Indie hit Dear Esther is "a bit like story Minecraft," believes creator Dan Pinchbeck, as the evocative game allows players to imagine their own story, without forcing them into a particular narrative.
As part of his talk at GDC Europe today, Pinchbeck of thechineseroom noted that the abstract and ambiguous first-person exploration game barely gives you any real details about characters and plot, instead allowing the players' imaginations to run wild.
"We're not in the business of writing a plot -- we're in the business of giving you the tools to create your own," he said of the 250,000-selling Dear Esther. "There is nothing more powerful than your own imagination."
Building a story is "an inevitable product of playing a game" for players, whether a solid plotline is offered or not. Players make a story out of pretty much anything they do, he argued, and developers just need to provide the tools.
For example, if a game offers a physics toolbox, gamers will take these tools and create fun and plot from these. "Developers just have to make sure the toybox is fun," he added.
Rather than forcing a player into a set storyline, says Pinchbeck, studios should be looking to use story to deepen the tone and complexity of the game world, and create an emotional connection between the game and the player.
"Use your story to represent the unrepresentable," he urged. "Story is inevitable - so why write the obvious?"
Gamasutra is in Cologne, Germany this week covering GDC Europe. For more GDC Europe coverage, visit our official event page. (UBM TechWeb is parent to both Gamasutra and GDC events.)