Posted by DesignAWay
Forms of Tension in Game Story Design

Forms of Tension in Game Story Design

Tension comes in plenty of forms, and has plenty of sayings, although due to their complexion, games depend on tension. You are given a sequence of goals, and you have to rise above difficulties if you want to achieve these goals. This is the basic composition of a story, plus it makes game writing challenging and fulfilling. Here is a list of the main kinds of tensions utilised in gameplay. It important to know that the majority of stories use more than one kind of tension.

Man Versus Man

This is the biggest one: good guy versus bad buy, your hero against a gangster, which could be individual, or business related. From time to time the hero can be a bad guy; hence role reversal. Most stories depend on this kind of tension. First person shooters, third-person action-adventure, and sports games are generally focussed on this kind of tension.

Man versus Nature

Your hero is stuck in the wild, or is battling to stay alive in a storm, or out to slaughter a killer shark. In gameplay, it may include a sport like snowboarding, or shooting. Nature can include aliens and monsters too.

Man versus Self

This is not used that frequently in games. This is when your hero is battling with his own evil spirits, like obsessions and irrational fears. This may be endurance terror scenes in gameplay terminology.

Man versus Destiny

This is frequently utilised in role play adventures, where your hero is fighting with his luck, and he does not want to realise it most of the times.

Man versus Machine

Man is in conflict with technology here, battling with relentless machines, generally after they have gained a lot of self-awareness.

Man versus System

This is your hero versus the universe. Generally your hero is misjudged, or a recluse who is aware of the reality, however; he is not able to get people to believe him. This is a popular theme of action-adventure games.

Man versus Past

Your hero is attempting to break away from his past, although it continues to return to disturb him. Occasionally, your hero does not find it possible to do this, regardless of how much he tries. This kind of tension is frequently over utilised in the amnesia narratives and is popular in thrillers.

All the above are some of the core kinds of gameplay difficulties which designers create in addition to classic story tensions. Take note that as your story advances the level of tension will frequently intensify. You are going toward a head-to-head battle at specific points in your narrative, plus the continual growth of the strength of your tension suggests you’re achieving the peak.

The Stakes

There are six types of stakes in gameplay, which is what you are playing for in the game and story. Each will now be examined individually.

Life or Death

This is the highest stake, and when you’re playing for your life, things do not get any more critical. The majority of first person games use these stakes. and you end up deceased if there is too much destruction.

Wealth or Poverty

Greediness is a strong influence and is understood by all.

Love or Loss

This is a lot more cryptic and is not utilised in games as much as it ought to be. It’s the most expressive and emotive from all stakes, and when completed correctly, love is possibly the most gripping sensation.

Happiness or Sadness

Everybody attempts to endeavours to be happy. If your character begins at rock bottom psychologically, their voyage to happiness could be fulfilling for you too. You truly need to be devoted to your hero if you want these stakes to work.

Victory or Loss

Win the battle; win the war, and if save your family and people. Pretty clear-cut!

Security versus Instability

Getting disorder under control, or surrendering to external powers. Similar to tension, the stakes of your story frequently alters. When the stakes rise, the level of intense conflict deepens as the threat your hero faces becomes greater. As you foster on one, you’re fostering on the other, moving you very close to a resolve.

All of the above fall into the win/lose classification. The stakes that you use to create a great story are the identical to the ones that you utilise to create stimulating gameplay. The aim is to synchronise the stakes of your story and game because this generates a more immerged experience for the player. As the stakes are either win or lose for your hero, and you can see these, it is simple to begin to plot an arc for your narrative.

Your tension and stakes have to be in harmony with the fundamental gameplay, otherwise your story will appear to be misplaced. When they do synchronise, the experience is flawless.

Hazard: How Story Parts Influence Tension

The level of tension and stakes defines the force of hazard your hero is faced with, hence; the dramatic conflict that exists in the narrative. All stories depend on some kind of conflict to create tension. The fundamental dramatic tension of the gameplay happens when resting in-between the conflict acquired in the story and the stakes being played for. For example, if you are playing cards around the living room table for nickels and dimes, then the hazard you are faced with is at one level, and the conflict you feel partners as a result. If you’re playing experts in Montreal for your total life savings, them the conflict is clearly not the same. You have a greater transaction at jeopardy, the tension is alike, however, the stakes have increased, plus in the progression, the extent of drastic tension initiated into the second scene is drastically higher.

