inkwell.vue.175 : pighed (Mark Meadows), _Pause and Effect: The Art of Interactive Narrative_
permalink #0 of 74: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 12 Feb 03 12:11
Inkwell.vue welcomes pighed (aka Mark Meadows), who's joining us to
discuss his book, _ Pause & Effect, The Art of Interactive Narrative_.  
Pighed is an American artist and writer, living in Paris. He was most
recently Creative Director for a venture of Stanford Research Institute
and prior to that held the post of Artist-In-Residence at Xerox-PARC where
he conducted research in reading, interactivity, and visual art. He has
been a professional writer, artist, and designer for over 14 years,
creating works that defy traditional distinctions of "technology",
"narrative" and "visual art."

His 3D animation and interactive design has impacted companies from
Lucasfilm to Microsoft, and he has been exhibiting his mixed media artwork
since 1987 in galleries and museums throughout the United States and
Europe. Meadows' work has received awards from Ars Electronica, the
Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, and the National Information
Infrastructure (NII) highest honors, among others.

In addition to the recently-completed _Pause & Effect_
(,.Pighed is working on three new books, shows
his artwork at Galerie Machine Simple in Paris
( and travels around the world putting spare
microphones to use. For more information see,, or

Pighed's inkwell discussion will be led by Suzanne Stefanac,. most
recently co-founder and senior vice president for creative and production
at RespondTV, an interactive television company that built and aired more
than 100 interactive campaigns for clients such as Coca-Cola, Ford, PBS,
Comedy Central and others. Prior to RespondTV, Stefanac was executive
producer for The Site, an hour-long nightly program on MSNBC that explored
the influence of technology on day-to-day life. In 1994, Stefanac oversaw
the launch of Macworld Online and served as that website's founding
editor. Earlier, Stefanac was a journalist covering both technology and
entertainment for Macworld, New Media, Wired, Salon, New York Times, San
Francisco Chronicle, East Village Eye, and others.

For the past five years, Stefanac has acted as a mentor for the American
Film Institute's Enhanced TV Program.She has been a featured speaker at
NAB, Western Cable Show, NCTA, American Film Institute, Women in Cable,
Macworld Expo, CES, and SXSW, as well as serving on juries for the Society
for Professional Journalists, Macworld Expo, The Invision Awards, the NII
and GII Awards. She is on the board of directors for La Pocha Nostra, an
arts organization that works with MacArther and American Book awardee
Guillermo Gomez-Pena.

Stefanac, an eleven-year veteran of the WELL, is currently working on a
novel and has the beginnings of a website up at
inkwell.vue.175 : pighed (Mark Meadows), _Pause and Effect: The Art of Interactive Narrative_
permalink #1 of 74: nape fest (zorca) Thu 13 Feb 03 12:31
greetings, mark. i hope you don't mind if i lapse into calling you pighed
here and there throughout this interview. years of habit, after all.

before we start talking about the book, i thought it might be interesting to
offer our readers a bit of context. i encourage anyone interested in the
confluence of traditional artforms (painting, sculpture, photography,
comics, writings) with the newer digital forms to check out your three
websites (, and mark exhibits all these and more

it is unique to find an individual as comfortable with oil paints and
blowtorches as with XML or the nascent 3D AI showcased in your upcoming st.
elmo project. so many artists seem to feel the need to settle on one or
another medium. you have clearly never succombed to that mindset.

it is also worth noting that you manage to accomplish all this without a
formal studio. you've been largely based in paris recently, but you manage
to spend a fair amount of time traveling all over the world. you will, in
fact, be on the road while participating in this interview. and you manage
to do this on less cash than anyone i know! (oddball patrons, take note.)

so, perhaps you'd be willing to talk a bit about how your creative process
manages to span this breadth of disciplines and challenges. perhaps with a
little history to help set the stage?
inkwell.vue.175 : pighed (Mark Meadows), _Pause and Effect: The Art of Interactive Narrative_
permalink #2 of 74: pighed (pighed) Thu 13 Feb 03 16:09

whoo.  thats a doozy. history AND creative process, hu?

