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.



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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.

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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.