NarraScope 2020 took place online from May 28 to June 4, 2020.
All times shown are US Eastern time.
May 11 to May 25, 2020
Inform 7 Boot Camp
An online high-speed course taught by Judith Pintar.
May 25 to June 8, 2020
NarraScope Game Jam
Work alongside NarraScope attendees as a team, or individually, in the NarraScope Conference Game Jam.
Thursday (May 28, 2020)
11:00 am – 11:50 am (US Eastern)Inform 7 and the Teaching of Writing (link)
Brendan Desilets (Workshop)Inform 7 offers a long list of utilities that correspond, in useful ways, with tools that teachers use in working with the writing process. These include outliners, storyboarding tools, and aids for revising and editing. This presentation will explore Inform 7 as a tool for teaching the writing process. Participants will leave with practical assignments for making use of this unique tool.
12:00 noon – 12:50 pm (US Eastern)
1:00 pm – 1:50 pm (US Eastern)Tips and Tricks for Teaching an Interactive Fiction Course (link)
Mike Spivey (Workshop)In this session we’ll share ideas for teaching a course on interactive fiction. If you have a favorite IF assignment or activity, or even if you’ve tried something and it failed miserably, bring it! We’ll discuss it – and learn from each other. The session is suitable for everyone interested in the teaching of interactive fiction, from veteran instructors to those who have never taught IF before.( Slides )
2:00 pm – 2:50 pm (US Eastern)Literature as Game (link)
William Gillespie (Workshop)When Emily Short reviewed the hypertext novel The Unknown, which I was sure was literature and not a game, as if it were a game, it opened a door for me. In this workshop we’ll approach the novel as if it were a game and talk about what the novel-as-game can teach us about literary game design.
3:00 pm – 3:50 pm (US Eastern)Procedural Play with Tracery (link)
4:00 pm – 4:50 pm (US Eastern)Terrifically Awkward: Games To Teach Social Emotional Learning (link)
Matthew Farber (Workshop)Can games and play work together to solve pressing societal needs? Early research suggests that it can! In this session we will play and discuss Tiltfactor Laboratory’s Awkward Moment, a party card game for middle school age kids and older. Players gather a hand of reactions cards and together debate silly, embarrassing, or stressful event cards. We will then use the game – and meta-discussion – to construct interactive fiction.
5:00 pm – 7:00 pm (US Eastern)Chapbook: Coding, Debugging, and Pretty Pictures (link)
Friday (May 29, 2020)
12:00 noon – 1:30 pm (US Eastern)
1:45 pm – 2:45 pm (US Eastern)Creating the Anura: Reflection on Writing a Beast Race (link)
Mars Ashton (30m)Often, Beast-like fantasy races appropriate racial issues from the real world. To write engaging creature-folk like this, one must navigate a complex web of general practices, tropes and potentially harmful depictions. I’ll talk about my own process for creating the Anura and their history.Realist narratives in games moor protagonists of color in oppressive histories – now is the time for stories of liberation (link)
Jess Erion (30m)Many games that feature protagonists of color get caught up in dissonant ideas of “realism”. The next step for representation in games is narratives of liberation, narratives that grant people of color power and agency regardless of developers’ attachments to realism.
3:00 pm – 4:00 pm (US Eastern)Commodification of (Queer) Love/Intimacy Through Game Mechanics (link)
Nilson Carroll (10m)Relationships are messy, gray, and not about points. We’ll discuss the commodification of love and intimacy in game mechanics with a focus on dating sims and queer indie games.Novel about a Picture that is a Game: Re-readings of Media in The Picture of Dorian Gray (link)
Melanie Snyder (10m)The implications of a gamified Victorian portrait.Space, Time, Rules and Rooms: How Games Create Narrative Out Of Space (link)
Brent Bailey (10m)Games aren’t books; they’re maps. By allowing the reader to explore space, they inherently restrict their ability to convey narrative.
4:15 pm – 5:15 pm (US Eastern)IF.then(): Teaching Programming Concepts Using Interactive Fiction (link)
Kenton Taylor Howard, Dan Cox, Rachel Donley, John Murray (60m)Creating interactive fiction has never been easier. Tools like Twine and Ink empower hobbyists and professionals, but they can also be used to teach programming concepts. We’ll talk about these tools and their strengths and uses.
5:30 pm – 6:30 pm (US Eastern)The Harold: A Structure for Interactive Narrative (link)
Bobby Lockhart (60m)The Harold is the dominant structure of long-form improvisation. A team of improvisers will begin by performing a 25-minute comedic Harold, in order to get the audience familiar with the form. Then we’ll discuss how the Harold could be of use to other types of artists who wish to craft interactive stories.
