Book Review: Video Game Storytelling by Evan Skolnick

video-game-storytelling“I found it to be both interesting and entertaining, using real-life examples taken from very popular movies and games that most people will be readily familiar with. I feel that Evan Skolnick has a lot to share and I really wish I had the opportunity to attend one of his talks. I would recommend Video Game Storytelling to anyone involved in the game development process—or anyone hoping to get into game development.” —Game Vortex

I started with Game Vortex’s quote because I believe I need to shed some positive light on this book. I could see how this book could be extremely helpful to people in the video game industry.

Here is the summary from the Penguin Random House site:

With increasingly sophisticated video games being consumed by an enthusiastic and expanding audience, the pressure is on game developers like never before to deliver exciting stories and engaging characters. With Video Game Storytelling, game writer and producer Evan Skolnick provides a comprehensive yet easy-to-follow guide to storytelling basics and how they can be applied at every stage of the development process—by all members of the team. This clear, concise reference pairs relevant examples from top games and other media with a breakdown of the key roles in game development, showing how a team’s shared understanding and application of core storytelling principles can deepen the player experience. Understanding story and why it matters is no longer just for writers or narrative designers. From team leadership to game design and beyond, Skolnick reveals how each member of the development team can do his or her part to help produce gripping, truly memorable narratives that will enhance gameplay and bring today’s savvy gamers back time and time again.

Many game developers care just as much about the story in their games as they do about game mechanics, which I think is smart. However, game developers may not have studied creative writing in school. So creating stories that resonate with their gamer audiences may be difficult to create.

For someone who has studied narrative structure and character building the majority of their life, I found this book to offer nothing new. To be fair, I am not a game developer and I read this book because I was interested in the idea of the subject matter. However, it’s truly a book for beginners as far as the storytelling aspect goes. This doesn’t make it a terrible read. While I didn’t enjoy it, I’m sure others will and have.

Evan Skolnick has worked at companies such as Activision, Lucasfilm, and Marvel. He’s worked on projects such as Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2Spider-Man 3Star Wars 1313, and many others. He’s conducted workshops and spoke to many different video game industry professionals about storytelling techniques.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

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What Makes Characters Memorable

What is it that makes characters memorable? I was wondering this when watching Peaky Blinders, reading Braggsville, and playing Dragon Age: Inquisition (not all at the same time, but sometimes two at a time). What is (or are) the magic ingredient(s) to making a character real?

It’s actually simple, and yet difficult. Let’s start with Morrigan, from the Dragon Age series. She knows a bit about magic.

“A man will always believe two things about a woman; one, that she is weak and two, that she finds him attractive.” —Morrigan from Dragon Age: Origins

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