Friday, October 18, 2013

New-old interactive storytelling

I am really interested in how we can change the "shape" of storytelling to take advantage of all the new media. Here's a good example of an update of Pride and Prejudice which uses Twitter and Facebook to develop the story and interactivity.

I once designed (on paper, how retro) a story-in-a-website. It was going to be set in a small town on Lake Michigan (I'm still planning on using this invented town somehow), and this was the town's website. So I'd planned that you could click on, say, the hardware store link and get the story of that family, and click on the pizza parlor link and get a conversation between a boyfriend and girlfriend who were breaking up, and the mayor would have blog, and there would be legal notices and of course the police reports, and...

Well, great idea, but all the story parts I came up with were boring! Now I'm thinking maybe I'll have short stories associated with each link, not sure what now, and they'll all be connected through the website and town. But they'll be pretty traditional short stories.

Anyway, is this something you've thought of? Any fun (and abandoned) ideas we could empathize with?



Anonymous said...

I thought about inserting links to maps of area the story occurs in, photos of the places and the rooms described. Sounds bites of any songs mentionned during a scene.

Marie Kenward

Adrian said...

There is a type of storytelling called interactive fiction. This grew out of the old text adventure games of the 1980s.

Effectively, the work is told in the second person. That is, the reader is a character--the protagonist of the story--and he or she influences events by issuing commands (e.g., "go to the kitchen").

For a long time, these were just games, with lots of puzzles and a theme to hold it altogether.

But there's a small community of people who still create works of IF, and some of them have crossed into literature. So while the reader seemingly has complete control, there's actually a narrative structure--sequences that form the beginning, middle, an end. The reader can explore to a degree, but the plot always eventually moves forward, typically when the reader discovers some new information or triggers some irrevocable change in the environment.

Check Wikipedia for Interactive Fiction and Twisty Little Passages by Nick Montfort to get a sense of the literary possibilities.

If you want to sample a game, they're freely available online. (Most of the modern games are non-commercial and have permissive licences.) Photopia by Adam Cadre is an excellent example of an emotionally-charged story that relentlessly drives toward its conclusion while still giving the reader the illusion of being completely in charge.