Saturday (May 30, 2020)
12:30 pm – 1:30 pm (US Eastern)Breaking the Cage: Meaningful and Feminist Narrative Design of the Uncaged Anthology (link)
Collette Quach, Jasmine Eisinger, Jessica Marcrum (60m)A post-mortem of the Uncaged Anthology, a four-volume anthology that revisions female mythological tropes. Originally intended to be a one-volume project, Uncaged has become a community of creators that continue to create content to highlight the diversity of the community. Creators from the anthology will discuss their narrative and design process on their adventures.
1:45 pm – 2:45 pm (US Eastern)The Future of Chess Club, or 80 Days of Serious Play (link)
Stuart Moulthrop, Scott M. Bruner, Kelly Brajevich, Erik Kersting, Janelle Malagon (30m)What do we say to skeptics? How can we justify our devotion to contingency, complexity, and play? This problem is even harder for those who remember the turn of the century and utopian fantasies about new media and cyberspace. This talk will offer a few answers to the hard question of why, based on “cultural logic,” subcultural identity, and poetics; but mainly the talk is meant to start a discussion from which more and better answers may emerge.Writing and Designing Text-Based Horror Games about Mental Illness (link)
Kaitlin Tremblay (30m)While horror games often focus heavily on visual representations of fear and terror, text-based horror provides its own unique challenges. We’ll talk about creating atmosphere, building tension, and creating a pervasive feeling of terror, while still providing meaningful player agency.
3:00 pm – 4:00 pm (US Eastern)Moral Ambiguity in SOMA (link)
Roger Matthews (10m)Humanity as we know it is gone. Now what? SOMA gives you life-or-death choices that make you question your own morality, without any clear reward or punishment for your behavior.Job Applications and You: Building Your Resume and Samples (link)
Rachel Noel Williams (10m)New to the gaming industry? Getting into narrative for the first time? Are you an industry veteran, but not sure how to write your cover letter, resume, or provide relevant samples? Find out.
4:15 pm – 5:15 pm (US Eastern)Okay To Fail, But Not To Lose: Lessons From Lamplight City (link)
Francisco Gonzalez (30m)Making detective games is hard. Making detective games with multiple paths and solutions is even harder. This post-mortem will focus on the challenges of balancing the player’s instinct to win against their choices, which affect what storylines are accessible.Agatha Christie to Ryukishi07: Linear Whodunits as Games (link)
Dawn Davis (30m)Umineko no Naku Koro Ni (Umineko When They Cry) is a visual novel whodunit with minimal player interaction, but remains a favorite among connoisseurs. What is it about this linear visual novel that so ensnares fans without ever providing explicit answers?
5:30 pm – 6:30 pm (US Eastern)IF Educator’s Roundtable (link)
Judith Pintar, Brendan Desilets, Stuart Moulthrop, Matt Farber, Chris Klimas (60m)The IFTF Education Committee invite educators and students of IF to join us for a roundtable conversation about how to develop a scaffold of support for educators at various educational levels. What do IF educators need?
Sunday (May 31, 2020)
12:30 pm – 1:30 pm (US Eastern)The Adventure with a Thousand Faces (link)
Scott M. Bruner, Kris Purzycki, David Stanley, Sarah Stanley (60m)The legacy of the first work of interactive fiction, Will Crowther’s 1976 Colossal Cave Adventure, can be found in nearly every work of contemporary digital narrative. We will examine classic and contemporary digital texts which have translated, interpreted, and even updated the ideas, aesthetic, and experiences of Crowther’s original work.
1:45 pm – 2:45 pm (US Eastern)Say What?: Bringing Narrative to Life with Voice Over (link)
Ivy Dupler (30m)What creators need to know about all things voice over, from crafting readable dialogue to directing the best possible performances. Whether you’re curious about adding VO to your projects or consider yourself a voice over veteran, we’ll go over what a narrative designer should keep in mind.Characters and Automata (link)
Mark Bernstein (30m)Characters in games are constructed jointly by the writer and the player. We will explore approaches to joint creation of meaningful characterization ransacked from literary machines from the William Wallace Cook’s novel-writing automaton to Punchdrunk’s interactive drama, from recent figurative painting and sculpture, from hypertext theory to narrativist tabletop games.
3:00 pm – 4:00 pm (US Eastern)An Hour With the IFTF Board of Directors (link)
Jason McIntosh, Andrew Plotkin, Judith Pintar, Chris Klimas, Liza Daly (60m)The Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation is the charitable nonprofit that acts as the parent organization for NarraScope, IFComp, the Twine project, and lots of other IF goodness. We’ll talk about our year and then open the floor to discussion.
4:15 pm – 5:15 pm (US Eastern)Beyond Time: Adapting Film’s Techniques for Nonlinear Stories (link)
Nathan Savant (60m)Interactive and Linear narrative are fundamentally different, yet film is well-explored and full of lessons to learn. By scrutinizing Pixar’s throughlines concept, we can find a way to tell stories in games that works with, rather than against, game design.
