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Exploring Interactive Narrative – Parallel Paths

parallel paths

Parallel paths overcome some of the production challenges of a strict branching narrative by reducing the total number of tracks down to just two.  This limits the options even further than the constrained branching narrative model but still allowing a level of user choice.

Parallel paths offer the user two distinct paths and ‘junctions’ where the tracks combine.  This allows the user to experience consequences of his chosen actions but returns him to predetermined points where the story can advance in a more managed way.  By hopping from node to node like this, the user has a high sense of control even if his experience shares much with that of other users.  For example, BioShock allows users to decide on one of two strategies: ‘Kill Little Sister’ or ‘Save Little Sister.’ Each option has a unique set of challenges and consequences but the paths come back together at key points in the game, allowing the user to continue with their chosen course or switch approach.

One advantage of the parallel paths approach is that it can, as illustrated by BioShock, offer the user the choice between ‘Good’ and ‘Evil’ paths.  This provides the opportunity for presenting alternative perspectives whether that’s a moral choice or as mundane as a customer-seller viewpoint.  In that respect it has a significant level of replayability because the user’s understanding of the environment as a whole is enhanced by the alternative approach.

The whole Interactive Narrative series is:

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