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GDC 2023 Session Guide for Game Narrative, Writing, and Storytelling

Video games love a good story. Tales that make us think, adventures that show us a good time, or even experiences that frighten or challenge us. Game writers, narrative designers, and storytellers heading to the Game Developers Conference: This Session Guide and Walkthrough will help you make the most of your GDC 2023

In our Game Narrative track, learn about interactive narrative in all forms, including AAA blockbusters, indie games, mobile, and social projects from fundamentals of story development theory to practical case studies.

The track includes sessions from: Game Narrative Summit.

Sign Up For GDC 2023 Here

The 2023 Game Developers Conference features hundreds of sessions—covering nearly every discipline, topic, and focus that matters to game developers today. It can be hard to choose! That's why we've created this helpful guide. Head here to view all previous GDC 2023 session guides.

It features some standout sessions, panels, and events dedicated to helping your career and company growth efforts. In addition, we've got tips on making the most of your GDC, and links to GDC Vault videos and Game Developer articles that will help you get pumped for GDC 2023.

Be sure to visit our Session Viewer for a full list of Game Narrative talks at GDC 2023 and get started on prepping that schedule. For those wanting the option to experience every game narrative session at GDC 2023, be sure to register for an All-Access Pass

Core Session Picks for: Game Narrative

Narrative Moments on a Budget: Stretching Storytelling "Dollars" Across the Moments That Matter
Venessa Nyarko (Producer, The Coalition, Xbox Game Studios)

Room 215, South Hall
Date: Wednesday, March 22
Time: 10:30 am - 11:00 am

Pass Type:
All Access Pass, Core Pass
Description: "This talk provides a foundational framework of how to spend one's narrative "dollars" across the stories being developed, and how the simple act of making these models focuses decision-making in productive, empowering, and informed ways."

A Narrative Multiverse: The Branching Structure of 'As Dusk Falls'
Brad Kane (Narrative Director, Interior Night)

Room 301, South Hall
Date: Wednesday, March 22
Time: 11:30 am - 12:30 pm

Pass Type:
All Access Pass, Core Pass
Description: "In this talk, Brad Kane, Narrative Director at INTERIOR/NIGHT, explores the principles that went into bringing a prestige interactive drama to life, and how interactive writer-designers can use both halves of the brain to navigate a 'narrative multiverse.'"

Experimental Game Workshop
Location: Room 303, South Hall
Date: Friday, March 24
Time: 1:30 pm - 3:30 pm

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Core Pass
Description: "In this fast-paced, game-packed session, panelists will showcase a selection of surprising and intriguing prototypes made by innovation-minded game developers from all over the world. By demonstrating games that defy conventions and traditions in search of new genres and ideas, this session aims to ignite the imagination of all game makers."

How to Build a Home: Designing Narrative for Sindri's House in 'God of War Ragnarök'
Harleigh Awner (Technical Narrative Designer, Santa Monica Studio)

Room 2001, West Hall
Date: Friday, March 24
Time: 3:00 pm - 3:30 pm

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Core Pass
Description: "In this session, Harleigh Awner, Technical Narrative Designer at Santa Monica Studio, describes an approach to creating a home base that is character-driven: What it means to give characters the independence to act, why it’s important, the challenges the team faced, and the solutions they found."

Summits Session Picks for: Game Narrative

Game Narrative Summit: Effective Feedback for Game Writers, Narrative Designers, and Collaborators
Alexa Ray Corriea (Senior Narrative Designer, Electronic Arts)
Lis Moberly (Narrative Designer, Obsidian)

Location: Room 3016, West Hall
Date: Monday, March 20
Time: 10:50 am - 11:50 am

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Summits Pass
Description: "This session will discuss best practices in giving and receiving feedback regarding game writers, narrative designers, and their stakeholders."

Game Narrative Summit: Respecting Player Fantasies in Dating Sims
Betty Robertson (Senior Narrative Designer, Survios)

Location: Room 3016, West Hall
Date: Monday, March 20
Time: 1:20 pm - 1:50 pm

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Summits Pass
Description: "In this talk, Betty Robertson, BAFTA-nominee and Senior Narrative Designer at Survios, explains the ins and outs of player fantasy and expectations in the Dating Sim genre. The talk highlights player types, romance styles, and the importance of character design matching player expectations."

