Glossary - Ludonarrative Dissonance

Ludonarrative dissonance is a contradiction between the storyline and the events happening in the game. It can be roughly summarized as incompatibility with the narrative elements of the game. Therefore, at its worst, ludonarrative dissonance can break down the emotional connection that the gamers have to video games.

Origin of the Word

The word was used by the game designer Clint Hocking in his blog in 2007. The blog post was about a critique of the video game Bioshock. According to Hocking's critique, there were 2 opposite structures in the Bioshock video game: the ludic and the narrative structure. Therefore, the narrative of the video game doesn't give users the same choice all the time. As a result, while gamers are playing the whole game prioritizing themselves, the video game continues telling gamers that they are prioritizing others.

Writing them, Clint Hocking put a name on something that video strategy games players felt while playing the game but could not explain.

Games with Dissonance

Grand Theft Auto V, Bioshock, Tomb Raider, Watch Dogs 2 by Ubisoft, and Uncharted video strategy games are the samples that seem with a robust dissonance in their gameplay. For example, a character might be shown as decent and kind, but in one instance does something very dissimilar to his personality.

How to Avoid Ludonarrative Dissonance

In the best video games, gameplay and story must evolve at the same time. To avoid dissonance, video game developers should better integrate narrative development into the producing process. In other words, game developers and designers need to be able to think like story writers. The more the game designer and the writer work together, the better the story they will get.

Narrative Design in Video Games

Narrative design in video games is a passage between game design techniques and conventional writing techniques. The term narrative originates from the old Latin verb "narrare," and it means to tell something. 

A narrative designer is the one who designs the game's gameplay, atmosphere, rules, and main structure. Therefore, to avoid the ludonarrative dissonance in video games is one of the priorities of the narrative designers.