Writing Player Motivation

The other day, someone asked me what the biggest difference between writing for Stage, Screen, and Games was.

Explaining the difference between Stage and Screen was easy: for Stage, you show the whole scene continuously, costume and scene changes need to be taken into account, and unless you use a projector or something, you can’t really show detail in props etc; for Screen, the storytelling is a lot more visual, you can have close-ups and cutscenes, montages, fast changes, and not only are these possible, they’re actually expected.

What about writing for Games? For me, it’s somewhere between the two in terms of style, but not only that, it’s a matter of not just telling the story (or “showing,” as pedants may insist), but it’s important that the story is driven by the minor characters.

This may sound contradictory to common logic- that the player should be in the driving seat the whole way. But I don’t believe this is true: I believe that the player should feel that their next move is the most logical one in the context of the game. How does a writer make this happen? By writing in a situation where the minor characters communicate to the player that there is really only one option.

I found a quote that I think sums up how to do this in Alex Epstein’s Crafty TV Writing (in regards to “forcing” a character into a situation against their nature):

By “force,” I mean, of course, “give him a valid motivation he’d find it hard to resist.” (p54)

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