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Interactive Storytelling

What It Is and What Developers
       Need to Consider
               #
     Carolyn Handler Miller
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
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
Interactive Stories, Like Older
     Story Forms, Still Have…
Ø  Plot
Ø  Characters
Ø  Setting
Ø  Conflict&
    challenges
Ø  Structure
Ø  Emotion
Ø  Comedy & Drama
But Something New:
         Interactivity!




 Fundamentally changes narrative
experience; user becomes part of story!!
Major Types of Interactive
       Stories….
1. Screen-based works




 Story played out on screen
      (like movies, TV)
Screens can be tiny or huge
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
The Internet: Many
                  Fictional Genres
n    Stand alone stories: live
      action, animation
n    Serialized episodic
      stories (webisodes)
n    Fictional blogs
n    Stories told on social
      media (YouTube,
      FaceBook, Twitter)
Here: The Office: the Accountants (a
   webisode)
One of the Best Known
          Web Forms: The Webisode
n    Serialized stories with
      episodes often ending
      on a cliffhanger
n    Short installments (3 to 8
      minutes)
n    Some based on TV
      series, some original
n    Majority are linear and
      no interaction possible –
      but some are interactive
n    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
Can Also Employ
        Social Media To Tell Story
n    Example: My Darklyng –
      serialized young adult
      vampire story
n    Used YouTube, Twitter,
      Facebook
n    Different characters
      used different forms of
      social media
Web Also Home to
Nonfiction Works

             Example: War
             Veterans – A
             multi-part
             documentary –
             true stories of
             soldiers who
             fought in many
             different wars
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
Other Types of
Screen-based Works,
  Less Common…
Interactive TV (iTV)

               n    Goal: to
                     enhance TV
                     experience with
                     interactivity, pull
                     audience into
                     story

               Example: BBC drama,
                  Thunder Road
Interactive Cinema (iCinema)

n    2 forms:
       Ø Large screen
           •  Audience
              experience,
              theatre
              setting
       Ø Small screen
           •  Solo player,
              at home
Example: Vital Spaces …
   large screen, events
   controlled by players at
   consoles
2. Non Screen-based

n    Includes:
        Virtual Reality (VR):
        participants
        immersed in virtual
        world – surrounded
        by virtual images and
        sounds
Non Screen-based


n    Includes:
      Augmented reality
      (AR)…
      digital images super-
      imposed on real
      places, people
Non screen-based…

n    Also includes:
      Smart Toys… toys
      embedded with
      computer chips that
      interact with child


Here: Belle doll from Beauty
  and the Beast
Non Screen Based

n    Even includes:
      Interactive theme
      park rides:
      immersed in story
      environment, can
      play in it

Here: Buzz Lightyear Ride
  at Disney Theme Parks
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
1. Interactivity
n    Simple concept
n    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
Many Kinds of Choices:

n    Which way to go
n    Which character “to be”
n    What outfit to wear
n    What kind of action to
      take (smile, stab, run)
n    What to say
n    What to click on
n    What object to control,
      and how
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
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!
Interactivity Equals Complexity!
n    Impacts even simplest
      of stories
n    Example: Carmen
      Sandiego mysteries
n    “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
NOTE:
 Digital Media Makes
Interactivity Possible…
But Not Always Taken
   Advantage of!
2. User has “Agency”
n    User is given some
      degree of control over
      story
n    True agency: this
      control must be
      meaningful, must
      impact on story in some
      significant way
n    True agency: deeply
      satisfying
[Term agency from Janet
   Murray, Hamlet on the
   Holodeck]
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
3. Immersiveness

Immersiveness: the feeling of being
  INSIDE the story

  Ø Can be figurative

  Ø Can be literal
Figurative Immersiveness:
     Represented by an Avatar
Or Otherwise Not Physically in Story
And Sometimes Physically
  Immersed in the Story
(Example: Flat World Simulation)
4. The Fourth Wall
                  Can Be Breached
n    4th wall: invisible barrier
      between audience &
      actors, between real life
      and narrative
n    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!
5. Established Media Stories
       Are LINEAR
Linear: Events in Fixed Sequence,
     Usually Chronological,
   Beginning, Middle, Ending
While Interactive Stories
          Can Be NONLINEAR
n    Events NOT in fixed
      order
n    Events NOT in
      chronological order
      (may start at end)
n    User can move
      freely around story,
      change what
      happens next
How Do You Tell A Story
In 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
6. Gaming Elements
Part 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)
So, While Interactive Stories,
  Like Traditional Stories,
           Have:
               n  Characters
               n  Plot
               n  Dramatic  events
               n  Conflicts and
                   challenges
               n  Settings
Important Differences,
      As Well!
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
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
Seven Things to Consider
When Developing an Interactive
           Story
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
2. Create a Compelling Story

