2019 Schedule

All sessions will be in the Stata Center, MIT building 32.

See the schedule in grid form

All weekend

  • Conversations
  • Lunches
  • The Expo Room, where you can show off new and in-progress work in a low-key demo space
  • Getting excited about that project you put aside
  • Helping to figure out how to run a new interactive story conference
  • Maybe a singalong

Special thanks to articy software for video recording of selected NarraScope talks!

Friday evening (June 14)

    • Early sign-in
      (6:30–7:00, Stata lobby)
      Look for us in the lobby outside room 123.
    • Twine Untangled: A Beginner’s WorkshopChris Klimas, Stuart Moulthrop
      (7:30–8:30, room 141)
      Twine is a platform for making anything from choose-your-own-adventure stories to entrancing, multi-mediated game-worlds. Twine is as powerful as a world of creative coders can make it – yet incredibly easy for beginners and a great tool for teachers. Join us for a hands-on taste of Twine, introducing the interface, basic composition, story logic, and some glimpses of scripting and other advanced topics. No programming experience necessary!
    • Teach Lamp: IF Workshop for EducatorsBrendan Desilets, Matt Farber
      (7:30–8:30, room 144)
      Are you a teacher who has always wondered about using interactive fiction in the classroom? Here’s your chance to sample some interactive fiction in its two principal forms, parser-based IF and choice-based IF, and to learn directly from people who successfully use it in their own teaching. In this workshop you’ll read interactive fiction that has been used in classrooms, and you’ll try your hand at writing some as well. This is your chance to get started!
    • Make Lamp: Crafting Parser-Based IF with Inform 7Anastasia Salter, Judith Pintar
      (7:30–8:30, room 155)
      The classic verb-driven, parser-based model of Interactive Fiction offers space for nuanced world-building, conversation models, and puzzle development, but can be needlessly daunting for beginners. We’ll dive into the “natural language” engine of Inform 7 and work through the textual construction of objects, rooms, and a few classic puzzles. For educators, Inform 7 can be a particularly compelling way to introduce the logics of object-oriented programming, and for writers Inform 7 offers impressive flexibility in narrative branching and NPC character building.

If you’re arriving Friday evening but you’re not interested in the workshops, meet other attendees in the Stata Center lobby!

Saturday (June 15)

