Interactive Storytelling

There’s a really interesting discussion on interactive storytelling going on at Grand Text Auto, triggered by Robin‘s reports on the Game Tech Summit.

I’ve been interested in interactive storytelling since, well, 1989 –
before I had even entered the games industry. In the last year (except
when I was too busy being a producer) I’ve been thinking a lot about
how we can get closer to this, in the broader context of innovation in interactive entertainment. Not so much what to do (not that that’s an easy question), but how to create the opportunity.

Trying to break new ground while developing a commercial project
just isn’t going to cut it, even if you set your goals lower than
Andrew’s. And to the best of my knowledge, there still isn’t enough
serious R&D going on in the industry, and academia is still too far
removed from the reality of making better interactive entertainment.

I cannot help thinking of Chris Crawford, who has been here and thought about this so many years ago already.

I wish I hadn’t discovered this post mere minutes before I have to
get ready for work. Once more I have to post and run, and push this
onto my stack of subjects to think Deep Thoughts on, thoughts that will
be Well Expressed and published Sometime In The Future… meanwhile,
enjoy reading the discussion over at GTxA.

Comments 9

  1. BuG wrote:

    It’s good to see industry people take a public interest in what the academia folk keep rabbiting on about, even if it’s only done so in their personal blog. You say you’ve been interested in it since the stone ages ;) but until people start talking about it in a public forum no-one seems to care. At least that’s how it looks from the viewpoint of a simple consumer, like myself.

    Completely unrelated, I only just noticed a bunch of links on your sidebar which I hadn’t seen before. I guess I have some new reading material for the evening.

    Posted 07 Dec 2004 at 10:34
  2. Jurie Horneman wrote:

    There is more interaction between industry and academia than one can see on the internet, but not as much as might be necessary.

    However, when I say I’ve been interested in interactive storytelling for a long time, I wasn’t thinking of something academic. People “in the industry” have been talking and thinking about how to make better games for ages, well before universities were able to get funding for doing so for a living.

    Posted 07 Dec 2004 at 11:15
  3. tobe wrote:

    There are even rumors about academics _inside_ the industry ;)

    (No, I’m not)

    Posted 07 Dec 2004 at 21:16
  4. Markus Friedl wrote:


    Posted 08 Dec 2004 at 15:18
  5. Jurie Horneman wrote:

    Academics are pretty much per definition not in the industry. Admittedly, there are some exceptions: academics setting up companies on the side, industry people teaching. But to my knowledge this is pretty rare. I’m not talking about people who went to university working for game companies: I’m talking about people being paid to think about games at universities.

    Posted 08 Dec 2004 at 19:57
  6. Noah Falstein wrote:

    I’m convinced the really interesting innovations in interactive storytelling/synthespians will continue to come from the industry side for a while. The fact is that the real breakthrough work takes a lot of money and that is rarely available to academics – it’s rarely available to people in the industry too, but at least if you have talent it is possible. I expect that Robin herself will do some fascinating stuff but as an employee of some lucky company. I could back this supposition up with a reasoned, logical proof, but then I’d be an academic – instead I’m going with a gut feeling based on experience, ’cause I’m a hardcore pro…

    Posted 10 Dec 2004 at 3:07
  7. Jurie Horneman wrote:

    That’s right! We need no steenking arguments! We need to get this baby out the door by Christmas!!

    Posted 10 Dec 2004 at 10:25
  8. JP wrote:

    “The fact is that the real breakthrough work takes a lot of money”

    I don’t buy this. EA has all the money in the world and they cover about a millimeter of creative ground every 5 years.

    What you really need to do good research is a lack of financial pressure. You need to be allowed to fail, because truly new ideas are only realistically going to happen with a lot of iterative experimentation, failure and refinement. And you need good people who will know which ideas are worth pursuing in the first place – and they are hard to find because the mainstream industry is a giant black hole from which nothing imaginative can escape.

    Financial pressure to succeed DEFINES the game industry circa 2004. The big new disruptive technologies are only going to come from small developers (Valve), the few (one or two!) big companies who are forward thinking enough to establish an R&D corpus (Nintendo), and out of nowhere (independents, academics).

    Posted 10 Dec 2004 at 17:45
  9. Jurie Horneman wrote:

    Hm. Good point. There is a subtle difference between lots of money and lack of financial pressure. Unfortunately, the lack of financial pressure can also cause a lack of functional products, ie whole, coherent works of art that integrate a new gameplay or technology.

    I think EA does think about where they want to go in the medium and long term and spend money and effort to get there. However, their direction doesn’t seem to include anything close to innovative interactivity.

    Posted 11 Dec 2004 at 11:54