What is the success formula for interactive storytelling?

Published:  January 7, 2016
Jamuna Raj

The concept of interactive storytelling has been around for years. Many of us can remember and are still ardent readers of the ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ book series where readers are directed to different pages within the books, depending on their choice of actions presented to them. Those books shot to popularity during the late 1970s and are a classic example of interactive storytelling.



However, the art of interactive storytelling has evolved in waves and lengths due to the availability of a wide spectrum of media outlets, from the written word to, now, video games and more.

STREAKER’s James Bush, S1T2’s Chris Panzetta and Loud&Clear’s Joel Beath, all of who will take the stage at Pause fest 2016, share what goes into the art of interactive storytelling.

James Bush, co-founder and creative technology director, STREAKER

JamesBush“Start with the narrative. Simple stories are strong stories. Take out everything that doesn’t serve the narrative. The beauty of working in the interactive space is that we can build on a user’s sense of discovery. I call it the Alice in Wonderland technique; build in ‘rabbit holes’. This allows the user to define their own experience, choosing whether to engage or not – to seek out more or to be passive.

“Storytelling is about inducing wonder, sparking the imagination. The goal should be to create something as rich and true as an episodic memory.”

Chris Panzetta, managing director, S1T2

Chris“What makes an interactive story so interesting is it’s a paradox. The more freedom you have with the story, the less likely you are to experience a good story. I mean who would choose to kill themselves for dramatic effect?

“Designers need to balance the joys of interactivity with the joys of narrative and can find clues in ritual, interactive theatre even method acting. It also helps to remember that most people don’t go to the movies because they want to be film directors; they desire an experience. Those who can unlock the promise behind the paradox can deliver on those desires.”

Joel Beath, head of content, Loud&Clear


“Deeply personal, contextual and platform/device agnostic are the next battlegrounds in interactive storytelling. The challenge of interactive storytelling is to create narratives that ‘could’ take place in the user’s world, are not beholden to an audience responding in a certain unrealistic or condensed ‘time-frame’, and are able to be affected by an audience member on their own preferred platforms and devices.

“For the audience to truly be immersed and in control of a story, the story must revolve around their habits, devices and timelines.”

Feature image by STREAKER.

This article first appeared in the desktop-Pause special.
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