Interactive storytelling - Carolyn Miller


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Interactive storytelling - Carolyn Miller

  1. 1. Interactive StorytellingWhat It Is and What Developers Need to Consider # Carolyn Handler Miller
  2. 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. 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. 4. Interactive Stories, Like Older Story Forms, Still Have…Ø  PlotØ  CharactersØ  SettingØ  Conflict& challengesØ  StructureØ  EmotionØ  Comedy & Drama
  5. 5. But Something New: Interactivity! Fundamentally changes narrativeexperience; user becomes part of story!!
  6. 6. Major Types of Interactive Stories….
  7. 7. 1. Screen-based works Story played out on screen (like movies, TV)Screens can be tiny or huge
  8. 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. 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. 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. 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. 12. Web Also Home toNonfiction Works Example: War Veterans – A multi-part documentary – true stories of soldiers who fought in many different wars
  13. 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. 14. Other Types ofScreen-based Works, Less Common…
  15. 15. Interactive TV (iTV) n  Goal: to enhance TV experience with interactivity, pull audience into story Example: BBC drama, Thunder Road
  16. 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. 17. 2. Non Screen-basedn  Includes: Virtual Reality (VR): participants immersed in virtual world – surrounded by virtual images and sounds
  18. 18. Non Screen-basedn  Includes: Augmented reality (AR)… digital images super- imposed on real places, people
  19. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 27. NOTE: Digital Media MakesInteractivity Possible…But Not Always Taken Advantage of!
  28. 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. 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. 30. 3. ImmersivenessImmersiveness: the feeling of being INSIDE the story Ø Can be figurative Ø Can be literal
  31. 31. Figurative Immersiveness: Represented by an AvatarOr Otherwise Not Physically in Story
  32. 32. And Sometimes Physically Immersed in the Story(Example: Flat World Simulation)
  33. 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. 34. 5. Established Media Stories Are LINEARLinear: Events in Fixed Sequence, Usually Chronological, Beginning, Middle, Ending
  35. 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. 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. 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. 38. So, While Interactive Stories, Like Traditional Stories, Have: n  Characters n  Plot n  Dramatic events n  Conflicts and challenges n  Settings
  39. 39. Important Differences, As Well!
  40. 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. 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. 42. Seven Things to ConsiderWhen Developing an Interactive Story
  43. 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. 44. 2. Create a Compelling Storyn  Goodstories contain: Ø  Drama and conflict Ø Tension Ø Surprises Ø An uncertain ending
  45. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 50. All Settings Have a Style…May Be:n  Highly realisticn  Cartoonyn  An imagined place
  51. 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. 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. 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. 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!