    • Sign-in; breakfast
      (9:00–10:00, Stata lobby)
      Look for us in the lobby outside room 123.
    • Welcome and opening remarks
      (10:00–10:15, room 123)
      You’re here for the keynote but we gotta say hello first. Don’t worry, we’ll keep it short.
    • Keynote: Shaping Your Story with Emotional IntelligenceNatalia Martinsson
      (10:15–11:15, room 123)
      Natalia is an illustrator, animator, and the designer of indie hit Fran Bow and the upcoming Little Misfortune. Together with her partner Isak Martinsson, she creates adventure games with a sparkling mix of childhood whimsy and gruesome nightmare. Natalia will speak about shaping games with emotional intelligence. Her approach to character design colors every aspect of Killmonday’s games — writing, narrative design, even the studio workplace and production process.
      Content warning: mention of sexual abuse; cartoon blood and violence.
    • Dissecting the Bandersnatch With a Vorpal Blade: What Netflix’s Choose Your Own Adventure Got Right and Got WrongHeather Albano (mod), Mary Duffy, Jason Stevan Hill, Emily Short, Ian Thomas
      (11:30–12:30, room 123)
      Let’s take apart Netflix’s foray into the world of choose-your-path adventures! What did we think of Bandersnatch? What did it do well? Where did it fall down hard? Can it be forgiven for its self-referential jokes, or were they just too annoying? What would we, as experienced choose-your-path designers, have done differently? What are the specific challenges of doing this sort of thing for TV, and for an audience broader than the usual hard-core enthusiasts?
    • Twine: Past, Present, FutureChris Klimas
      (11:30–12:30, room 141)
      Chris Klimas will review the history of Twine, starting from its roots as a fork of TiddlyWiki in the late aughts through its renaissance during the indie game revolution of the 2010s. This history will include both technical milestones related to development of the Twine app as well as significant works built in Twine. We’ll cover the current status of the project, including work-in-progress on improvements and bugfixes. We’ll conclude with a discussion with the audience about future goals for Twine, as well as general feedback on the project.
    • All the World’s a Screen: How Improv and Playwriting Can Inform Digital NarrativeAaron Zemach
      (11:30–12:30, room 155)
      Complex characters, engaging dialogue, deeply realized worlds — these are not just the hallmarks of interactive fiction, but of all theatrical narrative. By borrowing technique from live theater, narrative designers can obtain the tools to enhance their emotionally resonant stories & characters. Using examples from games such as Myst, Grim Fandango, BioShock, The Stanley Parable, Kentucky Route Zero, and more, we’ll discuss both theory & applications of using the framework of playwriting and the spontaneity of improv to create a lasting work of narrative fiction.
    • Lunch
      (12:30–1:15, Stata lobby)
      Lunch will be provided on site. Nom nom.
    • How Telltale Designed Tools for Efficient Narrative DevelopmentZacariah Litton, Carl Muckenhoupt
      (1:15–2:15, room 123)
      We’ll discuss the Telltale unified tool-first approach to developing narrative content. This talk will explore how the tracking of creative output and automation of common writing and design tasks can empower creatives to focus on the details and polish. We’ll finish with the best practives we’ve learned from eight years of guiding tool development and how those can be applied on future narrative projects.
    • How Making Videogames Turned Me Into a Depressed Gay CommunistDietrich “Squinky” Squinkifer
      (1:15–2:15, room 141)
      Player agency, queer temporality, dis/identification, depression, burnout, resistance, resilience. A self-demonstrating interactive presentation in augmented reality.
    • Writing Within the Lines: Designing IF Without Scope CreepCat Manning
      (1:15–2:15, room 155)
      Every IF author has felt the lure of scope creep: one more mechanic, another room, a second perspective... which often leads to missed deadlines, loss of focus, and heartache. We’ll discuss how to scope small projects: how I’ve matched mechanics and story to external word limits, using “Invasion” and “We Are Not All Alone Unhappy,” (a forthcoming Twine piece about Shakespearean happy endings, designed for an academic journal). We’ll cover planning and pruning narrative branches in the abstract and the concrete; I’ll discuss prototype possibilities and the reasons I dismissed them.
    • Impromptu unconference hourEveryone in the room
      (2:30–3:30, room 123)
      Spend five minutes shouting out ideas for discussion groups, then divide up into groups and discuss them. You run the show.
    • Modernising and Opening: Inform for the 2020sGraham Nelson
      (2:30–3:30, room 141)
