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IDN: Interactive Digital Narrative

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Mirjam Palosaari Eladhari
added a research item
Building our discipline has been an ongoing discussion since the early days of ICIDS. From earlier international joint efforts to integrate research from multiple fields of study to today’s endeavours by researchers to provide scholarly works of reference, the discussion on how to continue building Interactive Digital Narratives as a discipline with its own vocabulary, scope, evaluation and methods is far from over. This year, we have chosen to continue this discussion through a panel in order to explore what are the epistemological implications of the multiple disciplinary roots of our field, and what are the next steps we should take as a community.
Mads Haahr
added 2 research items
With the launch and popularity of Bandersnatch (2018), interactive storytelling reached a mass audience in a different way to earlier works. However, as a narrative experience, Bandersnatch belongs to a particular class of Interactive Digital Narratives (IDNs): highly restrictive, nonlinear, branching structure films that offer limited agency and, in many ways, have less to offer than more sophisticated IDNs. While the simple format is appealing to new audiences, there is clearly scope for improvement. In this paper, Bandersnatch is examined as a representative of its format in an attempt to identify alternative design choices for improved agency, as well as assessing the choices' suitability for the format. The methodology for the analysis is Hartmut Koenitz's SPP model as well as its extension, the hermeneutic strip, which is applied to understand and assess the experienced agency. The final reflection on alternative design recommendations for Bandersnatch type works demonstrates that, by implementing features of invisible agency, the overall feeling of control of the player could be improved without losing narrative momentum. The improvements could be achieved by maintaining state of the behavioural tendencies (e.g., risk-taking behaviour) of the audience in their decision-making process and screening plotlines or endings that match their assessed tendencies.
We present Honey, I'm Home, a short 2D adventure game which makes use of the SPHINX framework for procedurally generating narrative puzzles. The player guides the protagonist, a journalist for a local newspaper, through four game areas, interacting with numerous characters and objects along the way. The player must solve puzzles to complete each area, combining objects and interacting with characters in the game. The procedural generation of puzzles ensures that while the gameworld remains largely identical between replays, the puzzles encountered are different. The aim of Honey, I'm Home was to serve as a tool for our twofold evaluation of the SPHINX algorithm, from its functional-ity in game development, as well as its effect on player experience. To this end a small user study was also conducted on Honey, I'm Home.
Hartmut Koenitz
added a research item
In this paper, we react to developments that frame research in interactive digital narrative (IDN) as a field of study and potential future academic discipline. We take stock of the current situation, identify issues with perception and point out achievements. On that basis we identify five critical challenges, areas in need of attention in order to move the research field forward. In particular we discuss the dependency on legacy analytical frameworks (Groundhog Day), the lack of a shared vocabulary (Babylonian Confusion), the missing institutional memory of the field (Amnesia), the absence of established benchmarks (No Yardstick) and the overproduction of uncoordinated and quickly abandoned tools (Sisyphus). For each challenge area, we propose ways to address these challenges and enable increased collaboration in the field. Our paper has the aim to both provide orientation for newcomers to the field of IDN and to offer a basis for a discussion of future shared work.
Hartmut Koenitz
added a research item
In iTV and online video, narrative interaction has long been a Holy Grail for both audiences and creators of these digital audiovisual works. On the one hand, interactive digital narrative promises interactors some exciting opportunities: to enter the world of the story, to affect the story and perhaps even to control its outcome, and in the process to gain a transformative self-revelation. On the other hand, this new medium changes the role and craft of the author and entails a host of technological, conceptual, and institutional challenges. The authors describe these opportunities and challenges in detail, before examining various projects that have attempted to realize this vision and grapple with the challenges. Works discussed span several decades, from the late 1960s to 2015. They also span a variety of forms, including interactive cinema, online video, interactive television, and both video- and animation-based games. Particular emphasis is given to contemporary interactive documentaries (iDocs). The chapter further discusses current research directions, such as explorations of the increasing incorporation of the interactor’s body and affects as well as second-screen and cross-device integration, and concludes with a fresh look at the original vision in light of conceptual and design approaches, current technological developments, their implications on the changing landscape of audiovisual content creation and consumption, and the new creative space of opportunities that they open up. http://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007%2F978-981-4560-52-8_44-1
Mads Haahr
added 5 research items
Interactive Digital Narrative is an ever-growing field that encompasses a number of diverse practices, from avant-garde art to interactive documentaries , electronic literature, video game design, applications of artificial intelligence (AI) research and ubiquitous computing. To provide a context for understanding today's practices, in this introduction we will trace some of the exciting directions in the field of interactive digital narrative (IDN) by examining characteristics and current applications in three areas. In addition to that, as an exercise in futuring, we also hypothesise on possible developments. More concretely, we will examine how interactive narratives are used in the context of creating compelling game experiences and suggest possible future directions in that field. We will then consider some relationships between interactive narrative and place-specific digital experiences , from current geolocalised apps to upcoming developments. Finally, the application of IDN technologies to news reporting and documentary practices will be discussed, along with possible perspectives for its developments in the next years.