yeah, i'm sitting in paris now.  i've got a laptop and a bottle of bordeaux
and no physical address... but i'll start at december 12, 2000:

i was sitting in an office with a celphone jammed into my left ear and a
realphone basting the right listening to two conference calls at once.
there were three people orbiting at my desk, and i had been booked for 8
weeks solid at 13 hours a day.  my life was grievously wrong and i felt like
eating my hands. so i unplugged, walked outside, and had a smoke.  i stood
there on the corner of 2nd and harrison (or something like there).

defining moment #1: i was acting like an e-hole; i was being stupid.

the next afternoon i bought a ticket to bethlehem (for christmas and
bullets) and the arctic circle (for new years).  when i got back to
california i couldnt get off my feet. since the world is large and life is
short i figured it was time for me to leave the states.  but first i had to
give the USA a nice, long, kiss goodbye. the whole thing involved a dead
guy's truck, 3 months, several cops, and 8,000 miles.  for details see

while doing all this on-the-road livin i wrote a book. i lived out of the
pickup and wrote down what i think the internet is good for. so there i was,
writing the book, sitting in a pickup next to a lake in alabama, whistling
dixie. july 2001.

defining moment #2: i decided i liked writing and drawing while living on
the road better than being an e-hole.

i've spent most of my life travelling (my first time hitch-hiking was with
my mother, when i was 7). so i decided to condense my warehouse and its
2,000 squarefoot multi-media hi-fi writing & painting & photo studio into a
laptop i could carry under my arm. these days i have the situation
logistically under control.  i do watercolors (which are small) digital
photography (which is small) and writing (which is small) here in france
(which is, also, psychologically, very small).  i'm working on 8 projects.
its a good thing i dont have a job.  i'm too fucking busy.  on the other
hand its too bad i dont have a job since my retirement pension is looking a
little geriatric.  but that's okay cause if i die poor it will amount to as
much as if i die rich. and i figure the contributions we make to other
people's lives matter more anyway.

comparing our perceptions is what *It* is all about.  we're each nerve
endings attached to a central nervous system.  and we report back with
writing and art and mathematics and music.  so my job is to travel around
and collect perceptions.  but perception, without context, is sort of flat,
like data.  so i need a context, and i think narrative is key in providing
that.  and, with something like the internet, we now have a clear shot at
combining perspectives and get some depth perception on The Big Picture;
Death, Love, Lonliness, Happiness, etc.

the internet could have a lot more stories (and a lot fewer ads) and this
seems worthy. but when i went looking for a book on this - on how to write
and illustrate stories that are reactive - i didnt find it.  so i wrote it.

you're writing a book now, yerself.  and if i understand right its a story -
not a treatise or a proof - right?  why, after so many years of journalism,
did you decide to write a story.story?  why not something Objective and
inkwell.vue.175 : pighed (Mark Meadows), _Pause and Effect: The Art of Interactive Narrative_
permalink #3 of 74: nape fest (zorca) Fri 14 Feb 03 03:15
jeez. we're only one question into the interview and you're already trying
to turn the tables...

to the degree that it's applicable here, i'll say that despite fifteen years
as a journalist, writing narrative fiction is the HARDEST THING I'VE EVER
DONE! the truth is that i never wanted to write fiction. writing a novel
seemed way too self-revelatory. and mebbe even frivolous.

and journalism always was so, i dunno, comforting. all about Truths and
Objectivity. a girl could keep a nice distance.

but this damn storyline wouldn't go away. for years, the characters haunted
me. and so finally, a combo of guilt and fear drove me to it. guilt that i'd
spent a lifetime reveling in the narratives of others without ever
attempting to give back. and a fear that my clever arguments against writing
the novel were actually masking a fear of failure.

and i still might fail. but i'm learning to relax into the terror i feel
when teasing out narrative rhythms. even when they embarrass me. and i'm
getting better at playing whack-a-mole with the damn editor within. the
whole process is making me more human.

so but if writing a straight, linear narrative is this daunting, if there
has only been one shakespeare so far, how much more intimidating to
contemplate the creation of interactive narrative that sustains dramatic
tension and the suspension of disbelief throughout various and forking

you've written linear stories and graphic novels and you've designed and
implemented full-blown interactive narratives. what mindsets do you think we
need to adopt/discard in order to make the leap to truly engaging
interactive narrative that isn't just another game play?
inkwell.vue.175 : pighed (Mark Meadows), _Pause and Effect: The Art of Interactive Narrative_
permalink #4 of 74: pighed (pighed) Fri 14 Feb 03 14:23

hah..  really really schizophrenic.

