WRIT 324 Syllabus

[Updated syllabus for Fall 2022 to come]


Week #1 (Sept. 10): Introduction to Interactive Narratives

Topics: Introduction to the course, instructor & students. What is “interactive narrative”? Questions of genre and definition. Etiquette of online learning.

Read: Course outline. BrightSpace site.

View: Introduction to instructor & other videos.

Blog #1: Introduction to the class.


Week #2 (Sept. 14/17): History of Interactive Narratives. Writing in Twine.

Topics: What is interactive fiction? How can you write a branching prose narrative using Twine? (Guest instructor: Rich McCue)

Concepts: Story. Game. Puzzle. Contest. Agency. Immersion.

Media: Text adventures. CYOA. Interactive fiction. Hyperliterature. Visual novels. Mobile games. Twine.

Play @ home: Zork OR AI Dungeon AND Sleep When Exhausted (and Author’s Note and Essay).

Read/View @ home: “From Game-story to Cyberdrama”; “What is Interactive Storytelling?” OR “A Short History of Interactive Fiction”; “One Book, Many Readings”; “A Brief History of Zork”; “Writer’s Guide to Twine”; BONUS: “Get Lamp” AND/OR “The Clockwork Soldier

In class: Lifeline. Florence. Arcadia. Twine workshop, basics.

Blog #2: Write down three key “decision moments” in your life. Write an alternative history of your life for one branch.


Week #3 (Sept. 21/24): Writing in Twine: Part 2. Interactive video.

Topics: How can you use the open-source authoring tool Twine?

Concepts: Multimedia. Variables. Meaningful choice. Interactivity.

Media: Twine. Web. Interactive video.

Play @ home: Depression Quest AND 1 other Twine examples. Black Mirror: Bandersnatch OR The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. the Reverend OR Eko interactive video.

Read/View @ home: “Interactive Fiction”; “Standard Patterns in Choice-Based Games”; “Love, Twine and the End of the World” OR “The Inside Story of Bandersnatch

In class: Twine Workshop, advanced

Blog #3: What makes an effective Twine story and/or interactive video?


Week #4 (Sept. 28 / Oct. 1): Video Game Narratives

Topics: Storytelling in video games

Concepts: Setting. Characterization. Game mechanic. Ludonarrative dissonance. Environmental storytelling. Objects and artefacts. Dialogue tree.

Media: PC, console and mobile games. Walking simulator. Story-exploration game.

Play @  home: Gone Home OR Her Story OR One Night Stand OR 80 Days (purchase and play at home 1-3 hours).

Read/View: @  home: “So You Want to Write for Video Games?”; “Ludonarrative Dissonance in BioShock” OR “Ludonarrative Dissonance”; “Video Games are Better without Stories“.

In class: Firewatch and The Long Dark

Blog #4: Reflections on interactive storytelling in Gone Home.


Week #5 (Oct. 5/8): Improv, Interactive Theatre, RPGs

Topics: Collaborative writing. Creating Characters. Drama & conflict. Plot.

Concepts: Improv. Role-playing. Character-building. Conflict. Motivation. Yes-And. Collaborative world-building. Performance.

Media: Role-playing games. Interactive Theatre.

Read/View/Listen @ home: “The Way of Improvisation”. Character Development Template. Fiasco rules & scenarios. Voices of VR Podcast episode on Immersive Theatre OR Live Action Role Playing.

In class: Fiasco (via Zoom in 2 sessions)

Blog #5: Create a character from the template for your Major Project.

Due: Twine Drafts (Group #1 x 6).


Week #6 (Oct. 12/15): Workshop A1

Topics: Revision. Iteration. Feedback.

Read/Play: Peers draft stories. Workshop Guidelines. Twine Writing Tips.

View @ home: “Designing Text UX for Effortless Reading

Blog #6: Fiasco debrief — imagine your own LARP or RPG.

Due: Twine Drafts (Group #2 x 6).


Week #7 (Oct. 19/22): Workshop A2

Topics: Revision. Iteration. Feedback.

Read/Play @ home: Peers draft stories. Grim Fandango Design Document (bonus).

Blog #7: Design Document draft (concept, storyline, medium, interactivity, research)

Due: Twine Drafts (Group #3 x 6).


Week #8 (Oct. 26/29): Workshop A3

Topics: Revision. Iteration. Feedback.

Read/Play @ home: Peers draft stories. “Rhetorical Devices for Electronic Literature.


Week #9 (Nov. 2/5): Games for Change Part 1

Topics: Can interactive storytelling address social issues?

Concepts: Games for change. Diversity in games/interactive media. Parody.

Media: Serious games. Indie games. Simulation games.

Play @ home: Spent. Unmanned. DyS4ia.

Read/View @ home: “What big publishers can learn about representation” OR “#ResistJam” OR “GTA V and the Problem of Privilege

In class: Queers in Love at the End of the World. Socioeconomic Pong.

Due: Twine Stories final draft.


Week #10 (Nov. 9/12): Games for Change Part 2. Project Demos & Workshop B1

Topics: Can interactive storytelling improve journalism or education? (Monday) Workshop B1 (Thursday)

Concepts: Empathy effect. Newsgames. Persuasive games. Point of view.

Media: Newsgames. Simulation games. God games.

Play @ home: Kibbutz: The Settlers of Palestine AND Bear 71 OR Fort McMoney.

Read/View @ home: “Games as Empathy Machines” report OR “Empathy, Perspective and Complicity” report OR “Using digital games for conflict resolution” podcast OR “Games and Empathy” panel.

In class: Selection from 1979 Revolution. Finding Home. Bury Me, My Love. PeaceMaker. Games4Change Jam.


Read/Play @ home: “The (Procedural) Rhetoric of Games” (Monday). Peers draft projects (Thursday).

Blog #8: Pitch an idea for a Game4Change or interactive story designed for social, political or educational impact — making reference to one of the readings or videos

Due: Major Project Drafts (Group #1 x 3, Group #2 x 3).


Week #11 (Nov. 16/19): Reading Break / Project Demos & Workshop B2


Topics: Workshop B2 (Thursday)

Read/Play: Peers draft projects (Thursday).

Due: Major Project Drafts (Group #3 x 6).


Week #12 (Nov. 23/26): Major Project Demos / Workshop B3

Topics: Workshop B3.

Read/Play: Peers draft projects

Blog #9: Read (at least) one chapter from Jesse Schell’s Game Design: A Book of Lenses (online) and then apply (and answer) the set of lenses in that chapter to your Major Project.

Due: Major Project Drafts (Group #4 x 6).


Week #13 (Nov. 30 / Dec. 3): Major Project Demos / Workshop B4

Topics: Workshop B4. Wrap-up class.

Read/Play: Peers draft projects

Blog #10: Reflect on what you’ve learned this term about interactive storytelling (from the course, the readings, the projects and/or your fellow students) and your current design process for the Major Project. What major obstacles do you still need to overcome?


December 10

Due: Major Project & Design Document (posted to BrightSpace)