Screenwriting and authorial control in narrative video games | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 6, Issue 3
  • ISSN: 1759-7137
  • E-ISSN: 1759-7145



Film and television screenwriters who are accustomed to working in a linear, noninteractive mode of storytelling may find themselves struggling to communicate a coherent progression of plot, character and theme when tasked with providing multiple avenues for video game player narrative input. This may be especially problematic when writing single-player role-playing video games (RPGs), which have always permitted a certain co-authorial relationship between a game’s screenwriters and its players, due to the branching-path narrative complexity and performative or emergent gameplay possibilities that are hallmarks of the genre. Using a case study of the linear game, The Last of Us, in contrast to an analysis of the open-world role-playing games Fallout 3 and Mass Effect 3, I will examine reasons why a screenwriter may find himself or herself knowingly ceding narrative control to players due to reasons that relate to a player’s engagement with ideas of co-authorship.


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