2014 SXSW Interactive Session Spotlight: The Narrative Debate in Game Design

Written by Megan Simpson | January 17, 2014

John Warren covers the narrative debate in game design at SXSW 2014

What can registrants expect when they land in Austin for the 2014 SXSW Interactive Festival this March? More than 800 sessions in the categories of gaming, arts, science and inspiration, just to name a few. Today’s installment of the Session Spotlight features Austinite and Minicore Studios Founder/CEO John Warren, and his panel titled “The Narrative Debate in Game Design,”.

SXSW: For those who aren’t familiar with your topic, can you briefly explain what “debate” you’ll be talking about in your session?
Warren: The debate surrounding narratives in games generally centers around player agency and interactivity. Some believe narratives enrich games, while others wish for purely system-based experiences. What is the future of narratives in games given a lack of writing quality and seemingly growing desire for games that only focus on moment-to-moment player agency? How can game narratives thrive into the next generation of games and players?

SXSW: Who should attend this session?
Warren: I think anyone who has ever had a spirited debate about what games should be, or could be, would like this session. We'll cover large AAA titles as well as very unique Twine and freeware games that emphasize text and narrative above any kind of gameplay conventions. Even if your background isn't in games, the concept of "story" is as old as the human race. This interactive, evolving medium has conflicting views on the concept of "story," so anyone interested in the intersection of storytelling and interactivity should join us.

SXSW: To help those who may be unfamiliar with this work, can you suggest your favorite article that relates to this topic?
Warren: Shay Pierce's article is one of many that touch on this concept.

SXSW: What makes you an expert on this topic?
Warren: I've been involved with game design for about four years now, and games in general for the past 23. I've always had a unique relationship with characters, settings, and narratives in games and I've found it important to try to preserve storytelling in them without falling into the same pits that preceded me.

SXSW: Ultimately, what will attendees of your session gain?
Warren: They'll know more about the panelists' games, games both in and out of the spotlight, and why it matters to have designers that care about narrative, designers that care about interactivity, and the preservation of both.

SXSW: Aside from your own, what panel are you most excited for at SXSW?
Warren: There are lots of sessions that look awesome to me, but “Includification - More Gamers with Accessibility” is near and dear to my heart. It's important to have this perspective in game design, and it's often overlooked.

SXSW: Do you have a favorite guilty pleasure that you’re willing to share with us?
Warren: Professional wrestling is barely a guilty pleasure, but since so many would assume I feel guilt about this, I'll stick to this answer.

SXSW: Any last thoughts for us?
Warren: I'm not the unfunniest person in the world and enjoy a witty repartee about stuff that really, really matters to me. The panel should be a lot of fun.

Watch this website for more installments of the 2014 SXSW Interactive Session Spotlight. Click here for the complete list of programming for March in Austin. Register now to attend “The Narrative Debate in Game Design” and other programming at SXSW Interactive 2014.