Publications

An ever growing collection of my publications. Their topics range from Narrative Design to Genre Evolution. Latest is a group paper for ICIDs 2020 that won the Best Paper Award.

Gated Story Structure and Dramatic Agency in Sam Barlow’s Telling Lies – Sam Barlow’s story-based video game Telling Lies (2019), like his previous game, Her Story (2015), is based on an interaction mechanic in which the player searches a fixed archive of videoclips using keywords found in the dialog of the fictional characters. This storytelling strategy can be situated within traditions of epistemic narratives in which the interactor navigates through a set of unchanging narrative segments, motivated by the desire to increase knowledge of the story. Such stories offer the pleasure of revelation, and they hinge on hiding information so that it is later revealed in a way that maximizes the experience of dramatic agency. This paper explores the expressive potential of Barlow’s signature database search mechanic for creating the experience of dramatic agency through managed revelation. By mapping our own experience and examining Barlow’s development documents and code, we describe how the artfully gated search mechanic creates temporal disjunctions that provide glimpses of narrative situations that pique curiosity while suppressing explanatory revelations. Using Telling Lies as an example, we identify some characteristic design challenges and opportunities afforded by the constrained database search approach and point to unexplored design opportunities that could make this strategy the basis of a more widely-practiced genre. (Video Presentation of Paper below).

Design Agency: Dissection the Layers of Tabletop Roleplaying Game Campaign Design – Master Thesis. From Summary: In the field of digital media, the study of interactive narratives holds the aesthetics of agency and dramatic agency as core to digital design. These principles hold that users must reliably be able to navigate the interface and the narrative elements of the artifact in order to have a lasting appeal. However, due to recent academic and critical discussions several digital artifacts are being focused on as possible new ways of engaging users. These artifacts do not adhere to the design aesthetics foundational to digital media, but represent a movement away from the principle of dramatic agency in interactive narratives. In an attempt to understand this separation and offer a solution to this developing issue, another non-digital interactive medium was studied: tabletop role-playing games. The designers of this medium were studied to understand the techniques and methods they employed to create dramatic interactive narratives for their users. These case studies suggested the designers used a third design aesthetic, design agency, to help balance the tension between agency and dramatic agency of the users of their medium. This design aesthetic could provide a balancing force to the current issues arising within interactive narrative. My master’s thesis that translates the analog design of tabletop roleplaying games into a language digital designers can use.

The New Cosmic Horror: A Genre Molded by Tabletop Roleplaying Games and Postmodern Horror – Science Fiction Research Association Review Winter 2015. This article investigates the evolution of the Cosmic Horror genre through the introduction of new media and shifts in social and cultural understandings. This article was presented at the Science Fiction Research Association conference and Current Research in Science Fiction conference in Liverpool, England in July 2016.