5:30 pm – 6:30 pm (US Eastern)The Geometries of Non-Linear Games (link)
Dave Pickett (60m)Games are increasingly non-linear. But what shapes are they, exactly? The popular discourse around games fails to distinguish between the wide variety of structures encompassed by the blanket term “non-linear.” We’ll discuss why Mega Man is a downward triangle but Mario 64 is an upward triangle; why Breath of the Wild is a jellyfish accordion; the difference between cul-de-sacs, branching, and progress shuffling.
Monday (June 1, 2020)
12:30 pm – 1:30 pm (US Eastern)Making Games in Transition: Designing SECOND PUBERTY (link)
Dietrich “Squinky” Squinkifer (30m)Squinky and the Squinkettes present: SECOND PUBERTY is a currently-in-progress series of seven short games about the weirdness of feeling like a teenager and a thirtysomething-year-old at the same time. In 2018, I began hormone replacement therapy after a lengthy period of hesitation. I will describe how my changing relationship with my body has been changing the way I design games.
1:45 pm – 2:45 pm (US Eastern)Analytics? In MY Interactive Fiction?! (link)
Em Lazer-Walker (30m)Capturing analytics data often feels a bit gross – like something you’d only do in a AAA or free-to-play game. But it can be valuable feedback about how players experience your game. We’ll discuss the benefits, techniques, what to measure, and what not to measure.Using Multi-Dimensional Data to Communicate Lived Experiences of Trauma in Public Displays (link)
Kiel Gilleade, Ruby Mendenhall (30m)We’ll discuss the development of an exhibit we produced as part of a research project: how wearable sensors can document the impact of gun violence on the health of Black mothers living in Englewood, Chicago.
3:00 pm – 4:00 pm (US Eastern)Writing for Young Women in the Developing Countries (link)
Maria Sereda, Irina Leu (10m)Our story Spring in Bishkek discusses the issue of “bride kidnapping”; it is written in partnership with a human rights group in Kyrgyzstan. It is aimed at young women from conservative communities of Central Asia, with low levels of income and poor education. How does this affect the design, story, and language of the game?
4:15 pm – 5:15 pm (US Eastern)Designing Intimacy Through Modularity and Anxiety (link)
Jordan Jones-Brewster (30m)How does it feel to explore a relationship playground? In We Should Talk, players are encouraged to think carefully about the words they choose – chatting in a bar, texting their partner at home. We’ll discuss the development process of the game’s sentence spinner and how it conveys the anxiety of choice.
5:30 pm – 6:30 pm (US Eastern)
Tuesday (June 2, 2020)
12:30 pm – 1:30 pm (US Eastern)The Quad Game: Collaborative Narrative Design in a Massive Multi-authored IF Sandbox (link)
Judith Pintar (60m)The Quad Game is a collaborative IF initiated five years ago in Judith Pintar’s “Programming and Design of Interactive Fiction” course at the University of Illinois. Now 100 authors and 250,000 words of code later, this Inform 7 “sandbox” has 700 rooms, 1400 items, 200 people, and 50+ endings. We’ll discuss insights gleaned from throwing students into this sandbox to learn Inform 7. Then you are invited to contribute to the coding of the Narrascope edition of the Quad Game. (The speaker chose to use their time to instead address current events.)
1:45 pm – 2:45 pm (US Eastern)Multiple Role-Playing Groups in a Shared Campaign World (link)
Sam Sorensen (30m)Why (and how) would one run multiple groups of roleplaying game players within the same game world? Lessons from three different months-long campaigns in a variety of formats.Just Enough Cooks in the Kitchen: Managing an Anthology game with 25 Writers (link)
Johnnemann Nordhagen, Laura Michet (30m)Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is a narrative game with an unusual writing process. We took an anthology approach, drafting fifteen different writers for our characters, and another group for other, smaller stories. We’ll explore how and why we did this.
3:00 pm – 4:00 pm (US Eastern)Visual Storytelling in Immersive Reality (link)
Matthue Roth (60m)In games like BioShock and Half-Life 2, most storytelling doesn’t happen with words. Graphic design, sound design, environmental architecture and experiential cues put the player in the space, tell the story, and teach users to play the game. But augmented reality introduces users to a new world every time they start a new play session. How does the traditional game vocabulary transfer to augmented reality experiences?
