A Preliminary Poetics for Interactive Drama and Games






  • Interactive drama has been discussed for a number of years as a new AI-based interactive experience. While there has been substantial technical progress in building believable agents and some technical progress in interactive plot,16 no work has yet been completed that combines plot and character into a full-fledged dramatic experience. The game industry has been producing plot-based interactive experiences (adventure games) since the beginning of the industry, but only a few of them (such as “The Last Express”) begin to approach the status of interactive drama. Part of the difficulty in achieving interactive drama is due to the lack of a theoretical framework guiding the exploration of the technological and design issues surrounding interactive drama. This paper proposes a theory of interactive drama based on Aristotle’s dramatic theory but modified to address the interactivity added by player agency. This theory both provides design guidance for interactive dramatic experiences that attempt to maximize player agency (answering the question “What should I build?”) and technical direction for the AI work necessary to build the system (answering the question “How should I build it?”). In addition to clarifying notions of interactive drama, the model developed in this paper also provides a general framework for analyzing player agency in any interactive experience (e.g., interactive games).


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