April 4 : Story & Games

To Do This Week

Blog Prompt: Consider any of your favorite video games that involve storytelling. How do the game goals and puzzles/challenges involve the  player or “interactor” in uncovering or finding meaning in the narratives?  Are the narratives just an excuse for strategic gameplay or is the immersion in a story world, with characters and conflict essential for the game? How do the works engage your imagination and/or emotions?  Describe the world-building in the game.


Video Essays?

Discuss favorite narrative games…

Hypermedia Narrative:  10%
Due April 11th

  • address story plot – is there a clear goal or purpose? is the plot complex? does it reveal a character’s internal and external change? (system operations) 
  • address interaction – are there patterns in user interaction (unit operations)? do these interactions reveal theme or meaning in character’s changes? 

What is the relationship between the world simulation, interaction and story plot? What is the world?  What is your role in the world? What patterns determine your role in the world?

System and Unit Operations

Ian Bogost :

  • system operations (big goals, narrative arcs) 
  • unit operations (small actions, steps in a process.)

System operations are like the familiar narrative shell of game play: Kill aliens, find gold, capture treasure, etc. Movie plots – romance, adventure, thriller – all have system operations.
“protracted, dependent, sequential, and static” – universalising structures. Grand themes.

Unit operations are the small repetitive actions – steps in a process – that carry on the game play towards the larger plots.
“succinct, discrete, referential, and dynamic”


Four strategic forms of interactivity:

external exploratory: network of lexia, scrambled story, jig-saw. twine 3rd person

internal exploratory: virtual body, exploring world, detective-like, twine 2nd person

external ontological: god-like objectivity, sims, choose your own adventure 

internal ontological:  total immersion, agency, Holodeck


Virtual Spaces
Simulating Space through Navigation.
internal exploratory

Interactive Fiction (text-based games):
Simulating Virtual Space through Navigation.

Before video games and visual simulations: Interactive Fiction or IF.
“software in which players use text commands to control characters and influence the environment.” 

IF dream: Story Simulation games as literature and experience, where you play a role in the story and can change the story.
(Hamlet on the Holodeck, by Janet Murray)

Colossal Cave Adventure
1975 Will Crowther,
detailed simulation of part of cave system
accepted commands
“player explores a mysterious cave that is rumored to be filled with treasure and gold. The player must explore the cave system and solve puzzles by using items that they find to obtain the treasures and leave the cave.”


Simulating Worlds (character, plot, interaction) 
Façade (2006) – simulated interaction with characters, drama using “natural language processing.”
internal ontological

puts the player in the role of a close friend of Trip and Grace, a couple who recently invited the player to their New York City apartment for cocktails. This pleasant gathering, however, is somewhat damaged by the clear domestic confrontation between Grace and Trip upon the player’s entry. Making full use of the incorporated language processing software, Façade allows the player to type sentences to “speak” with the couple, either supporting them through their troubles, driving them farther apart, or being thrown out of the apartment.”

The Sims: “a series of life simulation video games…are largely sandbox games, in that they lack any defined goals.” 


Simulations in Reality
Augmented Reality, Mobile and Location-based Games
external ontological


VR Games
full immersion in storyworld

internal exploratory

Grounded: The Making of the Last of Us 

Hypermedia (Puzzle) Movies:

  • Bandersnatch (Netflix)
  • Run Lola Run
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  • Memento
  • Tenet

Final Project:  30%

The final project is to be a digital story that incorporates at least two of the modules covered in this class: diagrammatic, visual, cinematic, hyperlinked/interactive, game-like storytelling. The work may be a significant reworking of a previous project or a new idea and direction.

The final project will have required stages and deadlines and each of these will be graded separately for a certain percentage of the final grade. It is important that you do not leave everything to the last minute. There should be progress each week until it is due. Our class time will be focused on building these stories so that you can help from me and your classmates. You are not to use this time for other class projects.

Project Description 2% -DUE April 11:  After our in-class brainstorming sessions and a required Zoom meeting with me to work out your story idea and approach, you are to write a summary in a blog post. What is the story in 3-5 sentences? What form will it take – Twine, HTML, video, comic slides? What are your inspirations – what are the works in this class or elsewhere that are models for what you want to do? 

Project Critique 8% – Tuesday DUE April 25: On Tuesday we will have an in-class critique of your digital stories. The grading will be based on how much of the work you have completed. I will also be giving you my feedback.

Final Project 90% – Thursday DUE May 2: Based on the critiques, you are to address the issues raised and complete the final version of your work for grading. Make a post with a link to the work and give a brief summary or artist statement about what you set out to do and describe the process of how you made it.

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