Interactive storytelling - Carolyn Miller

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  • 1. Interactive StorytellingWhat It Is and What Developers Need to Consider # Carolyn Handler Miller
  • 2. Interactive Stories…My term: Digital Storytelling Stories that use digital platforms (the Web, video game consoles, mobile devices, iTV, etc.) to tell stories that are: Ø Interactive Ø Participatory Ø Immersive
  • 3. We Have Interactive Storytelling:Thanks to the Computer Chip! n  Chips: Tiny but mighty! n  Computer technology makes interactivity n  Has revolutionized the way we can tell stories
  • 4. Interactive Stories, Like Older Story Forms, Still Have…Ø  PlotØ  CharactersØ  SettingØ  Conflict& challengesØ  StructureØ  EmotionØ  Comedy & Drama
  • 5. But Something New: Interactivity! Fundamentally changes narrativeexperience; user becomes part of story!!
  • 6. Major Types of Interactive Stories….
  • 7. 1. Screen-based works Story played out on screen (like movies, TV)Screens can be tiny or huge
  • 8. Video Games:Oldest & Best Known Form n  First games: simple, no story (like Pong) n  Today’s games: Ø  Complex storylines Ø  Rich characters Ø  Multiple storylines Ø  Multiple endings Ø  Clever dialogue Ø  Players’ choices can impact story Here: L.A. Noire
  • 9. The Internet: Many Fictional Genresn  Stand alone stories: live action, animationn  Serialized episodic stories (webisodes)n  Fictional blogsn  Stories told on social media (YouTube, FaceBook, Twitter)Here: The Office: the Accountants (a webisode)
  • 10. One of the Best Known Web Forms: The Webisoden  Serialized stories with episodes often ending on a cliffhangern  Short installments (3 to 8 minutes)n  Some based on TV series, some originaln  Majority are linear and no interaction possible – but some are interactiven  Example: The Birthday Party – 3 guys get into trouble on way to party; at end of each episode, you can choose what should happen next
  • 11. Can Also Employ Social Media To Tell Storyn  Example: My Darklyng – serialized young adult vampire storyn  Used YouTube, Twitter, Facebookn  Different characters used different forms of social media
  • 12. Web Also Home toNonfiction Works Example: War Veterans – A multi-part documentary – true stories of soldiers who fought in many different wars
  • 13. Mobile Apps: Also Used for Storytelling n  Some (like Alice in New York) are rich in story n  Others(Angry Birds) are primarily games, but story used to set up conflict
  • 14. Other Types ofScreen-based Works, Less Common…
  • 15. Interactive TV (iTV) n  Goal: to enhance TV experience with interactivity, pull audience into story Example: BBC drama, Thunder Road
  • 16. Interactive Cinema (iCinema)n  2 forms: Ø Large screen •  Audience experience, theatre setting Ø Small screen •  Solo player, at homeExample: Vital Spaces … large screen, events controlled by players at consoles
  • 17. 2. Non Screen-basedn  Includes: Virtual Reality (VR): participants immersed in virtual world – surrounded by virtual images and sounds
  • 18. Non Screen-basedn  Includes: Augmented reality (AR)… digital images super- imposed on real places, people
  • 19. Non screen-based…n  Also includes: Smart Toys… toys embedded with computer chips that interact with childHere: Belle doll from Beauty and the Beast
  • 20. Non Screen Basedn  Even includes: Interactive theme park rides: immersed in story environment, can play in itHere: Buzz Lightyear Ride at Disney Theme Parks
  • 21. Stories for Digital Media Have Many Unique Capabilities 1.  Interactivity 2.  User agency 3.  Immersiveness 4.  Breaking of 4th Wall 5.  Non-linearity 6.  Gaming elements
  • 22. 1. Interactivityn  Simple conceptn  But profound implications; fundamentally changes narrative experience Ø Audience can enter story Ø Can participate in it Ø Can manipulate it Ø Can control it!n  Gives user CHOICES
  • 23. Many Kinds of Choices:n  Which way to gon  Which character “to be”n  What outfit to wearn  What kind of action to take (smile, stab, run)n  What to sayn  What to click onn  What object to control, and how
  • 24. Interactivity:Like a Conversation n  Back and forth communication between the digital content and the user n  User acts, makes choice, program responds n  Program offers choice, user responds
  • 25. With Interactivity, Creators No Longer In Complete Control n  In “traditional” stories, creators dictate how story unfolds (powers like a Western God) n  Interactive stories: must find way for users to enter story n  In a sense, sharing creation of story with users n  Yet must also find way to rein in infinite possibilities… tough balancing act!
  • 26. Interactivity Equals Complexity!n  Impacts even simplest of storiesn  Example: Carmen Sandiego mysteriesn  “Find the criminal” story grows exponentially: Ø  Huge cast of suspects Ø  Hundreds of locations Ø  Hundreds of clues Ø  Must produce scene for every choice (right or wrong) player makes
  • 27. NOTE: Digital Media MakesInteractivity Possible…But Not Always Taken Advantage of!
