Ideas for the expressive role of interactivity on interactive storytelling
New mediums of communication and expression always comes with their own perks on regards of presenting content structures that were unavailable in the previous mediums. Movies brought the option of presenting points of views, and the chance for very elaborate visual effects that allowed film artists to bring new elements to stories. Recorded music allowed the addition of impossible to replicate timbres to be in musical pieces. Computer games allowed the creation of worlds as a narrative instead of a single fixed story-line.
With respect to storytelling, there have been several good examples. From the earliest ages; where maybe a storyteller improvised his story upon the reaction of his audience, or improvised theater that responded to the audience reactions such as Comedia dell’arte. But regarding current times, household computers brought a whole new set of possibilities to the option of interactive or generative storytelling; but so far, not many cases have seized the new opportunities that this medium offers. New experience that we could say that belongs exclusively to storytelling in the computer times. It is true that there is no clear line between interactive storytelling and gaming; where the player can actually interact with imaginary worlds and create a story that could have been more or less scripted. Some of the games that are available, are actually stories where the user explore a linear story with certain choices. There are also the random generative methods, where suggestive stories are formed upon chunks (See the very interesting projects made with RiTa). Mainly, I feel, examples are just tweaks to other traditional media: a movie where you can make decisions; a game that actually is a movie that you make advance; a exquisite corpse that happens upon some data input. For the case of interactive storytelling, I think there is a need that the fact of being interactive makes such sense that the story is meaningless without the interaction component, and the interaction is a critical component of the story itself. Here I will explain a new mean of computer based interactive storytelling that offers this exclusivity to interactivity.
Let’s start with an example of a not good example of interactive story:
The story is pretty simple and build from horror story cliches. But What I found interesting in this interactive story, is the clear plot incongruence that happens between two parallel universes under a decision. In the beginning of this story you are given the chance of either to “go and check on your friend” or “just go home”. After a couple more of decisions, when persisting on walking home, you can finish the story with a SMS from your friend where he explains to be alright. But when you choose to go and check on him, you discover that he is in a life threat and needs you to save him. This is very interesting; because based on your decisions, the world you are inhabiting changes. In a way, your decision affects the alternative past.
This very effect can also be observed in high quality interactive productions. In the case of these decision based stories, the character usually manifests his reasons for having taken this decision; usually to give a more fluid continuity to the story. This statement of reason usually becomes a modification of the past by the player’s decision, because the character’s personality character must have been different for a different thought. Also, as pointed out by Lauri in an interactive storytelling class; in many games, the “sudden unexpected events” that happen to the character, are held waiting for the player to reach certain level in the game to happen.
Alien seems to feel worthy when he manages to scare the player.
Also it is very common in decision based games, that the protagonist narrator character explains his decisions posterior to the decision, making them seem to fit the character. Under the game logic, this means that the character is taking the player’s rationality, as to give the player the role of protagonist. But this is an interactive story where the character in reality is different from the player; and most of it’s character is hard-coded in the story. Therefore, this explanation of choice, actually is a retroactive effect of the player’s choice: its decision affects the ethos of the main character.