Game Narrative Summit: Devising Stories as an Ensemble
Alison Lührs (Associate Narrative Director, Bungie)

Location: Room 3016, West Hall
Date: Monday, March 20
Time: 3:50 pm - 4:20 pm

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Summits Pass
Description: "This presentation will discuss what game narrative can learn from the sister medium of theatre in a pragmatic way: How to use language for elements of time and space to generate story, how to begin the story creation process as a collective, and how to direct methodology for collaborative creation."

Game Narrative Summit: AAA-TYPICAL: Character and Story Arcs in Open Gameplay Structures
Brendan Hennessy (Narrative Designer, Ubisoft Toronto)
Heli Kennedy (Lead Writer, Ubisoft Toronto)

Location: Room 3016, West Hall
Date: Tuesday, March 21
Time: 9:30 am - 10:30 am

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Summits Pass
Description: "If you've struggled to marry gameplay and narrative: you're not alone. Writing AAA open world games can make you question everything you know about basic storytelling techniques. Lead Writer Heli Kennedy and Narrative Designer Brendan Hennessy have spent six years crafting strange and surprising answers to narrative questions on the Far Cry and Watch Dogs IPs. In this talk, they will share practical tools and strategies for building compelling characters and story arcs around gameplay constraints."

Game Narrative Summit: It's Not in the Writer's Manual: A Q&A Session for New Writers
Toiya Kristen Finley (Game Designer, Narrative Designer, Editor., Schnoodle Media, LLC)

Location: Room 3016, West Hall
Date: Tuesday, March 21
Time: 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Summits Pass
Description: "This session encourages participants to ask veteran writers and narrative designers questions without definitive answers—especially individuals with little experience and those looking to break into the industry. Anyone working with writers is also encouraged to attend."

5 Tips for Making the Most of Your GDC

1. Attend the Storytelling Fundamentals Workshop: Game narrative professionals should bookmark GDC's one-day Storytelling Fundamentals Workshop, where Marvel and Telltale writing veteran Evan Skolnick covers narrative structure, vibrant character development, storytelling best practices, and more in this engaging, interactive workshop.

2. Join a roundtable: Our talks and panels are amazing, but be sure to attend at least one of our roundtables during your time at GDC. They're a great way to get hands-on with a topic of interest, as well as network with your industry colleagues. The Game Narrative roundtables have several days covering a variety of subjects.

3. Relax in our Game Narrative Lounge: It's time to rejoice: Community spaces are returning to GDC 2023! Not only are they a place to unwind during the day, they're also the perfect spot to network with industry colleages and prospective employers. Head to our Floor Plan to see our community spaces throughout the Expo Floor, including interactive spaces for certain disciplines and the GDC Play Lounge. 

4. Get food recs from an SF ambassador: Trying to find something to eat in between sessions? Keep an eye out for the city’s official Welcome Ambassadors–in their signature bright orange jackets, with the words “Welcome Ambassador” written on the back. They'll be hanging around GDC and may have recommendations on interesting spots to grab breakfast or lunch.

5. Check out alt.ctrl.GDC: If you're wanting to see the latest innovations in game programming and narrative design, look no further than alt.ctrl.GDC on the Expo Floor. Several developers have brought their groundbreaking (and often unexpected) games and controllers to showcase at GDC. Attendees of all pass levels can play them for free, and chat with the devs.  

Watch and Read

(VIDEO) Game Narrative Summit: Dynamic Narrative Systems in 'Elsinore': Connor Fallon (GDC 2022)

(VIDEO) Game Narrative Summit: How to Run (and Survive) a Writers' Room: Antony Johnston (GDC 2022)

(ARTICLE) Saber's new chief narrative officer discusses good game storytelling: Bryant Francis (Game Developer)

(ARTICLE) Deep Dive: Narrative mapping and simultaneous storytelling in Wayward Strand: Jason Bakker (Game Developer)

Watch more Game Narrative talks on GDC Vault here

This is the latest in our series of Session Guides for GDC 2023, with recommendations for sessions, events, networking opportunities, and more. Head here to view all previous GDC 2023 session guides.

Of course, the only way to see these sessions, and so much more, is to sign up for GDC! 

Register for GDC 2023 Here

We can’t wait to see you at GDC 2023, taking place March 20-24, 2023 at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, California. Head here for information on booking a hotel and other travel inquiries, and follow the #GDC23 hashtag for the latest news and updates for this year’s exciting event.

GDC returns to San Francisco this March 20-24, 2023, and registration is now open! For more information, be sure to visit our website and follow the #GDC23 hashtag on social media.

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