      The Inform design system for interactive fiction began in 1993, but its radical natural-language redesign ("Inform 7") debuted in April 2006. Inform 7 now finally approaches its publication day as both a human-readable work and also an open-source program on Github, under the Artistic License. Graham Nelson, the author, reports on this open-sourcing process, and on a tbree-year project since January 2016 to refactor and modernise the code. The most important development is an entirely new intermediate-level language, "Inter", which has made rapid progress since its announcement at the London IF Meetup in June 2018. Inter gives Inform a much wider range of potential uses, and also offers possibilities for interchange between and with other development systems such as Unity.
    • What Digital Storygames Can Learn From Analog StorygamesAaron A. Reed
      (2:30–3:30, room 155)
      Designers of computer-based interactive narratives have often been inspired by cozy memories of tabletop roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons, hoping to capture the magic and spontaneity of these traditional interactive story experiences. But analog storygames have continued to evolve. The current renaissance in analog storygames (Microscope, Fiasco, Apocalypse World) parallels the innovative first decade of adventure games and the parser interactive fiction heydey of the early 2000s. Aaron A. Reed will cover how these insights are shaping his thinking about what’s possible for the next generation of digital interactive stories.
    • “You Are Standing in a Classroom...” Meet the IFTF Education CommitteeJudith Pintar, Anastasia Salter, Chris Klimas, Stuart Moulthrop, Brendan Desilets, Matt Farber
      (3:45–4:45, room 123)
      Interactive fiction has a place in classrooms across the country, from grade school to college level. In subjects ranging from language and literature to social science, game design, and physics, educators are experimenting with teaching both parser-based and hypertext-driven interactive fiction in their classes. The attending members of the IFTF Educational Committee will share their experiences regarding the opportunities and challenges of integrating interactive fiction into their classrooms. The collective will also introduce the goals and planned work of the Educational Committee, inviting attendees to join us in the work of imagining and designing the educational opportunities that interactive fiction affords.
    • The Math Behind the Drama: Writing IF Like a Pop SongKatherine Morayati
      (3:45–4:45, room 141)
      How is “Spider and Web” like Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off”? What does Graham Nelson’s process share with Annie Lennox’s? What’s the “We Didn’t Start the Fire” of IF, or the “Let’s Go Crazy,” or the “Stan”? And how can your interactive fiction works stick with audiences as much as the hooks to these songs, which I’ve almost certainly just earwormed you with?
    • Designing Games That ListenDavid Kuelz
      (3:45–4:45, room 155)
      We’ll discuss the development of Starship Commander – a VR game that utilizes the Oculus microphone and speech recognition technology. Players address NPCs by speaking aloud into their Oculus, the characters listen, and then they respond, creating natural conversation between the player and the game. We’ll look at the technical realities of a game with free speech input, and how we designed the plot and dialogue themselves to help navigate such a difficult, complex landscape.
    • Lightning TalksMark Baumann, Ian Michael Waddell, Toiya Kristen Finley, Ben Schneider
      (5:00–6:00, room 123)
      Making Failure Fun: Moving Beyond Success-Based Dynamics in Narrative Design (Ian Michael Waddell)
      Sensory Details and Engaging the Player’s Imagination (Toiya Kristen Finley)
      Multiplayer Interactive Fiction: Technical and Authorial Challenges (Mark Baumann)
      Write Short! (Ben Schneider)
    • Writing Gender in Historical NarrativesRebecca Slitt
      (5:00–6:00, room 141)
      The idea of “historical accuracy” is often deployed to claim that women cannot take an active role in any premodern story - and therefore, to justify why the protagonist of games set in premodern times must be a man. However, this perception is itself inaccurate: actual history shows that women could and did act with just as much agency as men. Moreover, gender diversity was much greater in premodern societies than is often represented in most media. I will show how historical gender equality and gender diversity can be incorporated into IF, and how to overcome audience preconceptions/misconceptions in order to do so.
    • Plotting: How Save the Cat Can Save Your GameAmanda Gardner
      (5:00–6:00, room 155)
      Blake Snyder’s breakout screenplay helper Save The Cat doesn’t just make for good movie plots; it works for books and it’s especially helpful when writing games. Author, English teacher, and game writer Amanda Gardner has used this method to write six novels and the award-winning narrative thriller, Perception. In this talk, Amanda will go into detail about how Snyder’s “beat sheets” can help you outline the story of a game in a snap.