its about simultaneously maintaining 1) multiple character perspectives (and
activities) in 2) an ongoing world context.

imagine something complicated like brothers karamazov.  there are three main
brothers; alyosha, ivan, and dmitri. these are our protagonists. ok. then,
as with any novel, there's all the other characters like father fyodor the
hohlakovs, lizaveta, smerdyakov, father zossima, and on and on. there's an
army of charactes crawling out of dostoevsky's brain.  the list is enormous
and each character has their own thing going.  and they're all doing their
own things at the same time.  its the same with lord of the rings, too.

now imagine that the book, rather than being a book, is a world - like ours,
only imaginary - with a single camera.  dostoevsky's job is to put the
camera in the right place at the right time and show the reader what is
happening at that specific instance/place from a specific perspective. since
the reader can't be everywhere at once dostoevsky lifts them, like a kitten,
and places them at the part of the world they need to be at so that they can
get a sense of the overall metaphoric context AND the specific events that
drive the plot. both. okay, so this is what a writer does.  he puts the
reader in the best place at the best time.

but reactives are different because the reader has the ability to move the
camera.  and the actions and events in that world still have to be able to
form a cohesive story.  there still has to be specific events and a general
context and things like character and intrigue and mystery and resolution.
but the difference with a reactive is that the reader has to move themselves
and decide when and where to be (rather than letting the author do it).

this idea frightens me.
  ... it means that all traditional literature is a subset of reactives.

it means that a piece of linear, written story is, potentially, just a part
- just one reader's choice - of a reactive.  dostoevsky's choices of how and
when to move the camera in that conceptual world-database of his was his
art.  and he did a damn good job, too.  but his choices of where and when to
move it were only ONE way to see ONE part of ONE of the stories that were
happening in that broad world of his imagination.  thousands and thousands
could exist, if he had only written code instead of russian.

so the mindset of a good reactive author is schizophrenic.  i tried to point
this out in my book.  i even went so far as to interview myself on what i
think is probly the only real reactive i've written

anyway the mindset (and its author!) has to allow people to manipulate the
story.  its built more like a japanese garden than a road - you let people
traverse and walk where they want and you have to make sure that from ANY
place in that garden, if they decide to stop, they get to see a composed
image in front of them, like a painting.  and then when they leave, they can
put the story together.

myst is a good example of this kind of thing.  its a small example, and it
lacks characters, but you get the idea.

for me its a complicated problem space.  to allow readers freedom and still
engage them artistically.
inkwell.vue.175 : pighed (Mark Meadows), _Pause and Effect: The Art of Interactive Narrative_
permalink #5 of 74: caldron farouche (humdog) Fri 14 Feb 03 15:15

hello piggie & zorca.

piggie please say more about reactives.
inkwell.vue.175 : pighed (Mark Meadows), _Pause and Effect: The Art of Interactive Narrative_
permalink #6 of 74: pighed (pighed) Sat 15 Feb 03 03:50

well, as far as lit.history goes, its interesting to me to consider video
games as a form of reactive.

checkitout: in occidental history we've watched literature get increasingly
more complicated. i mean socially.  we started out with epics (battle scenes
like the iliad, or odyssey for example); go kill, collect shiny stuff, get
home before youre caught. then we switched to a christian, philosophic,
writing (chaps like anselm, aquinas, etc) in which there was a relationship
with a larger power (like god) being considered.  then, after the
renaissance, romance genres appeared (king arthur and these 'tales of
courtly love'); stories of more complicated social interaction in a world
that contained larger powers at work (like magic). that was a great period
of literature because symbolism in social interaction really took hold of
people's imaginations. okay, then .. THEN! in the last hundred years or so
monsters like dostoevsky and hugo start to show up and at the same time we
have weirdos like joyce and montaigne writing personal essays.  so it seems
like authors, from homer on down the line, have been layering interaction
into stories. it's getting increasingly complex.  and its also, at the same
time, getting increasingly personal.

more interaction + more personal.