n  Goodstories
  contain:
  Ø  Drama and
    conflict
  Ø Tension
  Ø Surprises
  Ø An uncertain
    ending
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
Characters In
                     Interactive Stories
n    Can be humans, fantasy
      characters, animals,
      even non-living entities
      (storms; an epidemic)
n    Unlike traditional stories,
      they allow for user
      interaction
n    Possible interactions:
      Ø  Can control them
      Ø  Can communicate with
          them
      Ø  Can partially create them
      Ø  Even BE them
4. Give Your Story A Highly
                 Desirable Goal
n    The goal is what the
      main character wants
      most
n    It gives the story a
      forward momentum
n    It also can help provide
      dramatic tension, since
      obstacles and
      challenges must be
      overcome before
      achieving the goal
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
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
All Settings Have a Style…


May Be:

n    Highly realistic

n    Cartoony

n    An imagined place
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!
Your Audience: Things
         To Take into Consideration
n    Subject matter:
      appropriate and
      appealing
n    Digital Platform: one
      that they own and are
      comfortable with
n    Difficulty level: not too
      easy or demanding;
      not intimidating or too
      “babyish”
Also To Consider:
n    Age range
n    Gender
n    Ethnicity
n    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
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!

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Interactive storytelling - Carolyn Miller

  • 1. Interactive Storytelling What 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  Plot Ø  Characters Ø  Setting Ø  Conflict& challenges Ø  Structure Ø  Emotion Ø  Comedy & Drama
  • 5. But Something New: Interactivity! Fundamentally changes narrative experience; 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 Genres n  Stand alone stories: live action, animation n  Serialized episodic stories (webisodes) n  Fictional blogs n  Stories told on social media (YouTube, FaceBook, Twitter) Here: The Office: the Accountants (a webisode)
  • 10. One of the Best Known Web Forms: The Webisode n  Serialized stories with episodes often ending on a cliffhanger n  Short installments (3 to 8 minutes) n  Some based on TV series, some original n  Majority are linear and no interaction possible – but some are interactive n  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 Story n  Example: My Darklyng – serialized young adult vampire story n  Used YouTube, Twitter, Facebook n  Different characters used different forms of social media
  • 12. Web Also Home to Nonfiction 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 of Screen-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 home Example: Vital Spaces … large screen, events controlled by players at consoles
  • 17. 2. Non Screen-based n  Includes: Virtual Reality (VR): participants immersed in virtual world – surrounded by virtual images and sounds
  • 18. Non Screen-based n  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 child Here: Belle doll from Beauty and the Beast
  • 20. Non Screen Based n  Even includes: Interactive theme park rides: immersed in story environment, can play in it Here: 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. Interactivity n  Simple concept n  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 go n  Which character “to be” n  What outfit to wear n  What kind of action to take (smile, stab, run) n  What to say n  What to click on n  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 stories n  Example: Carmen Sandiego mysteries n  “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 Makes Interactivity Possible… But Not Always Taken Advantage of!
  • 28. 2. User has “Agency” n  User is given some degree of control over story n  True agency: this control must be meaningful, must impact on story in some significant way n  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. Immersiveness Immersiveness: the feeling of being INSIDE the story Ø Can be figurative Ø Can be literal
  • 31. Figurative Immersiveness: Represented by an Avatar Or Otherwise Not Physically in Story
  • 32. And Sometimes Physically Immersed in the Story (Example: Flat World Simulation)
  • 33. 4. The Fourth Wall Can Be Breached n  4th wall: invisible barrier between audience & actors, between real life and narrative n  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 LINEAR Linear: Events in Fixed Sequence, Usually Chronological, Beginning, Middle, Ending
  • 35. While Interactive Stories Can Be NONLINEAR n  Events NOT in fixed order n  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 Story In 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 Elements Part 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
  • 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 Consider When 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 Story n  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 Stories n  Can be humans, fantasy characters, animals, even non-living entities (storms; an epidemic) n  Unlike traditional stories, they allow for user interaction n  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 Goal n  The goal is what the main character wants most n  It gives the story a forward momentum n  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 realistic n  Cartoony n  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 Consideration n  Subject matter: appropriate and appealing n  Digital Platform: one that they own and are comfortable with n  Difficulty level: not too easy or demanding; not intimidating or too “babyish”
  • 53. Also To Consider: n  Age range n  Gender n  Ethnicity n  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!