In the mid-nineties I became fascinated by the storytelling potential of interactive entertainment. My interest peaked in the early aughts, during what I now think of as the second great wave of interactive storytelling mania. While the potential of interactive storytelling seems obvious to everyone, the mechanisms — the actual techniques — by which interactive stories might be told are complex and at times counterintuitive.
After finding my way into the interactive industry and meeting with some professional success, I was asked in 2000 to write an article for SIGGRAPH’s Computer Graphics magazine about the future of interactive storytelling. While great effort was being put into replicating techniques from passive mediums, including, particularly, film, it seemed to me that such an imitative approach had everything exactly backwards.
Recently, while conducting periodic maintenance on my computer and sprucing up Ditchwalk, I ran across that article, which for some reason I had never gotten around to adding to the Docs page on this site. That omission now stands corrected.
The title of the article is Graphics — the Language of Interactive Storytelling. Coming from someone who primarily made a living with words that may seem odd, but it and the accompanying text goes to the heart of the interactive storytelling problem, and why so little progress has been made. In fact, the only thing that’s changed is that we no longer worry about having enough processing power to do what we want — yet today’s enviably high hardware ceiling is still rarely used to facilitate aspects of interaction that might truly drive emotional involvement.
Fifteen years on, during the fourth great wave of interactive storytelling mania now taking place in the industry, little has changed. Another generation of eager developers is grappling with the same questions, reaching the same inherently limiting conclusions, attempting to once again adapt non-interactive techniques from passive mediums, and confusing the revelation of pre-designed outcomes with choices that determine outcomes.
— Mark Barrett