Recall the above when you go to convert your story to equal the game hefty tension and high stakes are inclined to greater critical stories than negligible conflict and low stakes. It is doable to mix and match to generate exciting scenarios – for example- certain comedies like Black comedy, which frequently depend on negligible tension greater stake. The plan is to alter these to equal the gameplay. You have to work out how your narrative is going to utilise tension and stakes to generate the conflict in your storyline. Comprehending these features at the basis of your story will assist you in all aspects of your storyline.


This determines the rules that the characters in your narrative perform. Tension and stakes can intensify over time. Your story could happen in a flicker of an eye, or over many years. Stakes are inclined to increase when there is less time to fulfil your aims. Time is able to repair injuries or make them worse. Individual to games, time can be non-linear, enabling the player to view action from several viewpoints, or from a chronological sequence. Furthermore, time can be speeded up or slowed down to generate conflict too.


This is a role of conflict and stake, the strength of the two and the time that it happens, which creates the threat, or hazard your hero tackles, and drastic conflict you feel which forms the root of stories plot.

The final story is a lot more convincing, and the opportunities of getting into a creative gridlock throughout the progression of the game are greatly diminished, when all the above components are thought about in detail


The exciting bit is that what generates great storytelling generates great design too. It may help if you think about the carrot and stick, incentives versus penalty. How you push and pull the player throughout the gameplay encounter is the similar kind of action you’re required to take when you are driving the story forward, which all links back into the character, world, tone and theme.


Your hero/es must not be the good guy of the narrative; they can have their own internal conflict and chaos too, and not only that that is created in the game.


This is the realism in which the story occurs as well as the locality. For example, Comedy World, Sci-Fi Repressive> The planet alone will donate to the tension to a great degree.


This is the part where stories usually go wrong because a tone is set within the narrative which the player becomes comfortable with, although, afterwards, something arises out of right domain that chucks the tone off sync. It is immediately noticeable when this happens, and could be utilised for a mighty result, however, it has to be carefully considered as you are taking away the security net at this stage. For example, exterminating a chief character suddenly in a comedy, or unexpectedly swapping to substantial fear nuances in a generally light action adventure. When finished properly, it has a fair impression; although when finished wrongly or not on purpose, it can mean a loss of your audience.


The theme is beneath the story game: renovation, rescue, dropping from elegance, strength damages, finances cannot purchase contentment, retaliation. Each of these sayings is inclined to be major topics which fuel the narrative. The significance of comprehending your topic can’t be exaggerated enough. Each time you hit a brick wall in the story, return to and evaluate your topic. What passages do you require to progress the hero ahead in a manner which will convey the topic.

Player Expectation

Consider the character, planet, tone, and topic as the foundations of your narrative. You are going to incorporate a plot in order, which is motivated by tension and stake, plus during the course you place your hero in danger, which creates the drastic storyline. People will excuse a great deal if they are concerned about your characters. In the majority of stories, characters are the key individuals that you monitor through the narrative. The fact that characters are characters is what makes games very exclusive. What happens to a character on screen actually happens to you. Hence, you can form even deeper bonds, and make your players become more psychologically attached to their hero with successful storytelling. Defeating the obstacles that occur between the player and character is a huge aspect of generating the type of gripping feeling you’re determined to accomplish. Therefore, what are players searching for?

Your audience is playing a game, and they look forward to interacting, not just observing. They are willing to observe, however, it has to be convincing, and connected to establishing or paying off gameplay. Hence, lengthy explanation scenarios need to be evaded, and information ought to be conveyed artistically to the player.

Consistently think of the player holding the controller, with his finger hovering over the start button. Frontload something if it is crucial to the game, as opposed to organising it at the end of the series. Consider timing – what’s the speed of the game? Speedier action games need different pacing to relaxed role playing games. The pacing of the story ought to match the pacing of the game.

Finally, you will need to arc out the story, organising setups and pay-outs along the route. Question yourself about what the crucial story set parts are that need to be incorporated to progress the narrative to its end. After that, contemplate the information which needs to be divulged to the player throughout the game, and imaginative ways these could be included into the narrative. Keep in mind that your story is not there just for the sake of it; it’s there to assist the greater gameplay experience.

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