So far as we’ve considered interactive narratives, all the models have had one thing in common – a predetermined ending. Like it or not, the authors of the experience have, more or less, decided when it ends. Dynamic narratives offer users object-oriented storytelling which extends for as long as the user wants or the narrative elements allow.
These dynamic experiences may contain discrete storylines (in the form of implicitly linked events) but have multiple connections to other event nodes built into them. This allows the user to construct a narrative at will and where the relationship between characters or the plot revelation unfolds unpredictably.
This model potentially provides a high degree of personalisation because it opens the door to optional elements. Of course, you may want all users to see all the pieces regardless of the sequence but this ‘pick and mix’ approach is the essence of user-defined journey. In learning terms, this is illustrates the user’s ability to choose components between an initial diagnostic and a summative assessment.
Finally, experiences without end. In games such The Sims, without declared goals or a finite number of prepared events, there can be an implied or emerging narrative as stories evolve from a dynamic play environment. These open-ended experiences develop a continuing story through the behaviour and interactions of characters and forces within the milieu. The unfolding events are entirely determined by user actions and world rules – that is things happen according to fixed algorithms but are conditional on unpredictable use.
Although simulations and game worlds may not contain pre-authored dramatic events, they create their own storylines. Lisbeth Klastrup describes them as “tellable events…which would retrospectively make good stories” (pdf). In these unending stories, the user can play forever but it is arguable that without the imposition of goals, the experience never reaches a satisfying conclusion – something that a good author always delivers.
The whole Interactive Narrative series is: