Interactive narrative – stories where the audience has some level of agency to influence, effect, control, manipulate, or progress the story – presents a very deep bucket of creative potential.
But interactivity is also a broad spectrum. A 3D, open-world, video game might provide a great deal of agency, where as a tablet-based interactive graphic novel might allow for only limited or specific agency. Yet both (and anything in between) still make the audience active and demand that they participate in order to progress the story.
This idea of agency in an interactive narrative is predicated on a role for the audience to play and the most engaging role play actions come from active verbs – to fight, find, assemble, help, escape, create, and so on. In many ways this is no different to creating active protagonists in a book or film where a person trying to do something is much more interesting than a person passively having stuff done to them. But for any such role play action to be effective for an audience as ‘player’ the action must be tempered with motivation & reward. The audience needs to be motivated to play the role and they need to be rewarded for doing so. Action, motivation and reward are the foundations of any good interactive story.
But what is also important – though perhaps less obvious – is how we position the audience within the story, and how their position relates to playable action. This is a problem I’ve been wrestling with on a daily basis over the past year as I produce a series of adapted interactive projects for studios in the US – studios whose development language stems from cinema, not from game play. So to break it down I began to frame writers’ room meetings around four types of audience position – Progressive, Reflective, Parallel & Extraneous…
Read the rest of the post here at Queensland Writers Centre. I’ll be in Brisbane 18-19 July to deliver a workshop and masterclass program entitled, ‘The Adaptive Writer: Storyworld Design and Writing Across Platforms’.