'Stitched up' in the 'Conversengine': using expressive processing and multimodal languages to create a character-driven interactive digital narrative

Wilks, C (2021) 'Stitched up' in the 'Conversengine': using expressive processing and multimodal languages to create a character-driven interactive digital narrative. PhD thesis, Bath Spa University.

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My practice-based research, which this thesis supports, explores the question: How can a convincing interactive character, with apparent psychological depth, be modelled in a playable digital narrative that adapts to reader choice? To this end I am building my own platform, the 'Conversengine', for authoring and, in future, publishing and playing text-driven interactive narratives that rely on enactment rather than narration. Currently, the platform consists of the 'Convowriter', the authoring tool, which I am using to develop 'Stitched Up', an interactive psychological thriller. Using the concept of the black box from second-order cybernetics with possible worlds and theory of mind from narratology, I show how combining these theories, mapping one onto another, provides a framework for not only thinking about the character-driven interactive narrative, but also a methodology for authoring one, in both natural language and computer code, and designing its richly responsive visual interface. This incorporates a unique emotional data visualisation system ('emoviz') to dynamically represent interactive fictional characters. This system is built upon the Pleasure-Arousal-Dominance Emotional State Model (Russell and Mehrabian, 1977) and informed by existing psychological research into colour, shape and motion. I contend that abstract visualisations, coupled with the characters' text-based thoughts and/or speech, can eloquently express convincing mental and emotional behaviour. This provides the feedback in my cybernetic 'steering-a-course' game engine, which, whilst maintaining narrative coherence, allows the reader-player to steer their own course through the narrative. Creating an interactive narrative of this kind, which simulates psychological rather than physical action, requires a different approach to game writing, development and design. In part two of this thesis, I explore how the distinction between story and narrative discourse has practical implications for the creation of interactive digital narratives. I discuss how using existing game engines and tools can be limiting, and how this led to building my own interactive narrative engine with its own expressive domain-specific language. I show how the combined features of the 'Conversengine' offer a new way of representing complex interactive characters with psychological depth.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)

The document attached to this record is the contextualizing research section of the thesis only. It does not include the creative component, which is the draft interactive narrative 'Stitched Up', or access to the online writing platform, the 'Conversengine'.

Keywords: PhD by Practice, creative writing, digital writing, online publishing platforms, interactive narratives, fiction, thrillers, coding, game writing, character development
Divisions: School of Writing, Publishing and the Humanities
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.17870/bathspa.00014344
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Date Deposited: 01 Oct 2021 18:30
Last Modified: 19 Feb 2024 18:41
URI / Page ID: https://researchspace.bathspa.ac.uk/id/eprint/14344
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