The Art of Writing for Video Games: Mechanics VS Story

While game mechanics and story may seem different, there are similarities. Combining game mechanics with a well-crafted story can create an immersive gameplay experience.

A compelling story can give players a reason to care about the game world and its characters and motivate them to progress through the game’s mechanics. At the same time, game mechanics can help to reinforce the story and make the player feel like an active participant in the story’s events.

A game mechanic is a rule, system, or interaction that defines how a player interacts with a game world. It is the underlying structure of a game that determines how players progress, succeed, or fail within the game. Game mechanics can be as simple as jumping or as complex as character customization, and they can be used to create a wide variety of gameplay experiences.

Existing genres can be used as a starting point for designing new games by identifying common game mechanics and elements within those genres and incorporating them into new game concepts. For example, a developer could take the platforming mechanic from Super Mario Bros. and combine it with the resource management mechanic from Fallout to create a new post-apocalyptic platformer.

By building on existing genres, developers can leverage the familiarity and popularity of those genres while also introducing new mechanics and ideas to create unique and engaging gameplay experiences.

Using existing genres as a design template also allows developers to better understand player expectations and preferences, as they are working within established frameworks that players are already familiar with. This can help to ensure that the game is accessible and enjoyable to a wide range of players. However, it is important to also introduce new mechanics and elements to keep the gameplay fresh and engaging and to avoid simply creating a copycat game.

Some examples of game mechanic/genres:

  1. Platforming: Players control a character who jumps and moves through a series of platforms or obstacles. Examples include Super Mario Bros., Sonic the Hedgehog, and Celeste.
  2. Stealth: Players must avoid detection or eliminate enemies without being seen. Examples include Metal Gear Solid, Assassin’s Creed, and Hitman.
  3. Resource Management: Players must manage finite resources, such as health, ammo, or money, to survive or progress. Examples include Resident Evil, Fallout, and Civilization.
  4. Crafting: Players gather materials and use them to create new items or tools. Examples include Minecraft, Terraria, and Don’t Starve.
  5. Role-playing: Players take on a role and make decisions that affect the story and character progression. Examples include The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, and Final Fantasy.
  6. Skill-based Challenges: Players must demonstrate mastery of a specific skill or set of skills to progress. Examples include Guitar Hero, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, and Trials.
  7. Puzzle-solving: Players must solve puzzles to progress. Examples include Tetris, Portal, and The Witness.
  8. Combat: Players engage in combat with enemies using weapons or hand-to-hand combat. Examples include Call of Duty, God of War, and Mortal Kombat.
  9. Racing: Players compete against each other in races using vehicles. Examples include Mario Kart, Forza Horizon, and Need for Speed.
  10. Simulation: Players simulate real-life activities or experiences, such as flying a plane, running a restaurant, or managing a city. Examples include Flight Simulator, Cooking Mama, and SimCity.


Combining game mechanics with story can be a powerful way to create an engaging and immersive gameplay experience. A well-crafted story can give players a reason to care about the game world and its characters, and can motivate them to progress through the game’s mechanics. At the same time, game mechanics can help to reinforce the story and make the player feel like an active participant in the story’s events.

However, there is also a potential pitfall to combining game mechanics with story. If the story is too dominant, it can overshadow the gameplay mechanics and make the game feel more like an interactive movie than a game. This can make the game less engaging for players who are looking for a more interactive and dynamic experience.

Additionally, story can be the enemy of replayability in some cases. If the story is too linear or predictable, players may lose interest in replaying the game once they have experienced the story’s twists and turns. This can be particularly problematic for games that rely heavily on story to drive gameplay, as it can limit the game’s long-term replayability.

To avoid these pitfalls, game developers must strike a balance between story and gameplay mechanics. They should strive to create a cohesive experience where the story and mechanics work together to create a compelling and immersive game world. This can involve experimenting with non-linear storytelling, offering multiple paths or endings, and incorporating gameplay elements that encourage players to replay the game multiple times. By doing so, developers can create games that are both engaging and replayable, and that offer a truly unique gameplay experience.

For traditional writers, transitioning to a medium that relies on game mechanics and user-generated content over plot can be challenging for several reasons.

Firstly, traditional writers may not have experience with game mechanics and may not fully understand how they work. Game mechanics are an essential part of video game design and require a different set of skills and knowledge than traditional writing. This can make it difficult for writers to fully integrate their ideas into the game design and mechanics.

Secondly, traditional writers may be used to working in a linear narrative format, where the plot unfolds in a predetermined sequence. However, video games often offer non-linear or open-world gameplay, where the player can make choices that affect the story’s outcome. This requires a different approach to storytelling, as writers must consider multiple branching storylines and outcomes.

User-generated content can also pose a challenge for traditional writers. In games that allow players to create their own content or scenarios, writers must be able to anticipate and account for a wide variety of player choices and outcomes. This requires a high level of flexibility and adaptability in writing style, as the writer must be able to create a story that can accommodate a broad range of possibilities.

To overcome these challenges, traditional writers may need to collaborate closely with game designers and developers to fully understand the game mechanics and how they impact the storytelling.

They may also need to adapt their writing style to accommodate the non-linear and open-world nature of video games and be willing to work within the constraints of the game design. Additionally, they may need to develop a deep understanding of the game’s audience and player base to create content that resonates with them and encourages engagement.

Story engineering…

Thinking like an engineer can also help writers to understand the limitations and possibilities of game mechanics and systems. By approaching game design from an engineering perspective, writers can identify ways to make the story and gameplay mechanics work together seamlessly, creating a more immersive and engaging experience for players.

In addition, thinking like an engineer can help writers to better communicate their ideas to the development team. By using technical language and understanding the technical aspects of game development, writers can more effectively convey their ideas and collaborate with the team to bring those ideas to life.