! most video games smell suspiciously like greek epics: Kill, Grab shiny
thing, Run home.  video games are functioning at some of the lowest levels
of interaction in history... "KILL! GRAB! RUN!" is the 'low-lying fruit' of
interaction design.  this indicates that we're at the early stages of a
literary artform of interactive representation. i cant blame videogame
authors - they've got a lot on their minds: they have to solve problems like
>17fps rendering speeds over 128k modem lines and a couple million hungry
users sucking off the same server.... but, as far as story goes, reactives
are so fucking complicated to write that authors dont have the long arms
needed to get to the higher fruit of social interaction.


but this morning i was looking at "A Tale In The
Desert"[] - a MMORPG or whateverthehelltheyrecallednow -
which isn't based on "KILL! NAB! RUN!" ...  it's based on politics;
complicated; & possibly richer. so reactives seem to be evolving. ATITD and
Banja [] are the state of the art. of course, that will
probly change in a month or two.

by comparison traditional literature seems dead.  its out in the backyard
with grass growing around it.  painting may be there, too.  and sculpture
and theatre.  but these artforms, despite pulserates, still have things to
tell us.  meanwhile the art form of reactives is like an infant; its alive
and kicking, but it doesnt have a lot to say yet because its still just
trying to figure out how to function.

        bah. long posts.
        i could write a book on this stuff.

but does that make sense?
inkwell.vue.175 : pighed (Mark Meadows), _Pause and Effect: The Art of Interactive Narrative_
permalink #7 of 74: nape fest (zorca) Sat 15 Feb 03 10:26
haha. the book, by the way, is gorgeous to look at, thumb thru, hell,
there's even a flipbook narrative running both frontwise and backwise!

so, but to play devil's advocate here for a moment, i'm all for the
evolution of a rich, deep, subtle interactive literature. i think it's both
necessary and inevitable.


but, i'm not at all convinced that that will signal the death of traditional
narrative. to go back to my trope about humans sitting around fires for the
past several thousand years happily submitting to a well-told storyline. i
think it's a deeply human trait, the desire to be told a great story. do you
really believe that 'traditional literature seems dead?'
inkwell.vue.175 : pighed (Mark Meadows), _Pause and Effect: The Art of Interactive Narrative_
permalink #8 of 74: The Fucked-Up Piano Chicks (magdalen) Sun 16 Feb 03 02:08

Mr.Meadows, i do like your comparison of the video game's Grab Shiny Stuff
level of early evolution to early western literature. but when i think of
early narrative, i think of the campfire stories Suzanne's talking about...
and i really think of theatre more than forms like the epic poem. (i also
have no idea which ones happened when, chronologically.)

but there was more to Greek drama, for example, than Grab Shiny Stuff and
Kill. you had your Lysistratas refusing to fuck their menfolk 'til the
idiots stopped fighting wars. you had Medeas killing their children and
Oedipus doin' his mom. you had great choruses of exposition, commentary,
morality, and denouement. 

you mentioned Lord of the Rings -- well, the book form of LOTR has all that
great big epicy Greek stuff in it, in addition to the basic Grab Shiny
Stuff/throw Shiny Stuff in the big mountain theme. but when my nephews
showed me the video game of LOTR the other night, it was all Knock Down
Ladders And Kill Orcs. there's so much more room for something interesting.

how do you think we can let these things evolve, or help evolve them, in a
market like this? at least with traditional literature, if you don't like
it you can sit down and write a book. i can't make a flying 3-D animated
whatever-the-heck and i can't program it to do something fancy. that
requires technical skill, software, and hardware beyond me. so i'm going
to write some traditional narratives and hope they're reasonably good. 

who knows? maybe i'd be good at this interactive narrative thing. but i and
thousands like me are unlikely to find out as long as the barriers to entry
are so high. who's keeping them that way? why?
inkwell.vue.175 : pighed (Mark Meadows), _Pause and Effect: The Art of Interactive Narrative_
permalink #9 of 74: pighed (pighed) Sun 16 Feb 03 04:15

zorca, yer right; no artform is ever REALLY dead. they're all partly dead. i
should probly speak of them in terms of potency or vivacity.

maybe artforms are like languages; some are more dead than others.  for
example, i know two people down the street that are translating ancient
hebrew into old french. what WEIRDOS!  what the hell!?  i mean, who does
THAT??  meanwhile i know hundreds of people translating languages like java
into XML (or english into french, if you get jumpy calling java a

so there are some languages that we're really excited about - and reliant on
- and others that just dont get us off. we have hte major antique languages
(i.e, sanskrit, latin, attic greek), major contemporary languages (i.e,
english, mandarin, hindi, french, spanish, and arabic), and minor
contemporary languages nobody gives a shit about like acehnese, or yi.  some
are more powerful and more living simply because they've been circulated
more frequently and for longer by various parties (,,, uh and, to be clean,
we also have minor antique, too. sorry.).