The hybrid nature of interactive digital narratives-as narratives and procedural digital entities on software executed on computers-poses considerable challenges for analysis and categorisation. A further complication lies in the rapid evolvement of the underlying technologies for creation and dissemination as computing technology has developed dramatically in a very short time compared to the technologies fundamental for other forms of expression. The diverse characteristics of IDNs, their relatively young age as an academic subject and their continuous technical progress have made it difficult to formulate a shared theoretical approach. Furthermore, the hybrid nature of IDN deeply affects analysis and understanding as technical progress and theoretical advancement are intrinsically connected, and every perspective on this field needs to consider both components. Several theoretical perspectives have been advanced in the past decades proposing different models to conceptualise IDNs: in this introduction, we will briefly trace some of the principal approaches formulated in the past years. To give structure to our initial overview, we isolate two theoretical topics traversing the entirety of the IDN field. As a first step, we will examine how in the 1980s and early 1990s several scholars debated on the most adequate formal model-from Aristotle, to Propp, to African storytelling-as a template for digital narratives. In the second half of this exploration, we will briefly retrace, beginning from the late 1990s, the ongoing discussion of the relationship and compatibility (or lack thereof) between the notions of narrativity and digital media. FROM THE POETICS TO ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE As IDN began to be recognised as a subject suitable for academic research, one of the first issues to be addressed was the need for other better-known objects and theoretical approaches to compare with IDNs. Brenda Laurel's metaphor of "computers as theatre" (Laurel, 1986, 1991) has been one of the first and most discussed proposals in this sense. In the cultural and academic context of the 1980s and 1990s, Laurel stood at a peculiar crossroads, with a Ph.D. in theatre and performance studies but also with experience as 70 Hartmut Koenitz et al., practicing designer in the interactive digital industry, including the Atari Research Center, and as the editor of the first comprehensive Human-Computer Interface (HCI) guidelines for the Macintosh computer at Apple Computer, Inc. The variety of her competences helped her to identify several common traits between theatrical performance and HCI, and to introduce the study of these practices amongst scholars in the humanities. As she approached the relatively new field of IDN, Laurel chose to elaborate on a theoretical framework with its roots in Aristotle's Poetics-a well-known resource for practicing scriptwriters and drama scholars. Her seminal work Computers as Theatre (1991) begins by identifying similarities between theatrical authorship and HCI design before introducing a set of classically-inspired analytical categories. In synthesis, her proposal draws a parallel between producing a dramatic representation and authoring an interactive narrative-the theatrical stage is related to the computer screen, the script to the computer programme and the dramatic action to the experience of using computer software and hardware. Laurel's purpose was threefold: first, she proposed the metaphor of computers as theatre as an analytical framework; secondly, she tried to turn her descriptive system into operative guidelines for designers; and finally, she set guidelines as a criterion for evaluating the effectiveness of the user experience in an interactive system. The compelling nature of the "computers as theatre" metaphor and its interdisciplinary openings make it a foundational element for IDN studies. In addition to its theoretical contributions, Laurel's dialogue with different scholarly backgrounds and her introduction of narrative to a still predominantly technical field made it a seminal-albeit sometimes contested-text. Laurel's theoretical work became one of the foundations for research in interactive drama at Carnegie Mellon University. Eventually, Michael Mateas (2001) expanded on this foundation to better accommodate the notion of agency. While agreeing with Laurel about the adequateness of the Poetics for describing noninteractive dramatic structures, Mateas foregrounds the description and practical implementation of agency in the phe-nomenological sense of affecting significant changes in the virtual world. To do so, he reinterprets the Aristotelian categories in terms of material and formal cause, aiming at a more prescriptive and structured model for agency. Interactors experience agency when the dramatic elements that are made available in the plot and that motivate the characters' actions are commensurate with the material constraints offered by the audiovisual , figurative elements of the system. In other words, the narrative elements offered to the user during an interactive experience should be coherent with the material opportunities for actions offered by the system. Vice versa, an imbalance between the two sides of this proportion results in a decrease in agency. However, theoretical and prescriptive models inspired by Aristotle's Poetics were not unanimously accepted as other scholars also explored different possibilities. For instance, Pamela Jennings (1996) remarked how the Aristotelian framework consisted principally of rules for convenience and Introduction 71
