This is the introduction to an article I wrote in 2000 for SIGGRAPH’s Computer Graphics magazine, after being asked to weigh in on the future of interactive storytelling. For the full document, please open or download the PDF.
The Death of a Dream
The idea is appealing. Create a computer program that not only tells a story, but that allows the user to determine the events and the outcome of the experience.
The reality is depressing. Despite myriad attempts, ever-burgeoning computational power, and the best minds in the business, we’re nowhere near being able to program a storytelling machine. In fact, we may never be able to.
Why? Well, it turns out that interactivity1 and authorially-controlled narratives are mutually exclusive, diluting each the other in equal measure2. Worse, the very medium of expression which we use to relate and document narratives in all passive forms – language itself – cannot be reduced to a set of rules which can be computed by machines. All of which means the dream of creating interactive stories by wedding interactivity to narratives is dead.
Today we mark the burial.