Ché Wilbraham

The Virtual Gamemaster: A New Approach to Branching Narrative in Computer Games (Falmouth University) 2017 -

Branching narrative structures in computer games, when compared to linear structures, offer more advanced narratives to players by granting them more control over the progression of the story, but are limited by their requirement for an increase in the quantity of content to be produced for each branch.


The extra content that must be generated to provide the branches can lead to wasted effort by game developers – it’s unlikely that all players will experience all the content that was produced. Also, a player may miss out on story that they could have enjoyed.


Gamemasters of tabletop roleplaying games (RPGs) act as referees, jointly constructing the story with the players and structuring the game in such a way that it progresses with appropriate speed, dramatic balance and tension, so that the participants enjoy themselves.


The role of a gamemaster is performed both in advance (preparing the fictional world and planning story ideas) and during play (tweaking the story and rules to suit the players). They maintain authorial control of the story throughout play and make adjustments in reaction to player choices and mood, presenting their content appropriately. Fostering player enjoyment is the core of their role.


The gamemaster’s live alteration of story, with the goal of increased player enjoyment, is a principle that I believe could be applied to computer game branching narratives.  My initial investigations imply that computer game and tabletop RPG narrative structures are built from the same components:

Narrative Structure Diagram Key

I propose a Virtual Gamemaster – a system that is able to build and rebuild stories from these components during play, in reaction to the player’s input, with the goal of presenting the narrative to the player in the way that is most enjoyable for them.


Supervision Team: Dr Douglas Brown (Director of Studies), Professor Tanya Krzywinska, Dr Hannah Wood




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