The first part of the book is concerned with the history of Interactive Digital Narrative (IDN). Its intention is to serve as a concise historical account of the development of IDN from its beginnings to recent works by means of representative and influential examples. The identification of distinct historical phases is problematic, given the many parallel developments in the field, for example of hypertext fiction and graphical adventure games. Therefore, we identify trajectories based on form-in the sense of particular visual and physical manifestations. The three evolutionary trajectories identified here-text-based, cinematic/performative and ludic/ experimental-represent major facets of IDNs. The trajectories traced here are not meant to be mutually exclusive the same artifact might easily be related to several of them. Text-based examples constitute the first trajectory, from the very first IDN artefact originating in the 1960s, to Interactive Fiction games in the late 1970s and Hypertext Fiction in the early 1990s, leading to their recent resurrection in the Versu platform in 2013. The second trajectory adds an audiovisual dimension that partly remediates aspects of cinema and performance , and examples in this group range from interactive movies over multi-linear TV shows to experimental art installations. This trajectory also shows the strong interests of avant-garde artists in the expressive use of interactive technologies. Finally, the third trajectory encompasses video games and experimental forms that feature complex narrative design. This last trajectory traces examples that benefitted most from recent advances in technology-better visual representation, more advanced AI and increased storage capacity.
Hartmut Koenitz
added a research item
There have been misunderstandings regarding “narrative” in relation to games, in part due to the lack of a shared understanding of “narrative” and related terms. Instead, many contrasting perspectives exist, and this state of affairs is an impediment for current and future research. To address this challenge, this article moves beyond contrasting definitions, and based on a meta-analysis of foundational publications in game studies and related fields, introduces a two-dimensional mapping along the dimensions of media specificity and user agency. Media specificity describes to what extent medium affects narrative, and user agency concerns how much impact a user has on a narrative. This mapping is a way to visualize different ontological positions on “narrative” in the context of game narrative and other interactive narrative forms. This instrument can represent diverse positions simultaneously, and enables comparison between different perspectives, based on their distance from each other and alignment with the axes. A number of insights from the mapping are discussed that demonstrate the potential for this process as a basis for an improved discourse on the topic.
Noam Knoller
added a research item
In recent years, game narrative has emerged as an area for novel game concepts and as a strategy to distinguish a particular title. However, innovation in this area comes primarily from indie companies and individual efforts by noted designers. There is a lack of trained specialists ready to produce interactive narrative experiences. Many existing practitioners are self-trained and often rely on intuition in their design practice. A key element missing from the effort towards a more sustained development and improved professional training is a set of design conventions that fulfill a role comparable to cinematic conventions like continuity editing or montage. Therefore, our research focuses on identifying, verifying and collecting such design strategies. We describe an empirical method to verify candidate design conventions through the evaluation of user reaction to A/B prototypes, which improves upon the trial-and-error process of old. The paper is available here: http://impactum-journals.uc.pt/matlit/article/view/5267
Hartmut Koenitz
added 2 research items
Interactive Storytelling is an interdisciplinary field in which the humanities meet artificial intelligence. Collaborations between scholars rooted in the humanities and the computer sciences like the one between Brenda Laurel and the OZ group at Carnegie Mellon University have had a major influence on the field. At the same time, there are indications that the relationship is often tenuous, for example, between models of narrative in the humanities and their application in computational research projects. This chapter investigates the relationship, notes challenges, and identifies opportunities for an enhanced collaboration. Additional scrutiny in understanding context and scope of narrative models in the humanities would improve access for AI researchers to the vast space of available models and allow for the codification and re-use of adaptation strategies. Simultaneously, the work of many AI researchers could be recast and recognized as contributions to narrative theory. In this regard, film theory can serve as a potential model for a narrative theory of Interactive Storytelling.
