Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Interactive Stories for the Masses

In this article, game writer Sande Chen delves into the history of interactive movies and how kids today might benefit from interactive stories.

In the 1990's, DVDs and laserdiscs made full motion video (FMV) interactive movies possible, but they never really caught on as mainstream entertainment.  In Tender Loving Care and other titles, a character would stop and ask the audience a question, which would help determine the course of the story.  Such scripts were much longer than regular scripts and no doubt, most of the footage was never seen.  Flash forward to today.  NetFlix has just announced interactive adventures for kids.  Based on existing animated kid shows, the new episodes will allow kids to dictate the direction of the story, like a Choose Your Own Adventure book.  As seen in the video, the protagonist directly addresses the audience and asks for input.


Mobile titles like Choices and visual novels also champion choice in stories but usually without FMV or even 3D.  There are interactive Twine stories that are more text-driven.  I think these interactive adventures will more closely resemble the short interactive films from eko or YouTube interactive stories made possible through creative use of the annotation function and video linking.  They are not necessarily games, though some people would call interactive movies games.  I know when I plotted out my YouTube interactive, "The Wish," I simply thought of the video sections as narrative fragments.  There were choices, but it wasn't a game. 

For instance, the first video in "The Wish" was an introduction whereby the protagonist met a genie and was urged to make a wish.  This led to many possibilities.  However, whatever wish was chosen would backfire spectacularly so that all of these videos always included a choice for a do-over.  This would lead to a third video, which would lead to the list of possibilities again.  Obviously, there could be a great deal of looping until the viewer chose to stop asking for wishes.  In that case, the viewer would get the outro video to end the story.

I don't think of these new interactive adventures as games, and they don't have to be games.  I'm interested in seeing how kids take to it and I applaud NetFlix for starting this venture.  I think since these interactive episodes are shorter and using licensed properties, they probably have a better chance than the interactive movies of yore.

Sande Chen is a writer and game designer whose work has spanned 10 years in the industry. Her credits include 1999 IGF winner Terminus, 2007 PC RPG of the Year The Witcher, and Wizard 101. She is one of the founding members of the IGDA Game Design SIG.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Upcoming Workshop: Game Writing Porfolio Workout

In addition to the Game Devs of Color Expo panel on diverse character design and representation in games on June 24, I have some upcoming workshops through PlayCrafting NYC, which are held at Microsoft NY in Times Square.

To learn more about me, you can read an interview I recently did with SciFiPulse: "Sande Chen discusses her career, teaching, and video game design."




The popular Game Writing Portfolio Workout, which had been on hold during the longer 4-week Game Writing Primer course, returns on Monday, June 26.  If you want to see what the life of a free-lance game writer is like, come to this workshop for a deep dive into typical game writing tasks. You'll be writing continually, so be sure to bring a laptop or notepad.

Here's what a former student has said about Game Writing Portfolio Workout:
"This is so far one of the best Playcrafting workshops. The teacher was funny, incredibly knowledgeable and shared the best insider secrets!"
As always, Playcrafting NYC, which offers classes and events related to game development, offers Early Bird tickets, but if they sell out (and they have in the past), you'll have to pay full price. 

Come and write!
Game Writing Portfolio Workout
Date:  Monday, June 26, 2017
Time: 6:30-8:30 PM

Each session is different and dynamic.  Existing story ideas are welcome, but not necessary, because writing prompts during class are intended to generate leads. 

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Upcoming Panel at Game Devs of Color Expo

Game Devs of Color Expo

I'm pleased to announce that I will be moderating a panel about diverse character design and representation in games at the 2017 Game Devs of Color Expo on Saturday, June 24, 2017, which will be held at New York City's historic Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.  Panelists are graduate student Amaryah Shaye Armstrong, Tanya DePass of I Need Diverse Games, writer Yussef Cole, and game designer Dina Abou Karam.  In addition, there will be panels on music, sound, and choreography in game design, polishing and launching your game, and surviving the game industry.

Tickets are still available, including a low-cost student option!

Come see games from around the world at the arcade and listen to microtalks about breaking-in, crowdfunding, indie games, and VR game development.

I last talked about this topic at the Different Games Conference in 2015 and I am eager to explore more of these diversity issues on this upcoming panel.

The details!

Game Devs of Color Expo
Saturday, June 24, 2017, 2:55 PM 
Diverse Character Design and Representation in Games 

Five games industry professionals will further the case for diversity in character design during this panel. Topics to be discussed will include the portrayal of dark skin in games, representation of Arabs in video games, queer people of color in games, whitewashing, and cultural appropriation.