4:15 pm – 5:15 pm (US Eastern)Lingua Vitae: A Narrative VR Game that Teaches Latin (link)
Brian Beams, JooYeon Christina Ri, Lissa Crofton-Sleigh (30m)We present Lingua Vitae, a virtual reality interactive fiction project that takes place in ancient Rome in which all dialogue is in conversational Latin. We’ll show our findings from the first round of user testing and discuss the future of this project.Caves of Qud: A Decade of Worldbuilding (link)
Jason Grinblat (30m)Caves of Qud is an ambitious project, an expansive open-world roguelike that weaves a handwritten narrative through an array of physical, social, and historical simulations. It’s also been in development for over ten years. In this talk, co-creator Jason Grinblat shares what it’s like to spend a decade worldbuilding for a single game. He discusses his working relationship with two unexpected collaborators introduced to him by the passage of time: his prior self and the game’s active player community. The former, a nascent systems and narrative designer, worked intuitively and made choices (mistakes?) that today’s Jason must reckon with, including the design of a combat-centric core loop that often grinds against the game’s narrative goals. The latter—Qud’s active community—has helped define the soul of the game, spawning fan fiction that’s turned into canon, calling attention to latent themes like bodily autonomy, and organizing into a vibrant, inclusive community on Discord with an explicitly antifascist moderating position. Jason elucidates the unique challenges and joys of nurturing a world through the unusual medium of longform game development.
5:30 pm – 6:30 pm (US Eastern)Cast Thyself: Role Playing Without a Role (link)
Jessica Creane (60m)An unwritten rule in immersive theater states that creators must “cast” the audience. However, rules are meant to be broken. When does it make sense not to cast participants as someone other than themselves? (The speaker chose to postpone their talk.)( Slide )
Wednesday (June 3, 2020)
12:30 pm – 1:30 pm (US Eastern)Writing the Never-Ending Story (Without Burning Out) (link)
Rebecca Harwick (60m)The games-as-service world can be a scary prospect for writers and narrative designers, but it doesn’t have to be. Like other serialized media before them, narrative has a key role to play in keeping players engaged in games for years at a time. We’ll share insights into how to create hit serialized story-driven games without burning out or losing your creative spark.
1:45 pm – 2:45 pm (US Eastern)Making Storylets Work For You: How to Build a Quality-Based Narrative (link)
Josh Grams, Cat Manning (60m)Quality-based narrative is a surprisingly common technique in narrative design: some designers use it without realizing that’s what they’re doing. This enormously versatile model offers many advantages, but leveraging those advantages can be difficult. We’ll briefly explain the storylet-based architecture, and then illustrate one possible method for constructing such a system in Twine.
3:00 pm – 4:00 pm (US Eastern)More Choices is Not Better: Advantages of Linear Storytelling (link)
Sisi Jiang (60m)There’s a common assumption that player choices define “play”, and that linear experiences without choices are not games at all. We’ll make the case that linear narrative creates unique opportunities for games to tell stories.
4:15 pm – 5:15 pm (US Eastern)Machines for Getting Lost on Purpose: Kentucky Route Zero and the Future(s) of Adventure (link)
Aaron A. Reed (60m)The recently-completed KRZ revels in, reinvents, and reimagines the tropes of classic adventure games. We’ll walk through some of the game’s deepest cuts, tracing the references and callbacks you may have missed. But we’ll also tackle the game’s overall message across all its acts and interludes, considering its centering of stories about outsiders, its embrace of technologies that can be hacked, modified, and repurposed, and the roles that choice, agency, and simulation should play in IF.
5:30 pm – 6:30 pm (US Eastern)They Like to Watch: Embracing Interactive Fiction as a Spectator Sport (link)
Michael Andersen (60m)Alternate reality games excel at creating intensely personal moments for its most active players that become a compelling story for the broader audience. But other branches of IF are also exploring the subject. How are video games, escape rooms, ARGs, and LARPs designing experiences that treat their active players as only part of their audience, and why is that essential for the expansion of the space?
Thursday (June 4, 2020)
12:30 pm – 1:30 pm (US Eastern)Building Narrative Chat (link)
Doug Valenta (60m)For the past two years, I’ve been developing Mote, a real-time storytelling platform based on a new technology we call narrative chat. I’ll explain what narrative chat is and why we created it, dive into how the technology works, and offer my perspective on the future of text-based interactive and parametric narrative technology.
1:45 pm – 2:45 pm (US Eastern)The Differences Between Writing Voiced and Non-Voiced Dialogue (link)
Jedidjah Julia Noomen (60m)Screenwriters are used to writing dialogue for actors. Comic writers will just see their words on the page. And the game writer? The game writer can do both. How does your perspective shift when you switch from one to the other?
3:00 pm – 4:00 pm (US Eastern)Wandering Games (link)
Melissa Kagen (60m)The term “walking simulator” originated as a derogatory sneer, intended to denigrate games that were less violent, less task-oriented, or less difficult to complete. But what began as an insult has, in the last decade, become a catch-all term for games that are simply interested in alternative modes of expression and alternate considerations of embodiment, environment, orientation, and community. We’ll look at these games through the lens of wandering.
4:15 pm – 5:15 pm (US Eastern)