Starcraft II and Chinese Scroll Painting: Narrative Ideas for RTS Computer Games

Peter Nelson, E. H. MacMillan

Research output: Chapter in book/report/conference proceedingConference proceedingpeer-review


Real Time Strategy (RTS) computer games have established themselves as highly successful Esports, however their capacity for single-player storytelling remains underdeveloped. In the case of Blizzard Entertainment’s Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty (2010), the storytelling of the game was widely criticized for an over-reliance on filmic animated sequences that were structurally disconnected from the actual gameplay. We describe Starcraft II in relation to the RTS game genre and present its structural similarities to Chinese scroll painting. We present a selection of narrative strategies from within the Chinese landscape scroll, including cartographic narratives of the journey, poetic metaphors in transmedial landscapes and landscapes of geopolitical conquest. By analysing RTS games in terms of scroll painting, we seek to provide designers of RTS games with a set of narrative strategies that are more structurally congruent than the filmic animated sequences, and therefore encourage the creation of more innovate and coherent narrative structures for single-player RTS games. Our paper concludes with a thought experiment for how the game map of Starcraft II might be redesigned by incorporating narrative structures from Chinese scroll painting.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationISEA2016 Hong Kong CULTURAL R>EVOLUTION
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of the 22nd International Symposium on Electronic Art
EditorsOlli Tapio Leino
PublisherSchool of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong
Number of pages7
ISBN (Print)9789624423976
Publication statusPublished - 16 May 2016
Event22nd International Symposium on Electronic Art - , Hong Kong
Duration: 16 May 201622 May 2016 (Conference website) (Conference proceedings)


Conference22nd International Symposium on Electronic Art
Abbreviated titleISEA 2016
Country/TerritoryHong Kong
Internet address

User-Defined Keywords

  • Animation
  • Computer graphic
  • Media art
  • Machine Learning


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