Plan for Inspiring Students to Pursue Interactive Storytelling

After years of trying to interest the game design community in pursuing interactive storytelling, I realize that I have been chasing the wrong audience. Game designers have already committed themselves to a world view that conflicts so profoundly with the precepts of interactive storytelling that they will never be genuinely receptive to my message. Students, however, have not yet committed themselves to any particular philosophy of design, and are open to new ideas. 

I need to reach this latter group, and the best way to reach them is through colleges and universities. This plan explains how I propose to accomplish that.

The first step in this process will be approaching game design programs at colleges and universities with an offer to deliver as much of my program as the instructor is interested in. My expectation is that instructors will take it one step at a time, proceeding to each step only after establishing the value of the previous step.

YouTube Lecture
The first step will be for the students to view, at their convenience a lecture that I will place on YouTube. The lecture will be based on a lecture I have developed called “Paradigm Shifts in Game Design”. The lecture currently comprises 135 slides and follows this outline:

1. What is a paradigm shift?
2. Why paradigm shifts are difficult
3. The games paradigm
     a. spatial reasoning
     b. violence
     c. juvenile attitude towards sex
     d. comic book style
     e. testosterone, not estrogen
4. Candy, cartoons, and comic books: the “fun” subsets of larger universes
5. The slogan for the paradigm shift: “People, not things!”
6. To do this, we need verbs about interpersonal relationships
7. The five primary challenges of interactive storytelling:
     a. a language of expression for the player
     b. working, usable personality models
     c. faces with strong emotional expressions
     d. a working narrative engine
     e. IDE (integrated development environment)
8. My own efforts in this direction: successes and failures

On the appointed day, I will meet with the students using FaceTime, Skype, or whatever works best for the school. I’ll take questions and encourage free discussion of the concepts in the video.

Second YouTube Lecture
I might be willing to skip this step for an eager audience, but I think it worthwhile to spend a little more time giving the students the background for my thinking. This second lecture would be “Fundamentals of Interactivity”, a lecture I have given many times and which has improved greatly over the years. Again, this would be followed by a discussion meeting. Here is the outline for this lecture:

1. Interactivity is the essence of computing
2. Definition of interactivity: Listen, think, speak loop
3. Weightings of listening, thinking, and speaking
4. Crawford’s First Law of Software Design: “Always ask, What does the user DO?”
5. The verb list is the fundamental architectural element for all software
6. The size of the vocabulary determines the complexity of the software.
7. The role of linguistics and the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis

Workshop on Interactive Storytelling Technology
If the first two steps are considered to be successful, then I will travel to the university and deliver an all-day workshop. I will require the school to pay all my travel costs but I will not request an honorarium. The workshop will be based on the following outline:

1. What do we mean by ‘interactive storytelling’?
2. Interactions with characters requires first, a personality model
    a. Orthogonality
    b. conciseness
    c. dramatic significance
    d. the OCEAN model
    e. the three-factor model: goodness, honesty, power
    f. radial components: affection, trust, -fear
3. Emotional expression through faces
    a. photorealistic and the uncanny valley
    b. cartoon faces are more expressive
4. Language
    a. natural language is impossible
    b. toy languages to fit toy realities
    c. Problem: the language and the reality must be designed as a unit
    d. the Deikto solution: sentence structure
    e. Deikto using icons
    f. Deikto using text
5. Narrative Engine
    a. Narrative as a sequence of causally related events
    b. linear narrative versus branching narrative
    c. My solution: the directed graph
    d. Verbs, roles, and options
    e. the operation of the narrative engine
    f. Demonstration of Siboot
6. Integrated Development Environment
    a. Erasmatron, SWAT
    b. windows, editors, and lizards in SWAT
    c. Scripting language: Sappho
    d. The Dramagine project
7. Mathematics
    a. the importance of mathematics
    b. the number system
    c. Using the Blend operator
8. Encounters and the Encounter Editor
    a. how it works
    b. how to use the Encounter Editor
9. Recruiting call
    a. open source project
    b. Encounter authors
    c. Script writers
    d. programmers for Dramagine