Melodramatic Structures

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Narration structures in games which allow players or spectators to know more than any individual diegetic person.

Some games allow a player to know more about the game world and events than the characters he or she plays. This pattern is call Melodramatic Structures in this collection. The idea for the pattern (and Detective Structures comes from Lankoski[1]. Here, a distinction by Smith[2] between detective narration and melodramatic narration is used to form gameplay design patterns. In Smith's terms, detective narration restricts readers' knowledge to that of a protagonist while in melodramatic narration readers' knows more than any single character.


In Fahrenheit the player switches between characters played, thereby getting a more detailed understanding on the unfolding narration than any individual character in the game has.

Using the pattern

Three concrete design patterns exist to create Melodramatic Structures. Scenes allows a game to switch between Characters and therefore give more information to the player than a single Character. Summary Updates can explain what happens before, between, or after Scenes so that players have the right understanding of the reasons and consequences of events in a Scene. Voice-overs can add explanations to the events that are occurring which the players get but not the Characters. Per their definitions, Detective Structures and Melodramatic Structures are incompatible.

Melodramatic Structures can be used in both Single-Player Games and Multiplayer Games. In fact, due to the fact that Multiplayer Games typically present different view points of the game to different players through Characters these types of games nearly always have Melodramatic Structures of sorts. This does however not in itself affect narration significantly since Melodramatic Structures often require significant shifts in perspective for individual players to have their intended effects. This typically means that they are easier to plan for in Single-Player Games, e.g. by switching Characters as Scenes are changed (see Fahrenheit for an example of this).

While God Views and Third-Person Views may show players more of the Game Worlds than a single Avatar or Character may see, this typically does not provide more than ephemeral differences in what a player and a Character knows.

Narrative Aspects

Melodramatic Structures is a Narration Pattern.


Melodramatic Structures is one way to modulate Narration Structures and Predetermined Story Structures is a game. While they do use Characters, they do not change how these can perform gameplay actions.


Can Instantiate


Can Modulate

Narration Structures, Predetermined Story Structures

Can Be Instantiated By


Characters together with Scenes

Can Be Modulated By

Summary Updates

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Detective Structures


An updated version of the pattern Melodramtic Structure that was first described in the PhD thesis Character-Driven Game Design - A Design Approach and Its Foundations in Character Engagement[1].


  1. 1.0 1.1 Lankoski, P. (2010). Character-Driven Game Design - A Design Approach and Its Foundations in Character Engagement. PhD thesis at Aalto University. Publication Series of the School of Art and Design A 101.
  2. Smith, M. (1995). Engaging Characters: Fiction, Emotion, and the Cinema. Pages 152–153. New York: Oxford University Press.