Design Strategies for Interactive Digital Narratives: TVX 2016 Workshop

Games & Narrative member Hartmut Koenitz will hold a workshop on IDN design at TVX2016.

Register for the full-day workshop at idn-design-tvx2016 at gamesandnarrative dot net


Creating interactive digital narrative (IDN) experiences means to overcome a tradition dominated by conventions for non-interactive, static and pre-fixed narrative. Instead of “interactivizing” legacy structures, a more productive avenue is in the focus on specific design strategies for IDN. These approaches do afford a change in the resulting manifestations – both form and context –, but also include a perspective on the changed role of the author. The full-day workshop will start with the introduction of several specific design principles and lead to a working prototype based on a provided skeleton narrative.

Full Announcement

Interactive digital narrative (IDN) poses a challenge for scholars and creative professionals alike. During the Narratology vs. Ludology debate in the early 2000s, game scholars not only rejected narratology as a framework to understand interactive works but also declared narrative as fundamentally incompatible with interactivity [8]. While Juul modified his extreme position shortly after, he and several other “ludologists” [1,2,7,9] continued to describe the relationship as problematic. Indeed, even proponents of IDN like Janet Murray [16,17] and Chris Crawford [5] view this new form of narrative expression as a challenge to potential creators. Murray understands digital media as unknown territory, as a medium that is being invented and necessities novel design approaches. She champions an iterative progression towards the future in that the most successful design strategies will shape the new medium and turn into conventions, similar to how early experiments in film have shaped that medium’s conventions. Crawford, on the other hand, describes interactive narrative as a challenge that eclipses game design in complexity and expressive potential. He sees the necessity for a breakthrough work, an artistic milestone that clearly communicates the expressive potential, a Citizen Kane of IDN, and favors an Apollo space program-like effort by a an elite group.

In addition to these more generalized approaches, artists like Toni Dove and Emily Short, but also scholars/practitioners like Marc Cavazza [4], Michael Mateas [14], Nick Montfort [15], Michael Young and Mark Riedl [23], Celia Pearce [18], Nicolas Szilas [21] and many others have worked on the creation and understanding of IDN works. At the same time, IDN has been identified as a specific opportunity for online video and iTV [22].

Authorship and Narrative Design

The foci of research so far has been either on more generalized models or on concrete artifacts. From the perspective of prospective authors neither meet their needs for concrete and easily applicable design guidelines, as the former are too abstract while the latter are too specific. Work on the issue of “third-party” authorship beyond the scholar/practitioner is still in an early phase [11,20] and much more research is necessary. A promising avenue in this regard is the ‘design as research’ approach developed in HCI [3,6,19]

Workshop Plan

In this workshop, the participants are introduced to design approaches observed and refined in several years of teaching interactive narrative [10,13]. Specifically, the attendees will become familiar with the following preliminary design heuristics and apply them in practice:

·       Cyberbardic principle

·       Initial interest principle

·       Continued motivation principle

·       Opportunity magnitude principle


On this basis, groups of attendees will develop an interactive narrative. To jumpstart this aspect, a skeleton narrative will be provided. Finally, the workshop will discuss the results and implications for future research and the participants’ own practice.



1.        Espen J Aarseth. 1997. Cybertext. JHU Press.

2.        Espen J Aarseth. 2012. A Narrative Theory of Games. 1–5.

3.        Philip Agre. 1997. Computation and Human Experience. Cambridge University Press.

4.        Marc Cavazza, Jean-Luc Lugrin, David Pizzi, and Fred Charles. 2007. Madame bovary on the holodeck: immersive interactive storytelling. ACM, New York, New York, USA.

5.        Chris Crawford. 2012. Chris Crawford on Interactive Storytelling. New Riders.

6.        A Dunne and F Raby. 2001. Design noir: The secret life of electronic objects.

7.        M Eskelinen. 2001. The gaming situation. Game Studies 1, 1.

8.        Jesper Juul. 1999. A clash between game and narrative. Danish literature.

9.        Jesper Juul. 2001. Games telling stories. Game Studies 1, 1.

10.      Hartmut Koenitz and Kun-Ju Chen. 2012. Genres, Structures and Strategies in Interactive Digital Narratives – Analyzing a Body of Works Created in ASAPS. In Interactive Storytelling: 5th International Conference, ICIDS 2012, San Sebastián, Spain, November 12-15, 2012. Proceedings, David Oyarzun, Federico Peinado, R Michael Young, Ane Elizalde and Gonzalo Méndez (eds.). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, 84–95.

11.      Hartmut Koenitz and Sandy Louchart. 2015. Practicalities and Ideologies, (Re)-Considering the Interactive Digital Narrative Authoring Paradigm. In Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on the Foundations of Digital Games, Boyang Li and Mark Nelson (eds.).

12.      Hartmut Koenitz. 2015. Towards a Specific Theory of Interactive Digital Narrative. In Interactive Digital Narrative, Hartmut Koenitz, Gabriele Ferri, Mads Haahr, Digdem Sezen and Tonguc Ibrahim Sezen (eds.). Routledge, New York, 91–105.

13.      Hartmut Koenitz. 2015. Design Approaches for Interactive Digital Narrative. In Interactive Storytelling. Springer International Publishing, Cham, 50–57.

14.      M Mateas and A Stern. 2005. Procedural Authorship: a Case-Study of the Interactive Drama Façade.

15.      Nick Montfort. 2005. Twisty Little Passages. MIT Press.

16.      Janet H Murray. 2012. Transcending Transmedia: Emerging Story Telling Structures for the Emerging Convergence Platforms. ACM, 1–6.

