Since 1999 (see paper below), I have been working on the concept of emergent narrative, more recently with Sandy Louchart. We are seeking (like many other researchers in this field) a means of reconciling the freedom of interaction basic to virtual environments, and to the user's feeling of immersion, with the structural requirements of interesting story experiences. Our aim is to find a theoretical basis and supporting computational mechanisms for participative narrative experiences, in which the user is part of the story (Aylett & Louchart 03).
Solving the narrative paradox
We argue that participative narrative in a virtual environment requires both an analysis of the characteristics of the medium, and a search outside of the usual focus on story-telling in the classic media of the novel and film. Indeed film is in some ways one of the most misleading comparators since while it shares a rather similar visual presentation, it is under the tightest authorial control of almost any narrative medium. Instead, we have examined interactive theatre, including forms such as Forum Theatre, and both board-based and live role-playing games (Louchart & Aylett 03).
We also argue that much of narrative theory is based on a view of story as an authored artefact for an audience that is quite unsuitable for a process-based view of story as emergent from interaction between characters (Louchart & Aylett 04). Rather than 'a' story, we see a web of stories, each constructed by a character from the experience of their own participation. Moreover we see participation as quite unlike spectating, being both situated rather than detached, and active rather than passive, with all the cognitive load this brings with it (Aylett&Louchart 07).
Two interesting directions we are exploring are the incorporaton of 'double appraisal' (Aylett&Louchart 08) into the character architecture so as to make them more like actors who think about their role; and the establishment of 'shaping' or 'facilitation' mechanisms based on the role of the gamesmaster in both table-top and live role-play (Figueiredo et al 08, Aylett et al 08).
Emergent narrative seems to us to also require a new approach to authoring. Rather than specifiying a plot in the classical manner, we argue that the author must think in a more abstract way about the story-world and its possibilities, and specifically about the characters, their goals and behaviours ( Kriegel & Aylett 08, Louchart et al 08).
Aylett, R.S. (pdf) (1999) Narrative in Virtual Environments: Towards Emergent Narrative. Papers from the 1999 AAAI Fall Symposium, Technical report FS-99-01, AAAAI Press, Menlo Park, 1999 pp83-86, ISBN 1-57735-103-7
Aylett, R.S. (html) (2000) Emergent Narrative, Social Immersion and
Storification Proceedings, Narrative Interaction for Learning Environments, Edinburgh, 2000
Aylett, R.S. & Louchart,S (pdf) (2003) Towards a Narrative Theory for Virtual Reality. (2003) Virtual Reality vol 7 no 1 Dec 2003 ISSN 13594338
Aylett, R.S.;. Louchart,S; Dias, J; Paiva, A and Vala, M. (pdf) (2005) FearNot! - an experiment in emergent narrative. Proceedings, IVA 2005, LNAI 3661, Springer, pp305-316
Aylett, R.S, Figuieredo, R; Louchart, S; Dias, J. and Paiva, A.(pdf) (2006) Making it up as you go along - improvising stories for pedagogical purposes. In: Gratch, J; Young, M; Aylett, R; Ballin, D. and Olivier, P,( eds) 6th International Conference, IVA 2006, Springer, LNAI 4133, pp307-315 ISSN 0302-9743
Aylett,R.S and Louchart,S (2007) Being there: Participants and Spectators in Interactive Narrative. M. Cavazza and S. Donikian (Eds.) ICVS 2007, LNCS 4871, pp 116-127, 2007. Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2007 (pdf)
Aylett, R.S and Louchart, S. (2008) If I were you: double appraisal in affective agents. Proceedings, Autonomous Agents and Multi-agent Systems AAMAS 2008 (pdf)
Aylett, R.S; Louchart, S; Tychsen, A; Hitchens, M; Figueiredo, R. and Delgado Mata, C. (2008) Managing Emergent Character-Based Narrative. Proceedings, INTETAIN 2008 (pdf)
Figueiredo, R; Brisson, A; Aylett, R. & Paica, A. (2008) Emergent Stories Facilitated: An Architecture to Generate Stories Using Intelligent Synthetic Characters. Proceedings, 1st International Joint Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling ICIDS 2008, pp 218-229, LNCS 5334, Springer (pdf)
Michael Kriegel, Ruth Aylett (2008) Emergent Narrative As A Novel Framework For Massively Collaborative Authoring, Proc IVA 2008 LNAI 5208 pp73-80 Springer (pdf)
S. Louchart, R. Aylett (pdf) (2003) Solving the narrative paradox in VEs - lessons from RPGs In: Intelligent Virtual Agents, 4th International Workshop IVA2003 eds T. Rist, R.Aylett, D.Ballin, LNAI 2792 Springer 2003 ISBN: 3-540-20003-7 pp244-248
S. Louchart & Aylett, R.S. (pdf) (2004) Narrative Theory and Emergent Interactive Narrative. International Journal of Continuing Engineering Education and Life-long Learning, special issue on narrative in education. Vol 14 no 6 pp506-518
Louchart, S; Swartjes, I; Kriegel, M. & Aylett, R. (2008) Purposeful Authoring for Emergent Narrative. Proceedings, 1st International Joint Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling ICIDS 2008, pp 273-284, LNCS 5334, Springer (pdf)