Projects / Interactive Story
Interactive Story (narrative game)
Tim Jia, Yuchen Zhao(50%)
1. Create a story that can interact with readers
2. Story will develop based on readers' choice
3. Multiple endings
While designing the story of She is Gone, we first analyzed the nature of our story and identified what does this story entail in terms of player agency, and then we made three design decisions based our findings.
We want to tell a break-up story, so it will be an emotional and empathetic experience, which naturally distinguishes our agency design from those for playful or exploratory games. The agency in our design should direct the player to explore internally to trigger emotions rather than explore externally to trigger new wonder or adventure.
Additionally, in a break-up experience, one always has many choices, because break-up is emotional, and anything being said and done, its timing, and its order can affect emotions and thus affect the result of a break-up. At the same time, given the amount of choices one has, one cannot predict the result of any choice, because a break-up always involves two persons, and one cannot control the other. This tension between the richness in the number of available choices and the unpredictability of the result of any choice creates a dilemma – player can have many choices but just don’t know what to do with them.
The third nature of a break-up experience is that not everyone has the same goal. For some players the primary goal may be to get back the broken-up partner, for others the goal may be to get over with the pain, and there may be a third group who doesn’t have a clear goal but alternates between the two. This nature once again places our design in a different boat from many other games, which Emily Short studies and discusses, and features the assumption that players know exactly what their goals are and measure their choices against their goals.
Given the three conditions above, we made the following three design decisions. First, the available choices in our story are not framed as the pursuit toward a goal, but as a reaction to the emotional experience. They should ask the question, what would you do in this situation, rather than what is the best path forward. The former invites empathetic thinking and emotional investment, which is our desired player experience in the first condition, while the latter invites strategic thinking, which violates our third condition.
Second, when a player makes a choice, such choice should make the future experience slightly different, even though it may not change the storyline. This idea coincides with Fendt et al, in which feedback to non-branching choices provides an illusion of agency. Although our story is not goal-oriented, players do have their hope when making a choice. They want to see that their choices make a difference, even though our second condition dictates the result of a choice is by nature unpredictable. An example of this design decision in our story is when the player choses to write a journal, this journal will be read by the girl and it slightly alters the atmosphere in the finale scene, although this choice has very little effect on the ending.
Third, different player choices will lead to different endings, but the difference between the endings is only rhetorical but not substantial. This decision is a materialization of the second condition and also aims to convey the overarching theme of the story – the only thing one can control is oneself. Sometimes we simply have to accept the loss in our lives and move on, one way or another.
[software + hardware]:
Twine, HTML, CSS
1. Read the story and choose what you want