17.      Janet Murray. 1998. Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. The MIT Press, Cambridge.

18.      Celia Pearce, Tom Boellstorff, and Bonnie A Nardi. 2011. Communities of Play. MIT Press.

19.      Phoebe Sengers, Kirsten Boehner, Shay David, and Joseph Kaye. 2005. Reflective Design. ACM, 49–58.

20.      Ulrike Spierling and Nicolas Szilas. 2009. Authoring Issues beyond Tools. In Interactive Storytelling: Second Joint International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling, ICIDS 2009, Guimarães, Portugal, December 9-11, 2009, Proceedings, Ido Iurgel, Nelson Zagalo and Paolo Petta (eds.). Springer Berlin Heidelberg, Berlin, Heidelberg, 50–61.

21.      Nicolas Szilas. 2010. Requirements for Computational Models of Interactive Narrative. 1–7.

22.      Marian F Ursu, Maureen Thomas, Ian Kegel, et al. 2008. Interactive TV Narratives: Opportunities, Progress, and Challenges. ACM Trans. Multimedia Comput. Commun. Appl. 4, 4: 25:1–25:39.

23.      R Michael Young and Mark Riedl. 2003. Towards an architecture for intelligent control of narrative in interactive virtual worlds. ACM, New York, New York, USA.

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

Call for Participation: ICIDS 2012 Workshop

Where’s the story? Forms of Interactive Narrative in Current Digital Games and other Digital Forms

A Full-Day Workshop at ICIDS 2012

Register for the Workshop

Send email to hkoenitz at uga dot edu or hartmut @

Call for Participation

Interactive Digital Narrative (IDN) is a constantly evolving form of human expression. As a continuation of our workshop series on theoretical and practical aspects of IDN, this year’s workshop will analyze and discuss current trends and evolutions in research, games/entertainment and art in order to help construct a map of this exciting field. We will be bringing together current examples of IDN with cutting-edge theoretical perspectives and analytical understanding.

To harness the collective brainpower of the workshop participants, we invite participants to identify one work from within the last two years, which they consider of interest to IDN, and offer a brief presentation on it. This presentation is not mandatory, but highly encouraged, as we feel it would greatly enhance the workshop experience for all. It is not required to offer a full theoretical analysis of the work, but the presentation should relate it to IDN at least in general terms. We are especially interested in contributions from authors of such works. There are no other restrictions, and we welcome presentation of works-in-progress.

The overall objectives are to identify the narrative components in a broad area of contemporary works, to experiment with different descriptive methodologies and to brainstorm on how they can be improved. We want to provide a productive and friendly setting to discuss new ideas on IDN theory and practice and to promote a growing social network of researchers in this field. At the end of the day, a panel of experts will provide additional reflections on the discussions and help to locate the workshop results within the field of Interactive Digital Narrative. Experts at past workshops have included Janet Murray, Martin Rieser and Michael Nitsche.

Online Participation

Can’t make it to ICIDS this year? It is possible to take part in the workshop online, using the Google Hangout platform: participants who would like to join us online should contact the organizers to make arrangements.

Participant’s presentations

For those giving a presentation, short abstracts of the presentations are due before the event and will be made available to participants. PDFs of the full version of the presentations (PDF of your powerpoint) will be made available online after the workshop.
The short abstracts are due before the workshop on November 11, 2012 via email to hkoenitz at
To help with preparing the short presentations we have created the following guidelines;  participants can also choose to use their own format.

Guidelines for ICIDS Workshop presentation

When creating your presentation for the workshop, please use the following questions as guidelines:

  • Start with a short overview. Also mention availability. How could others experience the example?
  • What is the narrative/story in the example?
  • Can you describe some of the narrative strategies in this artifact? What draws you into the narrative? What means are used to propel the narrative forward? What is the perspective of the interactor?
  • What is the emotional impact/how are emotions used in the example? How does it try to create these emotions in players design-wise?
  • If you understand the narrative as a sign system, what are the major signs? Are there any signs “unique” to digital media/design in the example?
  • If this is a narrative the extends beyond digital media, what part is in digital media? How would you compare/relate it to other examples? Are there similar narratives in digital or other media? Where is the overlap and what are the differences?
  • Try to describe the narrative without comparison to legacy (older media) forms of narrative? Is this possible? What do you get if you don’t see this as through the lens of terms like “hero story”, or “thriller”?
  • Are there aspects of existing narrative theory (or other theories like cybernetics, system theory) you feel is appropriate to describe your example?
  • Would it be possible to identify a new genre specific to interactive digital narrative based on your example? How would you call it? Don’t hesitate to make up a new term if you feel it’s appropriate.

Please keep the presentation short and to the point and be prepared to answer questions.

Organizers/program committee members:

Hartmut Koenitz, University of Georgia, USA, hkoenitz at [Main Contact]
Mads Haahr, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, Mads.Haahr at
Gabriele Ferri, University of Bologna, Italy, gabriele.ferr at
Tonguc Ibrahim Sezen, Istanbul University, Turkey, tongucs at
Digdem Sezen, Istanbul University, Turkey, digdemsezen at


Welcome to the Games & Narrative blog

We are an international research group on interactive and game narrative.

We describe and analyze new narrative forms in interactive digital media reaching from
videogames to experimental art projects. Our goal is a better understanding of these

Since 2009, through workshops and publications, we have been developing a descriptive
methodology and a taxonomy of examples with the goal of a unified theory of interactive digital narrative.

On this blog, we will share our activities. Feedback is very welcome, as well as examples of innovative digital narratives.

Hartmut, Mads, Gabriele, Tonguc, and Digdem