Working on a new branching narrative project for inkle has crystallised in my head a problem I think I’ve often skirted around, but not ever pinned down before; and it’s a problem that sits right the heart of interactive narrative design.
The problem is this: if we’re tracking what the player chooses, and using that to alter how events play out, then how do we decide when to cause, and how do we decide when to affect?
There’s a conversation going on here – the reader says something, and the author says something back. The best interactive writing matches the author’s reply to the reader’s comment so perfectly it feels like there must be a human being inside the machine, typing furiously away.
But how do we decide who gets to hold the talking stick at any given moment?