Interactive narrative, or interactive storytelling, is defined as the art of telling stories enhanced with technological, social or collaborative interactive features to offer content adapted to new behaviours in a rapidly changing cultural ecosystem.
Simply put, it is made believed to the audience that in the virtual world, the audiences’ click, touch or scroll can significantly alter the storyline of the project. It feeds into the needs of human nature to be in control of what they are exploring in front of them and the act of self expression.
The most common example of projects containing database and interactive narrative are games. I myself have been engaging in this mobile application developed by Will Wright called “SimCity” for almost 2 years. It is designed to lead the users and to educate them on the underlying model of the game. This means that users will make their own decisions at the start, but if they do not align with the model of the game, the game will prompt problems to “force” users to change their choices. For example, user can build lots of buildings but little roads, the game will have the game will suggest traffic congestions and angry citizens that are not willing to pay tax money. Users are then guided to upgrade more roads and build leisure parks to enhance the welfare of the citizens. This game is a good example of using database and interactive narrative to support long-term player engagement as it contains a complex but ultimately transparent model of how the city works.
Another game example is Choices by Nexon and Episode by PocketGem. These applications have a range of interactive games within them. Some are collaborations made with singers like Demi Lovato, allowing fans to form friendships with Ms Lovato or possible relationships. The audience can spin the storyline however they like with no real life consequence and immerse themselves in an experience they could probably never have in the real world.
A newer example of projects integrating interactive narrative are films. As time goes by, the media outlets have caught onto the consumer’s need of control. The most exciting development from the mass media is Netflix’s interactive drama/ thriller series special called Bandersnatch from Black Mirror. It allows watchers to make decisions for the protagonist through his journey of app development and along the way, tempts viewers with bad but influential friends, drugs and many taboo factors. To keep it interesting, Netflix introduces a large range of endings and you are allowed to watch the series over and over again at Netflix’s recommended checkpoints in the show so that there is no need to restart again. Bandersnatch is a really huge step for the media industry as traditional films always has a decided endings, and the show also managed to reach an even larger audience which includes those who do not consider themselves gamers. The series was so successful that Netflix will be introducing more interactive shows in the future. Here is a breakdown of how Bandersnatch’s endings (spoilers):
In conclusion, numerous projects are exploring the different forms of interactive storytelling and the possible experiences it can provide. Now that technologies enables instead of retains, we have entered an exciting era and shall not waste this chance to further develop the emerging field of interactive narrative.