Much has been written and discussed lately about story and user experience. The stories generally being discussed are linear stories, but the digital world is usually interactive. Interactive narratives, such as those in video games, allow the user to make a series of branching choices that eventually lead to a successful conclusion. Online, informational, interactive processes, such as enrollments, complex shopping, training, and many other online processes can also be thought of in a similar way. User has a goal, has obstacles to overcome, makes choices, and usually reaches a climax and successful conclusion. What can interactive narrative teach us about providing a more engaging user experience for these informational processes that we frequently design? One element that will be discussed is interactive narrative structure.
• Hierarchical branching: What most people think of as interactive narrative, but in practice it is rarely used.
• Scene branching: Limited interactivity but useful for simpler information processes.
• Parallel Paths: One narrative has multiple paths the user can take depending on choices and needs. This is an effective choice for a complex, online, informational processes that attracts heterogeneous types of users with different needs
• String of Pearls Structure: A linked series of worlds connected by tasks that a user must accomplish to move forward. Can be useful for a process involving diverse information gathering but still moving towards a goal.
Other interactive narrative techniques and applications besides structure will also be discussed, including the enhanced story telling capabilities of touch screen devices, such as the iPad.
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