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Interactive Storytelling Tropes

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Storytelling tropes that are made possible by the nature of interactive media (Video Games, Visual Novels, etc.). In other words, ways to tell stories that are unfeasible without a player actively shaping them.

Contrast pure gameplay tropes like Various Videogame Views, Video Game Difficulty Tropes, Video Game Interface Elements, etc.


Narrative branching

Mutually exclusive events occur in the story, depending on the player's actions.

  • Story Branching
    Super Trope: The story changes depending on the player's actions.
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  • Big First Choice
    An early decision has massive impact on the entire rest of the story.
  • Choice-and-Consequence System
    A sub-system that tracks the player's plot decisions and dynamically branches the plot when said decisions become relevant later on.
  • Event Flag
    The game records whether the player made a certain decision and alters later events accordingly.
  • Multiple Game Openings
    The prologue changes depending on the player's choices before starting the game.
  • Promptless Branching Point
    When story branching occurs without explicit prompts, through gameplay alone.
  • Schrödinger's Gun
    The very premises of the story are changed depending on the player's actions.
  • Schrödinger's Player Character
    Depending on who you choose as your Player Character, the story will wrap itself around that character and not the others.
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  • Static Role, Exchangeable Character
    The key plot roles are always the same, but the player can assign different characters to play them.

Narrative trimming

How story branching is invalidated, either by later canon or by only seemingly offering it.

  • Blaming the Railroaded Player Character
    The player's character is admonished for doing something heinous, even though this was the only choice the player was allowed to make.
  • But Thou Must!
    Things that look like choices but actually enforce a certain direction.
  • Cutting Off the Branches
    There are multiple endings but only one of them is canon in later installments.
  • Merging the Branches
    A blend of several mutually exclusive story branches is declared canon by the sequels.
  • No Campaign for the Wicked
    The game could give the player an option to be evil but doesn't.
  • No Canon for the Wicked
    The player can choose to be evil but this path/ending is declared non-canon.
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  • Railroading
    The game could offer the player different paths but doesn't.
  • Third-Option Adaptation
    A sequel or adaptation deals with multiple branches in the original by rejecting all of them and coming up with a new one.

Variable endings

The story shows different outcomes depending on the player's actions.

Narrative rearranging/re-sequencing

Same events occur in the story but the player can decide on the order of their occurrence or presentation.

Narrative filigree

Some events only occur in the story if the player takes specific actions and are non-essential to overall plot.

  • Assassination Sidequest
    A type of sidequest that requires you to kill a specific target stealthily.
  • Companion-Specific Sidequest
    Depending on which companions the player has recruited, they may or may not receive this side-quest.
  • Optional Character Scene
    Depending on the player's choice of companions, this scene may or may not occur.
  • Optional Party Member
    It's up to you whether they join the group or not.
  • Optional Sexual Encounter
    Depending on the player's actions, this explicit scene may or may not occur.
  • Plot Tunnel
    All non-essential plot activities are temporarily suspended during mandatory plot advancement.
  • Secret Character
    Most players have no idea this character even exists in the game, because finding them takes so much effort.
  • Sidequest
    Depending on the player's choices, this episode may or may not occur. See also its subtropes.
  • Sidequest Sidestory
    Depending on the player's choices, this story arc may or may not occur.
  • Story Breadcrumbs
    Entirely optional texts scattered around levels reveal the larger context of the gameplay—if the player reads them.

Interactive dialogue

Ways to make dialogue between in-game characters both interactive and natural-sounding.

Gameplay and story symbiosis

How narrative tropes and gameplay tropes co-exist in the same game.

Meta-tropes

  • Enjoy the Story, Skip the Game
    A game which features both story and gameplay, but the gameplay is largely overlooked by players in favour of the story.
  • Playing the Player
    The game controls the players by letting them think they control it.
  • Play the Game, Skip the Story
    A game which features both story and gameplay, but the story is completely ignored by the players who concentrate on the gameplay.
  • Script Breaking
    The player somehow breaks the predetermined story event sequence, introducing non-linearity where there possibly wasn't any before.
  • Story Branch Favoritism
    The creators put a lot more effort into some branches at the expense of the others—but they are all equally canon.
  • Story Difficulty Setting
    When a game features a difficulty setting specifically catering to players who just want to experience the game's story.
  • Story-to-Gameplay Ratio
    How much time the player spends on pressing buttons vs. learning the story.

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