Can simulations tell stories? The affirmative answer of yes suggests that gamified simulations built around narrative may be considered an anomaly by some seeing as how the term of gamification was only recently introduced. But for us it’s just common practice, so let me delve a little further into what I mean by narrative and how it has a profound affect on a gamified simulation.

Let’s first begin by further explaining narrative. By definition narrative is: A narrated account; a story. Alternatively, it’s the art, technique, or process of narrating. By further characterization, simulations are narratives; they have a story behind them. You can take a seemingly boring topic and actually breathe life into it to make it much more engaging for the trainee to learn. By utilizing a gamified simulation with narrative it aids in creating a story and context for a specific activity and makes learning more palatable.

Narrative theory states that humans are primarily storytellers, thus people respond favorably to messages presented in a narrative framework” -Morgan, Cole, Struttman, & Piercy, 2002

Let me go a step further by introducing you to the term of ‘ludology’. In essence it is the substance of games and gaming, especially that of video gaming. Ludology, much like the games that it studies is not about story and discourse, but rather it is about actions and events. According to ludologists, the major difference between games and narratives is that the former address “external observers” who apprehend “what has happened,” whereas the latter require “involved players” who care about “what is going to happen” (Frasca, 2003). Now for my next definition, let’s introduce ‘narratology’. Narratology is the study of the forms, structures, media, functions, and evolution of narrative, with a special emphasis on story. For game theory, the difference between a narrative and a game is merely a matter of perspective. Both game theorists and narratologists use the term “histories” to refer to the sequences of actions and events that make up a game and a narrative respectively (Osborne, 2004).

According to the Narratology website ( the active level of narrative contains five key components:

1)      Event- Something occurs.

2)      Transition- The transferring of one event to another.

3)      Sequence- This refers to a series of events that may or may not be casually related.

4)      Exposition- The concept used to advance the actions within a simulation by utilizing explanatory or descriptive statements.

5)      Scenes- A scene may be expressed by means of dialogue, events, and/or exposition. These are typically a sequence of events that are causally related and intended to be a component of a narrative within simulation.

When you actually stop to think about it most narrative that we consume is one-way and non-interactive for the most part. By this I mean that television shows, books and movies are all based around narrative but in actuality they really are only one sided in context to the narrative provided. That’s why implementing narrative is so appealing within simulation and its design. It is able to not only bring in the element of story but provide immersion throughout the narrative and allow the learner/trainee the ability to interact within the context of the sequence of events unlike the one sided narrative in TV and books. By employing narrative within a simulation we are able to provide a sense of interaction and grow the character in the direction that the player develops based upon decisions made and lessons learned along the way.

Movie themes and plots have long been transferred over into the makings of a computer game. Many video game adaptations ( exist such as Mortal Kombat, Pokemon and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider to name a few. Thus, narrative can be consistently found in computer games. Some may lack a storyline while others excel at mastering the art of the plot and the narration flows from there. As Roland Barthes once wrote, “Narrative is international, trans-historical, trans-cultural: it is simply there, like life itself.”

It’s true… narrative can drive a simulation to success allowing it to achieve its full potential. Interactivity can be weaved in through the power of technology through narration. By using a story format within a simulation people find it easier to relate to the material being taught, making the learning process more engaging. Story narrative is able to intertwine in an element of actuality to real life making the gamified sim more relatable and thus leading to the trainee taking away more learned information. By utilizing a narrative simulation users are faced with interacting more with the developing story, its plots, characters and predicaments. A concept called ‘emergent narrative’ was introduced to describe a user’s experience through a simulation in which can be described in narrative terms.

By implementing the use of story to take a particular narrative path within the design of  a gamified simulation it allows for the storytelling model to take off in a variety of branching story sequences making it a much more participatory experience for the trainee. By definition simulations immerse through visuals, however when you add in a narrative that is well written and transposed into the world of the simulation then learner interaction skyrockets and is no longer just one-sided. By utilizing narrative, gamified simulations are able to create a setting and provide context for just about any type of training that you can possibly think of. You too can harness the power of narration to make a compelling gamified simulation through one of our many solutions.

Copyright  Bryant Nielson. All Rights Reserved.

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Bryant Nielson is heavily involved in the Corporate Training and Leadership and Talent space. He currently is the Managing Director for CapitalWave Inc and the training division, Financial Training Solutions. He brings a diverse corporate experience of organizational development, learning and talent development, and corporate training, that also includes personal coaching of top sales individuals and companies of all sizes. For the prior 4 years, Bryant was the Managing Director and Leadership and Talent Manager for Lengthen Your Stride! LLC. In this position, Nielson was the developer of all of the courses for MortgageMae University (MMU), the Realtor Development Center (RDC), and of Lengthen Your Stride! (LYS). In that position, he developed material, refined over many years of use and active training, and condensed the coursework and training to be high impact, natural learning, and comprehensive. Bryant has over 27 years of Senior Management experience encompasses running his own Training and mortgage firm, in New York City. He strongly believes that the corporate training is not to be static but should 'engage and inspire' students to greater productivity and performance.