  • 28. 2. User has “Agency”n  User is given some degree of control over storyn  True agency: this control must be meaningful, must impact on story in some significant wayn  True agency: deeply satisfying[Term agency from Janet Murray, Hamlet on the Holodeck]
  • 29. Thus, in Interactive Storytelling The Audience Vanishes! n  Thanks to interactivity, agency n  Each user is an active participant, has some control of story n  Not a performance; instead, an experience n  For the user: each story is unique, highly personal
  • 30. 3. ImmersivenessImmersiveness: the feeling of being INSIDE the story Ø Can be figurative Ø Can be literal
  • 31. Figurative Immersiveness: Represented by an AvatarOr Otherwise Not Physically in Story
  • 32. And Sometimes Physically Immersed in the Story(Example: Flat World Simulation)
  • 33. 4. The Fourth Wall Can Be Breachedn  4th wall: invisible barrier between audience & actors, between real life and narrativen  In Digital Space: Ø  User can enter story, become part of it Ø  Can interact with fictional characters Ø  Fictional characters can enter user’s life, too!
  • 34. 5. Established Media Stories Are LINEARLinear: Events in Fixed Sequence, Usually Chronological, Beginning, Middle, Ending
  • 35. While Interactive Stories Can Be NONLINEARn  Events NOT in fixed ordern  Events NOT in chronological order (may start at end)n  User can move freely around story, change what happens next
  • 36. How Do You Tell A StoryIn Nonlinear Environment? n  Nonlinearity means no fixed sequence n  But must still support narrative n  How to do this? Special structures support nonlinear stories n  Structures for interactive stories far more complex than for linear works
  • 37. 6. Gaming ElementsPart of Many Interactive Stories n  Serve an important function! Ø Keep users involved, motivated Ø Add challenges Ø Add natural interactivity n  Games offer: Ø Clear-cut goal Ø Idea of winning/ losing Ø Dramatic conflict (one side vs another)
  • 38. So, While Interactive Stories, Like Traditional Stories, Have: n  Characters n  Plot n  Dramatic events n  Conflicts and challenges n  Settings
  • 39. Important Differences, As Well!
  • 40. Traditional Stories(movies, TV, novels, etc.): n  Pre-constructed by storyteller (the boss!) story cannot change n  Audience can’t interact; must “consume” story passively n  Linear – one story path; events in fixed order (usually chronological) n  One unchangeable ending
  • 41. But in Digital Media Storytelling…n  Audience members can take active part in story Ø Can decide what happens Ø Determine how it ends Ø Can even become one of the characters
  • 42. Seven Things to ConsiderWhen Developing an Interactive Story
  • 43. 1. Build in Robust Interactivity n  Be sure the user has a meaningful role in the story n  The user should be able to have an IMPACT on the story: how it evolves or ends – in other words, AGENCY Here: Bioshock
  • 44. 2. Create a Compelling Storyn  Goodstories contain: Ø  Drama and conflict Ø Tension Ø Surprises Ø An uncertain ending
  • 45. 3. Create Strong Characters n  Characters bring your work to life; otherwise abstract; not stories n  Characters pull us into the work; we identify with them n  Characters provide emotional context (we care/we fear) n  Characters also add drama, conflict
  • 46. Characters In Interactive Storiesn  Can be humans, fantasy characters, animals, even non-living entities (storms; an epidemic)n  Unlike traditional stories, they allow for user interactionn  Possible interactions: Ø  Can control them Ø  Can communicate with them Ø  Can partially create them Ø  Even BE them
  • 47. 4. Give Your Story A Highly Desirable Goaln  The goal is what the main character wants mostn  It gives the story a forward momentumn  It also can help provide dramatic tension, since obstacles and challenges must be overcome before achieving the goal
  • 48. 5. Create Rich Settings for Your Story n  Settings Insert user into fictional, immersive environment (Here: Elder Scrolls 4) n  Gives player things to do there and ways to interact n  Provides opposition so user is challenged n  Opposition can be: Ø  NPCs (Non Player Characters) Ø  Physical challenges Ø  Puzzles
  • 49. Each Setting Has… n  A physical environment (vegetation, buildings, a terrain) n  Sounds (natural, mechanical, musical) n  Inhabitants (humans, animals, supernatural beings; friends or opponents) n  Challenges that are natural to the specific setting n  An overall goal
  • 50. All Settings Have a Style…May Be:n  Highly realisticn  Cartoonyn  An imagined place
  • 51. 6. Consider Your Audience n  No single work can appeal to every single person n  Must decide who your intended audience is, and shape your story accordingly n  Not considering your audience: one of top five reasons for project failure!
  • 52. Your Audience: Things To Take into Considerationn  Subject matter: appropriate and appealingn  Digital Platform: one that they own and are comfortable withn  Difficulty level: not too easy or demanding; not intimidating or too “babyish”
  • 53. Also To Consider:n  Age rangen  Gendern  Ethnicityn  Geographic area (urban or rural; general region)n  If a special interest group, what do they have in common?n  What do they enjoy?n  What do they dislike?n  What is INAPPROPRIATE for this group
  • 54. 7. Finally, Plan Out Your Interactivity n  Decide what kinds of choices and control you will give your users n  Decide how users will access all the important pieces of the story n  What kind of structure will you use? n  How will scenes be connected? n  Interactive design: most challenging aspect of interactive storytelling!