it's like blood.  the circulation determines its livliness (or how less dead
it is, to be more specific).  so let's consider artforms this way...  you
can take an EKG reading on any artform by asking yourself how often you hear
about it and from whom.  example: i hear a lot more about music than i do
about sculpture.  when was the last time someone said "you've GOT to go see
this sculpture exhibit!"  but stuff on the internet?? this morning i got an
email "you've GOT to go see" ... and it was the third
time this week.

for my own EKG (and it will be different from yours), reactives are alive
and well. i hear about music and film alot, too, but not as much. sometimes
i hear about music from posters in the metro, sometimes from a friend.  so
the frequency, source, and duration are the EKG axes. these tell me how dead
the artform is.

if i'm not explaining that well enough here's a diagram i'm presenting to a
museum in umea, sweden next week:

  (digression: you can use this method for things like
  English or Sanskrit..  and it gets doublePlusGood when you
  consider Politics as an artform with this method, too.)

so okay, zorca,,, i'll back off on the really dead statement, and say
instead that nothing is 100% living.  artforms are living only insomuch as
we depend on them andasmuch as they circulate on a quotidian basis (like
language, again, right?).

for myself, i'm much more of a traditionalist, so i shouldnt be saying ANY
of this stuff, but at the same time it seems true; most artforms are mostly
dead, many languages are largely dying, and its all because relying on them
is no longer critical to living our lives.  we migrate through ideas too
easily these days.

combining artforms - as we're doing with reactives and as we've already
done, long ago, with english - is the contemporary result.

you asked about my creative process;  it hinges on the same thing.  work
like frankenstein, glue pieces together, find parts that match, stitch it
up, hit it with jumper cables and see if it twitches.

~~ magtif, i think the barriers to entry for digital reactives are being
kept high by marketers and corporates that want cash;  upgrade the software,
convince people to consume disposable items, convince them that consuming
disposibility is in their interest, collect the shiny thing, run home.  for
myself, as 3d modeler, i'm fucked.  it takes me months to get used to the
new release, so i've just stopped upgrading.  its a waste of my money and my

so yeah, its a problem.

in pause & effect i put a little reactive in the corners. its a story that
loops in on itself and can be read in different directions.  not a lot of
interaction, but its print-based.  and i tried to point out, through the
whole book, that there's a lot of different kinds of reactives other than
video games.

so you CAN still write a book.  the choose your own adventures were cool at
the time, and they changed our thinking about books, and while they're not
necessarily high-valence immersive hi-fi super warp speed reactives, they do
have a quality that engages you in them.  so maybe sitting down and writing
a book is the answer.

> how do you think we can let these things evolve,
> or help evolve them, in a  market like this?

i dont know.  sometimes i think it will emerge on its own and we'll learn
the craft of it all.  maybe there will be a few key authors that will point
out some path through the brambles.

i think, more than anything, we need more authors.  and i dont know how to
do that.  i dont know how to inspire more people to try to invent more

i just keep experimenting, myself.
inkwell.vue.175 : pighed (Mark Meadows), _Pause and Effect: The Art of Interactive Narrative_
permalink #10 of 74: the notional subject (humdog) Sun 16 Feb 03 05:09

there is a difference though between sitting around
the fire and hearing the story, and participating
in a story that requires a large cost of entry for
participation.  it seems to me that the high cost of
entry for movies (as an example) has led to 
a situation of exquisitely institutionalized triviality and 
stupidity relative to the message carried by high-cost
forms, because the content (due to financial risk)
has a perceived requirement for high mediation in order
to mitigate the failure-risk to the commodity.

i am saying this to suggest that i do not think
that "sitting around the fire" and engaging in
highly mediated forms of machine-based communication
are equivalent.  Xbox, for example, charges a monthly
fee in addition to the cost of entry and still carries
advertisement.  the WELL is littered with personal
commercial/promotional messages in the form of "posts".
the discussion of product placement advertising in
film is well-known and abundant.  in 1995 my email
consisted of messages from friends.  nowadays, because
i have bought books online, i sometimes accidentally
delete messages from friends because i get so many messages
from advertisers.  so it seems to me that the highest
achievements of electronically-mediated communication
appear in the end to center around development and delivery of the
literary genre called the advertisement.  now i understand
that this is not a particularly new tendency, (i am
thinking of the medieval model of production relative
to works of the imagination) but there seems to me that
with the increasing ability to tailor messages to
smaller and smaller clumps of interests, there is no
air, so to speak.

