On Interactive Drama
Based on, admittedly little, of what I have read so far concerning AI perspectives of interactive storytelling and interactive drama as it relates to games, many researchers follow the Hero’s Journey, the Three Act Structure, and the rising action/climax/denouement forms of story. They often divide this structure into a series of beats to program out different possibilities for AI interactions to create a sense of variety and player/user control. Believability in non-player characters is the main goal. Essentially, they’re creating depth by an illusion of emerging interaction that still has to be pre-determined, but gives a lot more freedom than the branching system in many commercial games. (For more, see the references below.)
This structure won’t work for Indigenous games, since it calls out a structure of interaction and story that’s inherently different than Indigenous storytelling. Although I am in no way able to wrap my mind around AI and its possibilities, I do feel that we aren’t even close to truly emergent AI, and thus every system has a structure it follows and calls on pre-created content. I feel my place as a writer is in making the content of a game as rich and involving as possible given the medium. Indigenous storytelling doesn’t follow a branching method either though.
I hope to find a unique way of structuring a game based on purely Indigenous models of storytelling. Here, the concept of drama is dropped. Rather, stories are fragmented, self-growing and continuing, learned by repeated tellings, and experienced as collective knowledge to enrich history and life skills intrinsically connected to belief. Stories are healing and guiding. They have taste and sound and color, and to many peoples, they cross from landscapes into dreamscapes. Because of this, I feel that Indigenous thought on story patterns most closely resonates with the natural properties of the 3D virtual medium. Games add a layer of rules and guidelines, goals and destinations, over the experience of fragmented stories.
Ultimately, the key is to remember that interactive narrative/drama/storytelling is not itself a game, and that games have unique properties. While aspects of this interaction can be used in a game to create more depth in character believability and driving the game goals forward, I am interested in embedding story and culture in a way that doesn’t struggle with the medium, but rather grows from it. There shouldn’t be one ideal of how much code, art, music, or content go into a game, but rather acknowledge a continuum, much like the Indigenous continuum of time and space with no clear rules.
• Magy Seif El-Nasr. Interaction, Narrative, and Drama Creating an Adaptive Interactive Narrative using Performance Arts Theories. Interaction Studies, Vol 8, No. 2, 2007.
• Mateas, M. and A. Stern (2002). Architecture, Authorial Idioms and early Observations of the Interactive Drama Facade. CMU-CS-02-198. Pittsburgh, PA, Carnegie Mellon University.
• Szilas, N.: IDTension: A Narrative Engine for Interactive Drama. Proceedings of the Technologies for Interactive Digital Storytelling and Entertainment (TIDSE) Conference (2003) 187-203
• Cavazza, Aylett, Dautenhahn, et. Al. Interactive Storytelling in Virtual Environments: Building the Holodeck, Proceedings of VSMM, 2000