17 October 2010

From First Act to End: A Comparison of Video Games and Feature Films - by Altug Isigan

      Posted 10/16/10 04:00:00 pm   Three-Act Structure is one of the most common tools in setting up a successful narrative. It is used heavily in cinema. However its usefulness in game writing is still under dispute. In this article I will have a look at the basic concepts of this approach and discuss its usefulness in regard to game design. I will first outline what is meant with Three-Act Structure and how it is commonly applied in mainstream cinema. Later on I will take a look at the structure of classical arcade games to draw some conclusions.

Three-Act Structure: An Introduction

Mainstream cinema typically makes use of the three-act structure in narrative design. This is the classical notion of a story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Another typical feature of mainstream cinema is a standard used in proportioning these three acts: The content will often be presented in four quarters of which one is allotted to the first act (beginning, or introducution), one to the third act (end, or final), and two to the second act (middle). Expressed through a diagram, the three-act structure built around four quarters looks like this:

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