is there a way out, or are we doomed to become
the creatures that our demographic profiles
want us to be?
inkwell.vue.175 : pighed (Mark Meadows), _Pause and Effect: The Art of Interactive Narrative_
permalink #11 of 74: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 16 Feb 03 09:10
(pighed, you should mention to that lady named magdalen that the
University of Texas at Austin is creating a degree program in game
design. Bet she'd be a great candidate, if she wanted to fly south for
the winter!)
inkwell.vue.175 : pighed (Mark Meadows), _Pause and Effect: The Art of Interactive Narrative_
permalink #12 of 74: sleek, streamlined art missile (jukevox) Sun 16 Feb 03 11:04
hello pig.

I like your metaphor about the japanese garden for reactives. Particularly 
because they are designed with a kind of narrative: the paths and vistas 
are set up for you to discover and explore. They are almost always a 
limited world that loops back on itself:paths lead to a vista and then 
you loop back. There are gateways and entrances but rarely are they totally 
scripted to be viewed in one way only. 

If we are at the early stage of reactives (lumiere bros, running horses, 
magic lanterns), then we are probably learned/writing the rules of grammar 
right now.

What are some of those rules? How can we parse reactive so we can teach 
ourselves to create them?

(by the way, Grand Theft Auto may be one of the strongest candidates for 
advancing the narrative properties of video games. Still a lot of the run, 
kill, collect shiny things but character development and motivations are 
becoming richer in these games now)
inkwell.vue.175 : pighed (Mark Meadows), _Pause and Effect: The Art of Interactive Narrative_
permalink #13 of 74: pighed (pighed) Sun 16 Feb 03 14:24

believe it or not i think you and humdog are ultimately asking the same

i think there's an intense relationship between Author and Authority.  this
is why people are nervous about something like encarta or AOL - too much
authorial power leads my little sheepish brain down the washboard of ruin,
and its no coincidence that things like the OED and translations of the
bible happened at times of political rupture.  so if, to be conservative,
theres a relationship between them, and if, in reactives, theres something
peculiar about the relationship of the author and the reader (and i can
promise you there is), then i would ask us to think a little more about why
we need more authors and if this is, in fact, a financial issue as well as
an artistic one.

simply put; changing the author changes the type of story and it changes how
its sold.

by having more authors - and by building systems that allow multiple authors
to work together - we start to break down the commodification of users that
we see places like AOL (and, uh, others) running wild with. and i think this
is REALLY one of - if not the single most important - grammatical chunk of a
reactive.  multiple people run it.

again, simply put: multiple authors, therefore, changes the type of story
and how its sold.

of course jack valenti is running around with blood on his lips; the man's
terrified he'll lose authorial control.  and he should be.  he's an animal
on the verge of extinction (and i'll be happy to play the taxidermist).

i hear that ATITD is going to offer a linux client and, potentially, a p2p
client as well.  THAT's badass cause it means that one of the fundamental
grammatical aspects of a reactive is being exercised:   distributed authors.
 it also, to note back to humdog, we'll see changes in financial models
coming up soon.  and i'm with you, hummie, the ads suck.

this distributed authority/authorship thing is interesting to me... its this
idea of multiple perspectives, all looking in on the same point, each
generating a new set of collaborative laws that get reflected out....  i
think it's really a key piece of reactive grammar.  i was going to call the
book "Parallax" as a way of indicating how important this is.  i'm glad i
didnt (but the idea is still important).

ok.  another way to think about reactives is music.  bach (or whoever)
composes something, then there's a slew of people that interpret it.  and
their act of working together, each simultaneously interpreting it - and
PLAYING - creates something unique.

but i dont know if a piece of music is a story any more than driving a car
around bends is a story.  i mean... what MAKES a story is still a snag for
me.  ... is a rugby game a story? what if there's a narrator?  what if
you're the player?  what's the difference between a game and a story?  does
it have to do with investment?  does it have to do with reward?  is it when
we're done that we think we've gotten something valuable out of it?

