Text Based Games: A Powerful Tool for Experiential Corporate Training

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Even with all the graphic images, movies and photos that “say 1000 words,” text is one of the great gateways for our imaginations. And the reason for this is that no one else is providing us the imagery. We are bringing it to the table, based on our memories, our emotions, yes – some past images which we have stored. But it is generated by us.

Gamasutra just posted the talk by Jon Ingold of Inkle studio which produced the text based/narrative game entitled, 80 Days(available for Android and iOS). As he spoke and layed out the parameters for an effective text based game, I immediately thought how versatile and applicable this format would be for corporate training that involves the student in a scenario in such a way that they need to examine themselves and their own behavior.

Ingold lays out some basic parameters:
– The player/student should believe they are moving under their own agency. That they are making the decisions, even if they are being guided or sometimes forced down a path.

– The most effective way to do this is by offering three choices at every step. In time (as he shows) the three choices can be cross purposed so you do not need straight tiers of three choices each time (see the 17:41 mark in the video).

– Meaningful choices are actually small choices that are made at every moment and which actually define ones character. Ingold does an excellent job of talking about one’s behavior when sitting next to a smelly person in a Tube (sete 55:00 onward for his conclusions and a compelling description of this behavior and branching of choices).

– The game/training must have a “remorselessly stacking effect.” One point must build on the prior or the authenticity of the effect will be lost and the players will not buy into the scenario, nor be guided through the experience you wish them to have.

– The branching narrative must authentically branch or, again, you will lose the player. People have an innate sense of connectivity within a story. It is how we as humans discern the truth, and we have been listening to narrative since the dawn of human communication. We cannot be deceived where a story line does not carry well.

– The game should be competent and efficient so that they player can get through it. But it is the text that overlays which creates the compelling reason for the player/student to engage.

– Put the game state (the activity you want the player to do) below and the story above, but have the story reflect the game state.

– A good narrative game needs a human touch. It is not about the game mechanics. And the game needs an authoring format that allows for this.

by Limor Schafman

Additional Information:
Product Review for 80 Days
Gamasutra Post Mortem for 80 Days

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