Narrative Affordance: Toward a Model of the Foreseeability of Events in an Interactive Narrative

Rogelio Cardona-Rivera, North Carolina State University

Narratives are an important part of the human experience. Psychologists and computer scientists suggest that narratives are key for explaining the world around us, and they posit that people often perceive and interpret activities and behaviors by structuring them into a narrative. Interactive narratives leverage the cognitively foundational role of narratives and incorporates them into an interactive experience in which participants play a role in the development of a story that drives and motivates the primary action that unfolds in a virtual environment. These interactive narratives (which commercial role-playing video games exemplify) have garnered increasing attention for their applicability outside of the realm of entertainment, broadening to fields such as education, health care and training.

Unlike non-interactive story-based media (e.g. movies), creating interactive narratives requires authors to consider how participants will interact with the narrative artifact. Because participants have partial knowledge of the unfolding narrative, they stand to act in ways that disrupt the narrative’s coherent structure, which distinguishes the narrative itself from a collection of random events. This “narrative paradox” threatens the amount of agency participants could feel, potentially diminishing the interactive experience.

My research casts agency as a discourse problem, where an interactive narrative system must dynamically decide what discourse content to present that allows the player to perceive narrative-specific narrative affordances, or courses of action the player can imagine that further the story in their interactive narrative experience. Narrative affordances are modeled through STRIPS-style Artificial Intelligence Planning structures, which are combined with an empirically verified cognitive model of narrative comprehension to produce a model of narrative comprehension for game contexts, focused on the choices players make in an interactive narrative.

Abstract Author(s): Rogelio E. Cardona-Rivera