so i'd like someone to answer that for me - what is the difference, now,
between a game and a story (i'm NOT being rhetorical, by the way).
inkwell.vue.175 : pighed (Mark Meadows), _Pause and Effect: The Art of Interactive Narrative_
permalink #14 of 74: sleek, streamlined art missile (jukevox) Sun 16 Feb 03 14:53
in your distributed author scenario, there are some pitfalls for me

one is lowest common denominator narrative. Too many cooks. You are going 
for a balance of flavors and textures and yet too much spoils the mix. You 
start with dreams of Bach and you get a bad Phish Jam Band with no 
pleasure but for those who create it. 

Somebody or something has to edit. Something needs to guide a narrative. 
Even a brillian jazz improvisor starts with a fakebook or a structure to 
tear apart or filigree. 

My collaborative, hippie-brain loves multiple authors. My editor, elitist 
brain doesn't. It's why some people love Fan Fic and some people will only 
watch the original source material.

That's why I was asking about the grammar or the rules, going with your 
game concept. What's going to turn out the best creative works? I suspect 
it's authors or editors who can set down an infrastructure and then 
gently balance the subauthors (those collaborators or players) who fill it 
inkwell.vue.175 : pighed (Mark Meadows), _Pause and Effect: The Art of Interactive Narrative_
permalink #15 of 74: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 16 Feb 03 18:29
pighedski, I'm wondering how distributed authorship relates to complexity 
and emergence? (My question's influenced by Joi Ito's evolving paper on 
emergency and democracy 
(, which is not narrative 
fiction but which does have distributed authorship).
inkwell.vue.175 : pighed (Mark Meadows), _Pause and Effect: The Art of Interactive Narrative_
permalink #16 of 74: pighed (pighed) Mon 17 Feb 03 06:49

jukevox, i definitely agree with you - there's a definite need for design.
        (see for some good read)

if youre referring to specific rules i think that those are decided by the
type of content that's used in the reactive. so, for example, ATITD has very
different set of rules for interacting with other people than does quake
tournament than does banja.  i think that eventually, with larger narratives
that involve more people the folks that have invested the most time will
have the most to lose.   so those folks, since they've already proven their
interest in the story, end up with more control over the story
(traditionally called "Wizards" in MUDs). then there's the person or people
that have developed the architecture of the system and they have a different
role.  sometimes that role is held by the same person as one of these
"wizards" (for lacking a better term) but i think it works best when they're
different people.  a third more authorial role is the role of the people
that introduce new players/readers to the story.  these folks end up doing a
lot for suspension of impatience, but i think their role is lesser than the
other two.  then there's the readers/players of the story.

in sum i tend to divide it into people that deal with the architecture +
tech and people that deal with the metaphor + story. both roles are
important and should work together (part of the reason why you cant design
the interaction without the story and vice versa .. not for a good reactive,

jonl, i took a look at joi's paper.  in short, i can't parse your question.
maybe if you could be more specific?
        .. and even then i'm not sure i'll be able to answer.
inkwell.vue.175 : pighed (Mark Meadows), _Pause and Effect: The Art of Interactive Narrative_
permalink #17 of 74: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 17 Feb 03 08:30
If you have distributed authorship (therefore a more complex and 
decentralized model), how do you shape the narrative or how does it 
emerge from the collective authorship? How do you handle the author-side 
editorial stuff - via backchannels? 
inkwell.vue.175 : pighed (Mark Meadows), _Pause and Effect: The Art of Interactive Narrative_
permalink #18 of 74: nape fest (zorca) Tue 18 Feb 03 09:56
i believe that pighed is on the road right now. he has quite an itinerary
planned during the course of this interview. but i'm interested in what some
of you think about the future of narrative. it seems inevitable that we will
see a great flurry of interactive narratives, particularly now that game
boxes can so easily connect to the internet. i look forward to a few
shakespeares, hell, or even o'henrys coming to the fore on that front.

so but how do some of you feel about the fate of traditional linear
narrative. assuming that interactive forms become inexpensive and
ubiquitous, will there still be a desire for single plotline stories?
inkwell.vue.175 : pighed (Mark Meadows), _Pause and Effect: The Art of Interactive Narrative_
permalink #19 of 74: Call Out Research Hook #1 (kadrey) Tue 18 Feb 03 10:35

i don't believe that one will replace the other any more than i believe that
digital photogrpahy will replace film photography. each sits nicely next to
the other and performs a unique, though similar, task. in the end, each can
enhance the other.
inkwell.vue.175 : pighed (Mark Meadows), _Pause and Effect: The Art of Interactive Narrative_
permalink #20 of 74: sleek, streamlined art missile (jukevox) Tue 18 Feb 03 12:48
I agree with Kadrey.

i think the traditional single plotline narrative has a lot of juice left.
Movies, books, pop songs are generally focused on a single narrative and 
there is a lot of life left in them.

