Interactive Storytelling
Five-Day Workshop


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Fundamentals 3e cover

Five days of concentrated work to build the essentials of an interactive story.

Interactive storytelling is one of the most interesting problems of game design. This workshop is longer and more free-form than the others, and the results are usually richer and more complete.

The object of the process is to design the skeleton of a game incorporating a story of some kind. Each team will create a PowerPoint presentation and a 5-10 page game treatment document. At the end of the workshop, the team will give its pitch, trying to "sell" the game to a potential "investor." They're not restricted to a particular genre; the point is simply to design an emotionally compelling experience.

How it works.




Design work in progress...






...and presenting the results afterwards.

Day One:
The first day actually consists of one of the other workshops, Fundamental Principles of Game Design. In many cases the participants have little experience with video games, and this introduces them to the essentials of the subject. It also lets them get to know each other without committing to a permanent team right away.

Day Two: The group divides into teams based on interests and personalities. I give a lecture to introduce them to the essential elements and problems of designing storytelling games, and then let them get on with deciding on a game idea. As with all my workshops, printed worksheets help to guide their thinking, and I spend time with each team, offering advice and suggestions. At the end of the day we get back together to compare notes.

Day Three: At this point the teams are very busy developing their characters, game world, and storyline. They spend about half the day on this. At midday they get a new worksheet which helps them to document the player's interaction with their story. Throughout the process they are encouraged to find graphics on the Internet that will help them to make their pitch.

Day Four: Most of the day is spent fleshing out the details and figuring out how the plot line evolves in response to player actions. At midday I give each team a template to help them start writing the game treatment document.

Day Five: The first half of the day is spent in creating PowerPoint presentations and finishing the treatment. In the second half of the day, each team presents its game as if they were seeking funding. We discuss the games in detail and think about how they have applied the design principles learned to their own particular ideas.

How this workshop differs from the others.

The key differences between this workshop and the others (besides length) are as follows:

  • Each team works out its own game idea. Game concepts are not assigned by me.
  • The teams are not formed at random, but made up of people with similar interests.
  • Team sizes are not strictly defined, although three or four is preferable.
  • Team roles are not strictly defined.
  • Computers are used to create the final presentation and the game's design document. Most participants bring their own laptops; the sponsoring organization provides a printer and other office supplies. An Internet connection is essential.

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