What are good questions to ask when you're developing interactive stories?

We probably all have questions we ask ourselves over and over again as we refine an idea into an actual thing.

Here are a few of mine for interactive stories:

  • Is the power to resolve the story in the hands of the user, or are they a passive participant?
  • Am I making it so that engaging actively will make it a much better experience?
  • Am I signposting and supporting creative ways of engaging with it?
  • Is this an interaction you can win? (Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t, both have their uses, but if it’s a win/lose, how can losing put you on the path to winning next time?)
  • How can this do the same thing but smaller? (Everything interactive seems to want to constantly grow in scope, and wrestling them back to something small and actually produceable is a neverending challenge.)

So I’ve shown you mine - what are some of yours?

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Great list. I am going to add some notes collated by Nick Hanson and team from the research we did around the Connected Studio “Future of Content: Interactive Video” season back in 2015. Still very relevant.

  • Immersion: When an interaction makes the user responsible for the outcome, the emotional outcome can be magnitudes higher than in linear content.

  • Repeat, return, share: Positive deterministic interaction strongly increases the desire to replay or spend more time with the experience

  • UI: Signpost engagement simply, and if a similar UX already exists (and is popular) you must copy it to reduce the cognitive load on the user to remove barriers to engagement

  • Layers: Interactivity should deepen engagement and not work against the story. Layer the narrative and reward engagement.

  • Decisions: should be central to narrative, powerful in their impact and few in number

  • Emotional engagement with the story is the key driver for users to interact

  • Prepare. Practice. Plan: Final video is expensive, you should only shoot when you’re ready. Use paper, use your phone, rough cut, rearrange and iterate until you’re ready to commit to film. Then shoot more than you think you need!

So… what do these look like as questions?

  • What am I doing to give the user responsibility in the story?
  • Are my interactions intrinsically motivating?
  • Am I learning from the best UX that users are already familiar with?
  • Is the reward for interacting satisfying?
  • Are the interactions too superficial, or do they mean something?
  • Where I am asking a user to interact to make a decision, does it matter? Will they care?
  • Is the story emotionally interesting? Can I make the user curious or otherwise more invested?
  • Have I tested this with real people, both users and performers?
  • Can I make a complete version of this using just my phone?

I am sure there are many more. If you want to go further into learning from games, then Jesse Schell’s “The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses” is a dictionary of questions to ask about your work of interactivity.

Cheers

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The key question for me is What role is the audience playing?

If you can’t answer that question then the immersion is going to fail as you throw the audience between differing, implicit roles.

A good starting point is Walter J Ong’s paper, The Writer’s Audience is Always a Fiction.
https://wepofall2015.weebly.com/uploads/2/3/3/4/23343334/ong_writers_audience.pdf

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