I do think it is interesting that for the new forms that it does require 
more authors and more collaborators. You need a lot of people to make a 
video game. There are more vectors (technical, plot, character, visual) to 
consider and the "author" has to start wearing a lot of hats or delegate 
like a motherfucker.
inkwell.vue.175 : pighed (Mark Meadows), _Pause and Effect: The Art of Interactive Narrative_
permalink #21 of 74: nape fest (zorca) Tue 18 Feb 03 12:55
the author becomes more of a wrangler, really!

i very much look forward to watching how these narratives evolve, but i
think it will be quite a challenge to sustain creative tension and
compelling story arc. many will devolve into flat game scenarios, bound by
rules and the imagination of the lowest common denominator. i wonder if it
be the case that single individuals or cadres of arbiters end up controlling
the storyline. there is great potential for cults of personality to grow up.
inkwell.vue.175 : pighed (Mark Meadows), _Pause and Effect: The Art of Interactive Narrative_
permalink #22 of 74: pighed (pighed) Tue 18 Feb 03 13:04

(yeh, i'm in amstedam now, at, a research center of sorts.
thanks zorc.)

> [kadrey] each can enhance the other.

right, definitely; i'm all about enhancements (i mean, uh, yeh).  about 90%
of my image production time these days is spent digitally integrating 3D
models, photos, and paint.
this was a painting exhibit i had last summer; every one of these was a
story of a catholic saint. i used as many media at once as possible.  3d
models, photos (digital and film), paint, ink, paper, watercolor, oils,
sculpture, photoshop, soup, chickens, cars, gravel....  EVERYTHING.

but back to zorca's question: i dont think anything will go away, not
really, but i do wonder why it is we are moving towards more personal forms
of storyline?  this idea of the cult of personality seems key.  i think the
story that the individual person has is what we want more of anyway.

as for creative tension, i think these MUDs or MMUORPGs things will go away
once we get good solid AI that has some spunk to it built into games.  we
need AIs with personality instead so that players dont have to bring as much
to it.

automated soul, yknow?
inkwell.vue.175 : pighed (Mark Meadows), _Pause and Effect: The Art of Interactive Narrative_
permalink #23 of 74: sleek, streamlined art missile (jukevox) Tue 18 Feb 03 13:13
which I think Mark alludes to in his mention of "wizards" in muds. These 
primary authors grok the rules early and often. They become world-runners 
and they start playing king or god. Sometimes you get a benvolent god, 
sometimes you get george bush.

you can get conflicting storylines, which can create good tension, where 
the struggle becomes the plot. Or sometimes bad tension where nothing 
coheres and everyone's interest wanes.  So the notion of narrative as a 
competitive sport or game is apt. There's a reason we watch professional 
athletes more often than amateurs.

But it may still be that we humans prefer to listen rather than become 
authors or subauthors. That the author we like best is the Author-ity 
because the best stories are those with a coherant plot from a single 

I do rather like the idea of that single mind needing to be a bit skitzo 
to write good reactives, tho.
inkwell.vue.175 : pighed (Mark Meadows), _Pause and Effect: The Art of Interactive Narrative_
permalink #24 of 74: Call Out Research Hook #1 (kadrey) Tue 18 Feb 03 13:25

>we need AIs with personality instead so that players dont have
>to bring as much to it.
is that the point or is it that we still need something outside of our own
brains to tell us stories? we still need variety and surprise. my worry with
personalization taken to an extreme is that we end up with a world of navel-
gazing fan fiction.
inkwell.vue.175 : pighed (Mark Meadows), _Pause and Effect: The Art of Interactive Narrative_
permalink #25 of 74: Call Out Research Hook #1 (kadrey) Tue 18 Feb 03 13:26



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