What Are the Characteristics of Interactive Storytelling?

Interactive storytelling revolves around giving the participant control over the course of events. There are five key issues which must always be present to make this work in game design.[1] This is good to bear in mind regarding cultural heritage gamification, whether we are creating a game or a different kind of experience. 

  1. The main issue is always the story. There is no point in creating various problems to solve if they don’t lead to some progress and are not a part of any narrative. This renders the experience insignificant. The story must be the centre of attention from the start and a part of the design process. The goal is to entice someone to play the game, pull them into the story and the narrative – into the magic circle. 
  2. Constant progression is also important. No one likes a computer game where the majority of the time is spent reading text or watching videos. Once you decide to join the game, you want to be kept busy. You have entered the magic circle, into gaming mode. If nothing happens, you lose concentration and the experience suffers. 
  3. Actions and activity must be a part of the narrative. You must be able to influence the parts which are important for the progression of the game and the story. If you don’t feel the problems you solve have any impact on the story, you have become a viewer, not a participant. 
  4. Repetition is a part of many games. The same problem appears again and again and the solution is always the same. This leaves little to the imagination, which is very important to stimulate in all storytelling. A good story makes you think and activates your imagination. A good game is supposed to do the same – constantly surprise you but not repeat itself. 
  5. There must be no obstacles in your way which make you forget the narrative, forget where you are heading. If something kills the progression of the story or the game, you lose interest or use all your concentration to overcome this obstacle. 

Most of the above issues are centred on ensuring a certain flow in the progression, be it in a game or a story. This leads us to the flow theory. 

[1] Grip, Thomas. 2013, August. “5 Core elements of interactive storytelling”. https://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/ThomasGrip/20130819/198596/5_Core_Elements_Of_Interactive_Storytelling.php

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