Interactive narrative

“Interactive narrative is the most ambitious art form existing today because it combines traditional narrative with visual art, and interactivity. Strangely enough, these three art forms share an important feature: They each allow information
to be telescoped or compressed. Traditional narrative has tools such
as foreshadowing and epiphany; Visual arts rely on point-perspective and foreshortening; Digital Interactivity uses iconography and expanding menus. These are all tools that do the same thing: convey perspective.” Meadows – Pause-effect article

And narrative is exactly that; the attempt of an author to convey a unique perspective.

After attending the narrative lecture and reading the “Pause – Effect” article by Mark S Meadows I set out to experience the “HOTEL – an interactive story” by H.Hoogerbrugge and produce by Submarine Channel.

It’s a wicked story with dark and odd characters created in flash. The story is about a mad scientist and his tests. The user can choose between chapters, episodes and parts to navigate through the plot. In each pat the user is given the opportunity to interact with different elements, not only to collect information, further comprehend and appreciate the creepy enigmatic story. Although the user can follow a non-linear gameplay, there is a start, a certain event hierarchy and an end to each of the story’s parts. There are also subtle hints and indications for certain characters and events that the user should not miss in order to fully comprehend the plot.

Every single part of the story follows the “Freytags Pyramid”:
a.exposition, where the new character-volunteer is introduced,
b.climax where the dramatic act of the doctor’s tests on the volunteers is taking place
c.the denouncement where the results of the tests are shown.
The narrative follows an open plot structure as the user is capable of navigating from one part to the other on a whim. Yeah, there is a suggested path to follow as all the chapters, episodes and parts are numbered, but the user can anytime to stop exploring the part he is in, and explore something else.

One interesting asset of this interactive narration is the use of time. There is a time limit on exploration in each part. The user though has the chance to freeze time if more time is needed in order to interact with the characters or jump to other parts before time runs out. If the user does not choose to stop or jump through parts, the story continues, following the preset times.

The role of imagery is very important and complementary to the plot. The look and feel of the design adds to the atmosphere and sets the tone for the user’s mood. The feed back is quick and accurate which is very important for successful interactivity.

According to Meadows, interactivity follows these steps:
1. Observation.
2. Exploration.
3. Modification.
4. Reciprocal Change.
In this interactive narration the user utilizes the navigation system by using the logic of books and screen series with parts episodes and chapters. First-level options include “enter the hotel” to start the narration by choosing a chapter. The user then explores actions and navigation. A small prologue and description of the character further illuminate what the next step is and how to react. To add to the exploration there is also a helpful manual for additional information on these topics, should the user need it. The modification part of the story’s interactivity includes tthe user’s “entry” in the hotel and all the character interaction options, time-freeze or jumps from room to room in order to follow the plot. The reciprocal change part contains the change of the dialogs, rooms or actions of the user in order to continue according to the part’s plot.
To sum up: “HOTEL – an interactive tale” is a great example of an interactive narration brilliantly crafted from the user’s perspective. Easy to follow and simple to understand, the user ultimately comprehends the story and appreciates the game no matter his-or hers- chosen path.

Post’s featured image by jesi-ca. Edited by dRuantia design.