Friday, December 2, 2011

Façade and a Rant on Interactive Narrative Systems

This is an interesting experimental interactive narrative system.  The list of  pubs  looks like some good reading and ends with a bibliography of the same who's who of interactive narrative that I was reading a decade ago.

My first through is... has nothing changed?  They seem to still be trying to generate emergent drama involving a set cast of characters in a sterile environment.  I find it a bit strange that the product is intended to "appeal to the adult, non-computer geek, movie-and-theater-going public".... probably should have made a movie if this was the point.  Sounds like they are fundamentally missing the point of interactive narrative.... if its an art form unlike anything else, then it will need to define its own audience... however, if its an art form that will be defined by an existing audience who already has a well defined taste in a particular media form... why not just stick with that media form?  There is no need to replace "movies and theater", which are at their essence an experience of someone elses story... with an art form like interactive fiction which is an art form that requires the consumer to engage and add their essence to the narrative.

One observation I have made with the various interactive fiction examples I have seen is that very few people are capable story tellers.  Its a skill that takes a great deal of practice.  This is why great writers and poets are celebrated... because they are unusual.  Have a look at facebook or twitter for examples of how few people think in narratives.  Expecting everyone to be able to "bring the magic" to an intereactive narrative is just not realistic.  This will make it a very niche experience for a select few.  And one that will not be able to be shared with others unless its recorded.... in which case the whole system becomes an interactive authorship system for creating movies/stories.

On the other hand, if users are expected to suck at creating narratives and instead the system "takes them by the hand and generates a narrative around them... irrespective of the quality of the players interaction... then the player is essentially just being used as a source of randomness which is being fed into and filtered by a narrative engine which does 100% of the narrative creation.  In which case.... why bother?

If a user is really along for the ride... then my guess is they will figure it out.  The second they do something stupid and the narrative engine "smoothes" it out... they will know they are being "managed".  If the engine lets the stupid into the narrative... then the users suspension of disbelief will be shattered.

This is the flaw in a narrative system that expects the player to inject "talent" as part of the experience.

So how can this

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