in-house writer who sits next to the designer, helping them make their levels, talking with the engineers about where we can tell the story more dynamically, pushing at technology.

Neil Druckmann

Creative Director at Naughty Dog (Uncharted, The Last of Us)

Price: £1,200 (inc. VAT where applicable)

Price: £50
(Non-refundable)

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WHAT STUDENTS SAY ABOUT the COURSES

The content has been fantastic and the feedback incredibly helpful. I’ve managed to secure some work on a production, so hopefully I can put some of what I’ve learned into practice.

Ally

This course is kind of like getting under the hood of a car to identify how the engine works. I’m put in a mindset that allows me to identify breaks, transitions, emotional turns and story direction. Like car engines, some stories are high octane and others more pedestrian. I was able to apply the techniques to both a shoot-up adventure and a character drama I’m working on. That’s a revelation.

Sean

The course has been truly transformative to the way I frame and structure my stories, and I have been really touched by the genuinely supportive and encouraging atmosphere on the forums from fellow learners and tutors.

Theresa

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