Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

In a world densely interlinked via social media and virtual networking, competition in the 2020 rat race — or clout race, rather — really has never felt so heavy. Everywhere around us, we are surrounded by successful, beautiful and talented people. Throw our passion projects into this mix and it can be easy to burn ourselves out trying to shine among the supposed ‘norm’ in the world around us. But what is the oh so simple mantra we need to remember to free ourselves from it all?

You don’t have to be the best.

Taming Ego

I’ve always struggled with ego. Growing…

One of the biggest struggles of narrative design is creating strong characters when they have such limited showtime and script. Movies and cinematic cutscenes give writers a certain control over how we see characters act, but how do we handle character building in less story-centric and less narrative-driven games?

What we lack in dialogue and action, we need to make up for with a depth that helps characters shine during the limited airtime they do get. So firstly, what actually makes a character, a character?


Character: The mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual

Behaviours, habits, mannerisms… these are…

Why did I decide to write this article? Maybe I wrote it because instead of bitching about mansplainers all the time, I’d rather be a bit more constructive. I’d rather contribute to helping mansplainers fix their mansplainy ways. Mansplainers aren’t bad people, they just need to see for themselves that they’re really annoying.

I feel like a bit of an expert on mansplaining, being on the receiving end of it so often. But I also like to muse about how we all tick. I believe each of us has a little bit of mansplainer in us, deep down inside. It’s…

This is part 3 of my game design series. You can catch up and read the previous parts of the series here.

There are three main ways that a game’s immersion can be broken: frustration, boredom and plain old inconsistency. Firstly, simplicity is key to avoid frustration.

1. A simple goal

Having fewer, clear goals with fewer, clear rules helps the player focus on what they need to do in the game and thus hook them from start to finish. As soon as it’s unclear, especially at the beginning, the sooner the player will become frustrated and lose interest. …

One of the (surprisingly) many silver linings of corona-induced social distancing is that I have SO much time on my hands. ALL of the time in the world, so much time. Time to play games, time to snack on rations, time to read books, time to question the gaping void in my life, and also… study game design!

Brushing up on game design is something I’ve been meaning to do for many months after realising it’s a thing I tend to neglect in favour of writing. You can write witty poetry and meticulous backstories all day but, on its own…

To stay hooked, one must first… actually be hooked. For this, we need a clear goal (which I will cover in the next part of this series), but we also need to make sure there is motivation to play.


So here are some of the things that drive us when we play games:

  • Prey on emotions

We all have the capacity for sympathy… well most of us anyway. Sympathy for basic needs such as shelter, food and safety. When we see a character or a society’s suffering, we want to do something about it. …

Barks: What are they?

Barks are the Tourette’s-like bouts of disconnected dialogue that NPCs so love to blurt out, often completely out of nowhere. In theory they feel so wrong but, in action, they can feel so right. And they’re one of my favourite types of dialogue for breathing life into a game world, to really bring it alive for a bustling, living feeling. So in this article I’m going to focus on how we can make use of them in open world games.

Overheard conversations

To make world building barks sound the most natural, I like to use them in one of two ways:

  1. Thinking…

I write for Kenshi; Kenshi is a sandbox game. It’s meant to be limitless, unconstraining and completely open. Yet there are rare times when I see comments from the odd dissatisfied player who mentions it as having no ending, no finish. Maybe they expect the impossible from an open ended genre; maybe it really does lack something. But as a player who naturally leans towards more narrative-heavy, restricted games with a clear ending, I’m keen to dig a little deeper into other mindsets.

Perhaps there’s something, as a writer, that can be done to add this apparently lacking sense of…

Natalie Mikkelson

Narrative Designer for Lo-Fi Games. Muser of things.

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