Research Questions

1. How does storytelling influence our daily life and how do our real-life
experiences influence storytelling?

2. What keeps people engaged in fictional storytelling?

3. How can storytelling be more collaborative?


Connie Hwang, SJSU Graphic Design Professor
Primary Advisor

Yoon Chung Han, SJSU Graphic Design Assistant Professor
Secondary Advisor

Capri Burrows, SJSU Radio-TV-Film Lecturer
Tertiary Advisor


Escapism does not mean avoiding your daily life. It is human nature to seek respite from reality. Escapist Fiction immerses us into exotic worlds and fantastical situations through storytelling in books, films, and video games. Storyline expands on the shared experience created by storytelling by identifying how escapism and worldbuilding influence a narrative. Escapism can be considered a distraction from reality, but as a tool of communication, it can help explore human behavior and morality. Fictitious worlds and stories can elicit emotions by developing connections with their readers or viewers. They also provide subliminal parallels with reality. This thesis examines fantasy worlds akin to Middle-earth or Hogwarts to better understand how successful storytelling and worldbuilding are an influence to the monotony of reality.

Worldbuilding serves as a tool for immersion and as a foundation for a great story. Creating worlds of fiction heavily focus on externalizing ideas—writers have to see stories as consumers and creators. Escapism relies on this behavior because as humans we live in a world where we wake up to stories and then fall asleep to them, and throughout this journey of escapism we become active participants in these phantasmal worlds. We feel what the characters feel.­ Through an exploration of escapism and worldbuilding, I hope to help establish why storytelling has the ability to represent the future of human experience.

Why Storytelling?

Designing fictional stories has been one of my favorite pastimes. When I was younger I enjoyed creating epic fables, and engaging adventures. I became attached to stories that threw into worlds where dragons fly and spaceships have traveled beyond the stars. Stories narrate more than just the journey of their characters, but also the voice of the creator. We take what we know and modify it to create worlds of fantasy that allow us to play in a space that’s familiar, but not too familiar. I never realized how much stories impact people until I got to share my fictional worlds.

The idea of designing a story where everyone can alter or influence the events of the story was one of my greatest drives for this project. I wanted people to become active participants, and engage in worlds of their creation.

How To Play

Storyline is played through a series of rounds—or chapters. Players start by drawing one “Cast card” which acts as that player's main character for the story and they narrate events through that character's perspective. During each round players draw cards from the Cast, Prop, or Scene decks which give them different tools they can use to tell a story. Once a player uses the cards they want, they pass the turn to the next player who builds off of what has already been saying. This continues for 4-7 rounds with each round adding more and plot points until the resolution phase. During this phase, players try to resolve the story that they spent so long creating and then having the players come up with a title for their story.
Each player is trying to develop a story for their main character while also trying to create an overarching narrative with their friends. I want people to try their best to make sense out of the chaos, by immersing and engaging with other people's stories.

Explore the infinite possibilities of storytelling. From wacky plots to absurd character arcs, Storyline invites players to weave a story and tell a tale together.


From my research, I found that a lot of board games and card games use very detailed imagery, especially when a narrative is involved. Although those very detailed illustrations are amazing I felt that it would not reach the right audience. I wanted Storyline to be an experience for everyone, even those that are not big on games. The illustration is kept minimal in detail to leave more room for personal expression so that players do not only use whats visualized on the card to narrate their stories. The rubber-hose like structures of the characters gave the characters more of a humorous personality so the game could always feel light-hearted. It helped create more expressive emotions when a face could not. 

Because the game takes inspiration from books, films, and video games I wanted to emphasize the genre each card was from, A lot of the illustrations draw inspiration from media stereotypes like laser swords or goblins. so that people have something familiar to work off of rather than being exposed to a million new concepts, this was done so that people who have different levels of experience will have a better time creating a cooperative story.

“A story must be told or there'll be no story, yet it is the untold stories that are most moving.”

—J.R.R. Tolkien

Final Outcome

The final design for the game took many permutations. I wanted the game to be portable and easy to play right out of the box. The current design takes advantage of a very compact experience. Everything fits in a 6″ by 6″ box and is easily accessible. The Instruction booklet rests flush on top of the cards and the box opens and closes like the cover of a book. The elements within the package are meant to evoke a fun, unified, and creative experience. All elements have a vibrancy to engage players while the language of all written material is meant to feel like it has a voice of its own.

The illustrations on the Cast Cards are the biggest signifier for the visual language and so this idea is abstracted with the round shapes on all parts of the design. The game comes with 200 cards and in its current form cover 3 genres; Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Mystery. The idea was to leave room for future expansions that would allow players to curate their experience for the story they want to tell.


Storytelling is just another one of our senses—we are built with a need to engage in stories and tell our own. We have the drive to make sense out of nonsense, find patterns, and to escape from reality. Storytelling is not just about blurring the lines between fact and fantasy, but rather a dance between audience and entertainer. This is where stories become the future of human experience; as a form of connection between different people by imbuing our lives with a storyline.

  2020 timeiswhatyoumakeofit