A few weeks ago I attended Chris Crawford’s interactive storytelling gathering in southern Oregon. It was a small group, less than a dozen, but the composition was fairly diverse and included game designers, industry execs, interactive fiction authors, academics, writers and even one venture capitalist.
There’s a lot of debate about what interactive storytelling is and how to solve the “interactive storytelling problem”. I think this is a bit misguided as it tends to treat interactive storytelling as a singular technological hurdle to be overcome (like 3D rendering). But interactive storytelling isn’t a problem or a technology, it’s a category, one that will likely have multiple viable product types that each have their own set of challenges to be solved.
I base this on the simple observation that if you’re going to create a category called “interactive storytelling”, there must also be a category of everything else called “non-interactive storytelling” which includes such wide ranging possibilities as “novels”, “music”, “movies”, “comics”, “poetry” and so forth. While it doesn’t logically follow that interactive storytelling must likewise have more than one form of expression, it does seem more than probable given the diverse range of methods for non-interactive storytelling and the really broad macro level categorization (interactive vs. non-interactive, neither of which is actually descriptive of what someone might experience).
In other words, I think it’s a mistake to think of interactive storytelling as one more means to tell a story the way a novel or movie does. It’s really a massive grouping of expressive forms, some of which may be mirrors from the non-interactive side of the fence (e.g. “interactive novels”) and some of which may be new things entirely.