Animex 2016: Will Byles on Storytelling In Games

WIll Byles has had many jobs including actor, writer, designer, animator, “pig burier” and he also played a major part in developing the CGI department of Aardman Animations. More recently he directed the critically acclaimed horror game until dawn.


A key section of Byles’ talk centred around a 1940’s American experiment involving a short film where geometric shapes move around a screen. The study found viewers tended to assign the shapes genders, personalities and even form a story based on their actions.


“It’s just bits of geometry but 33 of the 34 people who saw that gave the shapes genders. It’s weird we start to do that, we make those interpretations. We want to see characters we want to make stories.”


Byles went on to explain the trap of falling into a standard western narrative (the hero with a thousand faces) illustrating this by comparing Harry Potter to Star Wars. They had, on a base level, the same plot.


The balance between gameplay and story was another key issue. With Minecraft and The Sims having very little resembling a fixed set of rules and relying purely on the player’s imaginations, Grand Theft Auto lying somewhere in the middle and he likes of Tetris and Chess having very set structures.


“The word gameplay was thrown up and thrown up “oh you can’t do that because of gameplay” and it seemed odd that one word encompassed such a massive amount of disciplines.”


Byles also made a very compelling case for jump scares, highlighting the build up needed for them and how difficult they are to execute within a narrative. A rare thing as they are usually written off as cheap.


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