The Ontology Project for Interactive Digital Narrative

We invite participants to the Games & Narrative workshop at ICIDS 2015 that serves as the start for the Ontology Project for Interactive Digital Narrative.

The half-day workshop is open to scholars, practitioners, students, artists and all the attendees of the ICIDS Conference on December 1, 2015.

Current research in Interactive Digital Narrative lacks methodologies enabling precise comparisons and categorizations across broad sets of artifacts. Analytical terminologies rooted in unilinear, non-interactive narrative criticism does not help, as evidenced by Aarseth’s (1997) contention that yet another re-interpretation of a term like “text” is inconsequential and Nitsche (2008) calls the current state of affairs in narratology “potentially confusing.” Consequently, as researchers in IDN routinely face the need to redefine the vocabulary they adopt, we observe the use of terms that are in part borrowed from game journalism, in part reinterpreting legacy concepts, and in part invented anew.

With this workshop we aim at discussing how constitutive elements of IDNs may be conceptualized and operationalized to allow a systematic description of a variety of artifacts according to shared specifications. Following up on a multi-year research initiative that has addressed a common vocabulary, narrative models and categorizations for the analysis and design of IDN artifacts, we believe that the field is now ready for a more stringent and formal approach based on ontologies. We are inspired also by similar efforts in the cognate field of game studies and game design (Zagal, Bruckman, 2008). As ontologies and specifications significantly multiply their usefulness with a broad acceptance in the community of researchers and designers, we aim a bootstrapping a shared process of categorization.

In this workshop, we will conduct practical evaluations of preliminary proposals for IDN ontologies, starting with the SNAPS categorisation ( Each participant is invited to briefly introduce 1-2 Interactive Digital Narrative exemplars, of which we will collectively outline an ontology-based description. Moreover, the workshop will progressively generate new categories and specifications to accommodate further exemplars, thus kickstarting the creation of a “living document” with best practices and proposed ontologies. We will finally discuss further steps and iterations towards a more comprehensive framework to be circulated in the coming year.

Register by email at

The Games & Narrative Group

Hartmut, Gabriele, Mads, Digdem & Tonguc

The Franz Kafka Videogame is Rightfully Absurd

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The Franz Kafka Videogame is a narrative adventure game based on the novels The Metamorphosis, The Trial, and The Castle. Its launch is scheduled in 2014 for iOS, PC, Mac, Android, and Linux.



Game: NothingElse – A Macabre Tale

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A new Android version of “NothingElse”, a short narrative/horror game by indie developer Ivan Zanotti, is out. From a review: “Your relaxing escapism takes a turn for the terrifyingly surreal when you find yourself pulled into another layer of reality that seems to resemble your own… only more warped and unsettling” (link)

The new version on the Play Store:

The original version for Windows:

Narrative rules? Story logic and the structures of games

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Hans-Joachim Backe

Abstract. Ever since scholars in the humanities have studied computer games, the relationship between play and narrative has been a much contested issue. Much dissent stems from incompatible basic assumptions about play and narrative, which, this article argues, can be reconciled by a formalist approach to games and narrative on a structural level. First, event structures and story structures are shown to be central to various theories of narrative. Correlating these findings with Espen Aarseth’s reflections upon nonlinearity, an understanding of narrative revolving around event logic is developed. Building on the theory of games developed by Roger Caillois, the article then develops a model of games in which three layers of structures are governed by three types of rules. The most abstract of these layers arranges game elements in a meta-structure which is based on both ludic and narrative logic. In a final step, nonlinear game structures are explained within this model and categorized in a typology that orders them by the type of agency players can execute.

Game: “Among The Sleep”, a horror game through the eyes of a 2-years old

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“Among The Sleep” is an upcoming horror game where you play a toddler looking for his mother: it looks like a very interesting twist on the notions of agency, horror, narrative and very unusual avatars.


The official website for this game is

Game: To Build a Better Mousetrap (Molleindustria)

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Molleindustria just published “To Build a Better Mousetrap”, a game premiered last December at FACT gallery in Liverpool along with the article/talk “Videogames and the spirit of capitalism”.
Author Paolo Pedercini writes «I tried to describe To Build a Better Mousetrap as “Richard Scarry meets Karl Marx” or “Information visualization without information” but it’s really a development of the idea of “playable theory”. (…) The result is somewhat cryptic, dry, and against the current trend of narrative indie games, but some players may recognize a cast of classic characters: the Surplus Value, the Reserve army of labor, the Fordist class compromise, the alienation resulting from division of labor, and one of today’s hottest capitalist contradictions: the decline of employment as result of labor saving technologies a.k.a. “the tendency of the rate of profit to fall”».

Play the game at

Game: 1,000 Days of Syria

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1,000 Days of Syria is a video game / newsgame that tells the story of some journalists in the Syrian conflicts. Its author Mitch Swenson describes it as “part electric literature; part newscast; and part choose-your-own-adventure”.
In a recent news article on The Guardian, Simon Parkin wrote about the game: “You follow one of three narratives, that of a foreign photojournalist, a mother of two living in Daraa or a rebel youth living in Aleppo. The story is delivered in disparate chunks and, at the end of each excerpt, you make choices about what to do next: will you attempt to flee the country or stay put? How will you try to pass the time when you’re imprisoned in a dimly lit cell? Each character has three possible endings and, at times, their stories intersect.”

Play the game for free at
Read the article online at

PhD thesis: Real-time hermeneutics. Meaning-making in ludonarrative digital games

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978-951-39-6164-0_vaitos24042015_Page_001Jonne Arjoranta defended his PhD thesis at the University of Jyväskylä (Finland) with Espen Aarseth as opponent/discussant. His work is titled ‘Real-time hermeneutics: meaning-making in ludonarrative digital games’ and is a study of how ludonarrative videogames, videogames that combine game elements with narrative elements, express and convey meaning. The thesis “uses philosophical tools to analyze meaning in games. The philosophical hermeneutics of Hans-Georg Gadamer is used to compare the meaning-making in games to the interpretation of works of art. The theory of the interpretive process is based on the idea of the hermeneutic circle. Wittgenstein’s concept of language-games is used in examining how games should be defined and how their relations to each other should be understood. These philosophical methods are combined with the study of procedurality, narrativity and players”.

Download the thesis at