Writers in the narrative formats--be it novels, screenplays, etc.--often borrow terms from games to describe dynamics in the narrative. There is talk of "setting the stakes," "set-ups and pay-offs," "playing out his hand" or "her ace-in-the-hole." Classic self-referential lines include, "Now it's my turn" and "Game over, man." Certainly, writers borrow terms from wherever they find utility, frequently using such concepts as disparate as Newtonian physics and strings of thread, as well. My intent here is not to argue that all narratives are based on games, or vice versa, but rather to explicate the two's relationship in hopes that it will surface lessons for both crafters of narratives and crafters of games.
The striking thing about this analogy is how easy it is to make. A good narrative is aligned almost beat-for-beat with a good game. In both you begin by setting the stakes and outlining the rules. Games do this explicitly, with a person suggesting that a particular game be played with particular stakes. Narrative is less explicit, but accomplishes the same goal. What writers call the "first act" in a three-act structure can easily be described in these terms: the audience learns about what characters have at stake and what rules they will be following for the rest of the narrative. The first act ends at the moment all the necessary players decide to play the game.
The second act of a narrative is the playing out of the game. As they are linear format, narratives can generally be described as turn-based, with one character responding to the action of another character, who in turn responds to that response. Certain narratives--particularly in this the Post-Modern era--attempt to break out of these rules of causality through various techniques, but the bulk of narrative remains turn-based.
Just as in narrative, people rarely comment that a game is "good" if one side is dominating over the other for most of the game (the exception in both cases: the underdog victory). Therefore, in most narratives you will find the players more or less equally matched, each with her own advantages. Depending on the game, "equal matching" has different connotations. In games that involve a heavy luck element (part of what Chris Bateman calls alea play), players who are equally matched are each getting a fair share of lucky breaks. Games that downplay the alea element (what Bateman terms agon) require the players to have an equal amount of skill or experience to be considered well-matched. Narratives exist along this spectrum, as well.
Here it's important to remember that most narrative is concerned with the fortunes of one character, known as the "hero" or "protagonist" of the story. This is the character the audience wants to "win" in the end. Protagonists have also been called the audience's "avatar." Typically the first half of the second act is composed mainly of the progression element of the game. The protagonist is playing out the rules without meeting much resistance. This can either be seen as something equivalent to the opening moves in chess or placing the ball in the roulette wheel. The second half of the second half is when the wheel starts spinning. This is where the tension builds, where our protagonist meets the first real resistance from the other players, known as the "antagonists." The relatively easy-flowing progression that characterized the first half of the second act is lost as the protagonist and antagonist more effectively sabotage each others' plans and jockey for more conditions more conducive to winning.
The beginning of the third act finds the characters knowing that the end is near. Any amount of conservatism vanish in pursuit of the end goal: this is the land of the full-court press, where queens are sacrificed, and bad guys start kidnapping daughters. Perhaps most accurately, this is the moment when the coin is suspended in the air after being flipped. The entire narrative, the entire game, the entire universe is held within this moment, between winning and losing, between existence and non-existence. A good narrative and a good game will create a very special emotion at this point, where every player simultaneously desires and fears a conclusion.
The game is over at the end of the first half of the third act. The players accept the outcome of the game and spend the rest of the final act collecting the losses and handing out the winnings. The word denouement finds its root in the idea of "untying," and while it has more of connection with the "thread" metaphor of narrative, we can also see a correlation in the rituals necessary to release the players from terms of the wager, in effect untying them from the game and each other.
Just like the camera lens theory or thread metaphor, viewing narrative as a game is just one way to explain the dynamics found in the art of storytelling. I find it particularly powerful, but it's up to each writer to determine which framework best suits the construction of a story. However, game-makers can also find lessons here. Most games that involve stories only use the story aspect as part of an extrinsic reward system, equivalent to handing out candy or toys for achieving certain results during the game. The construction of narrative-as-game allows the possibility for the two to be much more integrated.
Therefore, makers of games should look at narratives such as film or novels not as providers of rewards given in piecemeal throughout the game, but examples of games themselves. While a narrative only gives an example of one playthrough, that is typically enough to get the gist of the rule system and a prediction of possible outcomes in future matches. The art of narrative is thousands of years old, honed by the stress of time. Makers of games would be robbing themselves of an incredible collection of knowledge by ignoring the lessons narrative has for games.