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View, browse and sort the ever-growing list of sessions by day, pass type, topic, and format. With this Session Viewer, you can view GDC 2023 session details and speakers, and share your favorites via social media. You will be able to build your schedule and access it during the show via export or Mobile App, once live. Sessions do fill up and seating is first come, first serve, so arrive early to sessions that you would like to attend.

Tabletop Summit: Encouraging Emergent Narratives with Puzzle Design in 'Décorum'

Charlie Mackin  (Game Designer, Independent)

Location: Room 3016, West Hall

Date: Monday, March 20

Time: 3:50 pm - 4:20 pm

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Summits Pass

Topic: Design, Game Narrative

Format: Lecture

Vault Recording: Video

Audience Level: All

How do developers encourage players to see moving pieces around a board as a relationship argument? In this session, game designer Charlie Mackin breaks down how her team injected narrative into their puzzle designs, while still allowing each player's group dynamics to lead the interaction.

She'll give specific examples from Décorum, a cooperative puzzle game themed around partners decorating a house together—including puzzle design tricks and tips, mechanic and theme alignment, and how much in-box narrative is enough. Then, she'll talk more broadly about the importance of letting interactions happen naturally, and leaning into the player's own assumptions to create a more genuine exchange.


Attendees will learn how the designers of Décorum encouraged players to create large narratives out of small in-game actions using puzzle design, limited in-box story, and theming.

Intended Audience

This is for developers who are interested in puzzle design, emergent narrative, and where they overlap. Though tabletop designers will likely have the most direct connection to the examples shown, the design principles discussed are transferable to video games as well.