In iTV and online video, narrative interaction has long been a Holy Grail for both audiences and creators of these digital audiovisual works. On the one hand, interactive digital narrative promises interactors some exciting opportunities: to enter the world of the story, to affect the story and perhaps even to control its outcome, and in the process to gain a transformative self-revelation. On the other hand, this new medium changes the role and craft of the author and entails a host of technological, conceptual, and institutional challenges. The authors describe these opportunities and challenges in detail, before examining various projects that have attempted to realize this vision and grapple with the challenges. Works discussed span several decades, from the late 1960s to 2015. They also span a variety of forms, including interactive cinema, online video, interactive television, and both video- and animation-based games. Particular emphasis is given to contemporary interactive documentaries (iDocs). The chapter further discusses current research directions, such as explorations of the increasing incorporation of the interactor’s body and affects as well as second-screen and cross-device integration, and concludes with a fresh look at the original vision in light of conceptual and design approaches, current technological developments, their implications on the changing landscape of audiovisual content creation and consumption, and the new creative space of opportunities that they open up.
Hartmut Koenitz
added an update
International Conference for Interactive Digital Storytelling
5-8 December 2018, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
Deadline is fast approaching:
 
Hartmut Koenitz
added a research item
Today, no generally accepted definition of video game narrative exists. The academic discourse has pointed out ontological and phenomenologi- cal differences to more traditional forms of narra- tive, and therefore, the relationship to established scholarship in narratology is complex. In the field of video game studies, narrative aspects of video games are often described in contrast to rule-based aspects. A wider scan of related fields reveals additional positions. Ludonarrative is variously understood as a structural quality of the video game artifact, as an experiential quality during the experience of a video game, or as a high- level framework to understand video games. Finally, a number of scholars emphasize the difference to traditional manifestations and there- fore work towards specific theories of video game narrative. While all legitimate by them- selves, these different usages of “narrative” in the context of video games are often not clearly distinguished in professional or academic dis- course and can lead to considerable confusion. It is therefore essential to scrutinize the particular context and underlying assumptions when approaching the topic. This state of affairs puts particular responsibility on scholars to identify the origins of their understanding of video game nar- rative and define their particular usage of the term in contrast to earlier applications.
Hartmut Koenitz
added 2 research items
Interactive Storytelling is an interdisciplinary field in which the humanities meet artificial intelligence. Collaborations between scholars rooted in the humanities and the computer sciences like the one between Brenda Laurel and the OZ group at Carnegie Mellon University have had a major influence on the field. At the same time, there are indications that the relationship is often tenuous, for exam- ple, between models of narrative in the humanities and their application in computational research projects. This chapter investigates the relationship, notes challenges, and identifies opportunities for an enhanced collaboration. Additional scrutiny in understanding context and scope of narrative models in the humanities would improve access for AI researchers to the vast space of available models and allow for the codification and re-use of adaptation strategies. Simultaneously, the work of many AI researchers could be recast and recognized as contributions to narrative theory. In this regard, film theory can serve as a potential model for a narrative theory of Interactive Storytelling.
Video game narrative has come a long way from the antagonistic beginning of the narratology vs ludology debate. A range of recent games can be seen as the current narrative avant-garde that enable a novel narrative experience. After revisiting some of the challenges for the recognition of game narrative, this paper shifts perspective and describes “walking simulators” as the new driving force of narrative expression.
Mads Haahr
added 13 research items
The workshop explores Narratology as applied to Interactive Digital Storytelling. It presents different strands in established Narratology and the foundations they are built on. Then it discusses different attempts to apply and reconcile Narratology with Interactive Digital Storytelling. The workshop is designed to expose these differences by applying different concepts to the analysis of different digital artifacts and open up a discussion of theory that is mindful of diverse approaches and integrates practical considerations.
As a new research domain matures, it becomes increasingly important for researchers to agree on a shared vocabulary. For researchers in Interactive Digital Storytelling, this is a particular challenge, because researchers come from many different domains and bring their own terminology with them. This workshop exposes and explores the differences in meaning and terminology of key terms such as “story” in different academic disciplines related to Interactive Digital Storytelling. In order to minimize confusion and misunderstandings in the academic discussion within the field and with outside disciplines, the workshop explores ways towards a shared vocabulary for Interactive Digital Storytelling.
An important step towards a theoretical understanding of interactive digital narrative is a classification system for existing artifacts. Many artifacts in Interactive Digital Storytelling provide a challenge to taxonomies derived from literature or film. The lack of a thorough classification system is also a serious hindrance to theoretical work, as it precludes a mapping of the overall field and a comparison of artifacts along categories shared by many researchers. In order to minimize confusion and misunderstandings in the academic discussion within the field and with outside disciplines, the workshop explored ways towards a shared taxonomy for Interactive Digital Storytelling.