About this Course
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Beginner Level


Subtitles: English, Chinese (Simplified)

Skills you will gain

Interactive StorytellingVideo Game DevelopmentVideo Game DesignGame Design

100% online

Start instantly and learn at your own schedule.

Flexible deadlines

Reset deadlines in accordance to your schedule.

Beginner Level


Subtitles: English, Chinese (Simplified)

Syllabus - What you will learn from this course

2 hours to complete

Week 1: An Introduction to Story

For the first week of the class, we will be analyzing the components of three-act structure using a classic fairytale as an example. We'll examine the characters in the story by figuring out their goals and the main conflict that creates a rising arc of action to keep the audience interested.

6 videos (Total 26 min), 3 readings, 1 quiz
6 videos
What makes a story compelling?3m
How games benefit from stories4m
How to see a game as a story first5m
Defining the Spine3m
Three-Act Structure and Rising Action6m
3 readings
About this Course8m
Getting Started8m
Story Synopsis: Sleeping Beauty8m
3 hours to complete

Week 2: Game Story Structure

In this week, we will draw a parallel between last week’s discussion on rising action and how that relates to gameplay. Looking at a pair of contemporary games, we'll learn how to identify story structure and themes of rising action, just like we would with traditional stories and movies. Lastly, we’ll evaluate the role that primary and secondary characters come to play in the unveiling of a game’s story and discuss the importance of understanding how these games present their stories in the actual gameplay.

4 videos (Total 21 min), 12 readings, 1 quiz
4 videos
Defining Characters and Character Goals7m
Using Secondary Characters3m
Writing a Character Brief4m
12 readings
Story Synopsis: StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty8m
Story Synopsis Points8m
Story Synopsis: Angry Birds8m
About Character Briefs8m
Character Brief: Jim Raynor8m
Character Brief: Emperor Mengsk5m
Character Brief: Tychus Findlay5m
About Setting Descriptions8m
Setting Description: Angry Birds8m
Setting Description: Mar Sara8m
Setting Description: The Hyperion8m
Setting Description: Char5m
3 hours to complete

Week 3: Story Workshop

This week, we explore ideation techniques and learn how to consolidate our ideas into more formalized stories specifically for pushing them towards a game design. We will take a look at the importance of, and ways to refine, characters and settings as we develop an initial concept in story form first, and then next week, into a game.

4 videos (Total 25 min), 8 readings, 1 quiz
4 videos
Personal Writing Advice5m
Refining the Spine5m
Connecting Ideas and Characters6m
8 readings
About Idea Sheets8m
Idea Sheet: Dead-Eye Jane8m
Idea Sheet: Settings for The Shooter8m
Review: Story Synopses8m
Story Synopsis: The Shooter10m
Review: Character Briefs5m
Character Brief: Jake8m
Character Brief: Dead-Eye Jane8m
3 hours to complete

Week 4: From Story to Game

For this last week of class, we will begin by seeing what a game design document is, and evaluate a few different templates you can use. Then, we will take the story we built in last week’s course, The Shooter, and define it as a playable game outlined in a game design document.

5 videos (Total 25 min), 6 readings, 1 quiz
5 videos
Diving Deeper into the Design Document4m
Turning The Shooter's Story into a Game5m
The Shooter's Rising Gameplay8m
Course Wrap Up1m
6 readings
About Story Presentation Schemes8m
Presentation Scheme: Part One - StarCraft II Gameplay Overview8m
Presentation Scheme: Part Two - StarCraft II Missions10m
What is a Gameplay Flowchart?8m
Gameplay Flowchart: StarCraft II5m
Course Credits5m
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Top reviews from Story and Narrative Development for Video Games

By DANov 7th 2017

This is so helpful. It covers all the essentials of developing a good story, applicable in any form of media, then it focuses on converting the story to a game by adding interactive gameplay elements.

By CSDec 31st 2015

This is my favorite course ever. Dariush teaches in such an engaging way and it shows you how to have a creative yet objective and analyzed mindset for creating a story and narrative for a Video Game.



Dariush Derakhshani

Faculty, Character Animation
School of Film/Video

About California Institute of the Arts

CalArts has earned an international reputation as the leading college of the visual and performing arts in the United States. Offering rigorous undergraduate and graduate degree programs through six schools—Art, Critical Studies, Dance, Film/Video, Music, and Theater—CalArts has championed creative excellence, critical reflection, and the development of new forms and expressions. ...

About the Game Design: Art and Concepts Specialization

Stemming from the principles of storytelling and design established in CalArts’ renowned Animation programs, this Specialization lays a primary foundation for experimentation and exploration of video game design, story, character development, and winning gameplay before programming begins. These four courses emphasize the self-reliance and personal expression of the gaming artist, and encourage you to take conceptual risks and develop new modes of expression and form through gaming. In the final Capstone Project, you’ll put your creative skills to work by generating an engaging game design document for a personal game project, outlining the conceptual, narrative and aesthetic elements of your game....
Game Design: Art and Concepts

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Once you enroll for a Certificate, you’ll have access to all videos, quizzes, and programming assignments (if applicable). Peer review assignments can only be submitted and reviewed once your session has begun. If you choose to explore the course without purchasing, you may not be able to access certain assignments.

  • When you enroll in the course, you get access to all of the courses in the Specialization, and you earn a certificate when you complete the work. Your electronic Certificate will be added to your Accomplishments page - from there, you can print your Certificate or add it to your LinkedIn profile. If you only want to read and view the course content, you can audit the course for free.

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