Sunday (June 16)

    • Sign-in; breakfast
      (9:00–10:00, Stata lobby)
      Look for us in the lobby outside room 123.
    • Meet the IFTF BoardJason McIntosh, Andrew Plotkin, Judith Pintar, Chris Klimas, Liza Daly
      (10:00–11:00, room 123)
      What is IFTF? Who are these people? What are we doing and what do we want to do next? The five members of IFTF’s board of directors will talk about the young nonprofit behind Narrascope and several other familiar programs that promote and benefit interactive fiction.
    • Integrating and Assessing Interactive Design through Interactive Fiction using InkTaylor Howard, Rachel Donley
      (10:00–11:00, room 141)
      An in-depth retrospective of teaching a large, mixed-mode, entry-level interactive design course through the lens of interactive fiction. We will also provide a post-mortem on teaching with Ink, an interactive fiction scripting language developed by Inkle Studios that produces choose-your-own-adventure style stories.
    • Location-Based Gaming: Writing for the Real WorldAustin Auclair
      (10:00–11:00, room 155)
      With the ubiquity of smartphones came a new type of gaming, that which allowed the layering of the digital world over the real world. Plenty has been done with location-based gaming with much more of the space yet to be explored. Geocaching is bigger than ever; and there’s a newer generation of experiences, like Ingress, Pokemon Go, and Silent Streets, which are starting to bring in camera-based augmented reality with varying levels of narrative success. This talk will cover where to start writing a story for a location-based experience, what to consider, what tools are available, and more.
    • Consent and Continuity: Writing Interactive RomanceRebecca Slitt (mod), Sharang Biswas, Dietrich Squinkifer, Aaron A. Reed, Tara Liu
      (11:15–12:15, room 123)
      Respecting player agency is important in all of IF, and even more important when it comes to writing interactive romantic relationships. How do you manage player expectations about romance? What are some techniques for balancing narrative flow with providing opportunities for active consent? How do you build satisfying relationships while allowing the player to choose how their character feels? What are some ways to deal with the challenges of writing romance in a nonlinear narrative structure, both in terms of narrative continuity and emotional development?
    • Narrative Immersion in Escape Room GamesLaura E. Hall
      (11:15–12:15, room 141)
      Some of the most popular tourist attractions in the world are immersive experiences, from theme parks, to Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, to Sleep No More in NYC. These experiences can range in scale from intimate, one-on-one theater performances to hundreds of people moving through sequential escape room games or haunted houses. We’ll discuss case study examples about how real world environments are crafted to tell stories, as well as the psychology behind drawing people into a crafted world.
    • Player Will Remember This – Why Dialogue Systems Make or Break Player EngagementJulius Kuschke
      (11:15–12:15, room 155)
      Over the last decades, games have made impressive progress in all aspects – from graphics, gameplay, and sound to animation and voice-over. Characters in games look, move and sound astonishingly real. But our conversations with them often still feel artificial, detached from the overall experience and sometimes just plain boring. By analyzing a wide range of different dialogue systems, we’ll learn why these systems enforce common shortcomings. We’ll look at more innovative examples (Firewatch, Oxenfree, We Should Talk); then we’ll discuss how dialogues can benefit from being fully intertwined with other game mechanics.
    • Lunch
      (12:15–1:00, Stata lobby)
      Another day, another nom.
    • Narrative on the Smartphone Screen: Writing for Interactive Story GamesToiya Kristen Finley (mod), Laura Scott, Heather Logas
      (1:00–2:00, room 123)
      We’ll present best practices that turn mobile interactive story games’ limitations into strengths, including 1) designing satisfying premium choices, 2) designing choice-based consequences that players can experience over multiple chapters, and 3) maximizing app engagement. We’ll also discuss how these affect romance visual novels, an extremely popular subgenre on mobile.
    • Engineering EmpathyDave Gilbert
      (1:00–2:00, room 141)
      Let’s talk about feelings! How do you get your players to care about your world, characters or story? How do you create emotional and meaningful engagement with your audience? Many games take it for granted that their players care, when it usually requires lots of testing, iteration, and tears. While there is no magic formula to make this happen, Dave Gilbert of Wadjet Eye will discuss how he attempts to make that connection in his own work.
    • JavaScript for AuthorsClaire Furkle
      (1:00–2:00, room 155)
      A brief overview of what JavaScript is, where it’s used in the websites and tools you use every day, how to start with it, and why it matters for interactive fiction on the internet.
      The speaker has requested no video or audio recording of this talk.
    • Narrative Intelligence in Interactive StorytellingChris Martens (mod), Stephen Ware, Stacey Mason, Aaron A. Reed
      (2:15–3:15, room 123)
      A panel of experts will discuss artificial intelligence in interactive storytelling, including character AI, narrative generation, drama management, automated game-mastering, and natural language processing (e.g. work commonly appearing in academic venues like the Intelligent Narrative Technologies workshop, the International Conference on Computational Creativity, and the International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling).
    • Making Horror: Hacking the Brain in GamesIan Thomas
      (2:15–3:15, room 141)
      How to closely bind the player and the character together in games, and how to then use that to trigger effects and emotions in the player’s head, rather than simply on the screen. This talk covers tricks and techniques drawn from video games, immersive theatre, and larp. It focuses on horror because that’s easy to talk about, but is equally effective for provoking other emotions.
    • Mathematics Through NarrativeMike Spivey
      (2:15–3:15, room 155)
      Explore the use of narrative games in teaching mathematics. We’ll discuss educational goals, the challenges involved, and the design of the author’s games A Beauty Cold and Austere and Junior Arithmancer.
    • Cragne Manor PostmortemMike Spivey (mod), Naomi Hinchen, Chris Jones, Carl Muckenhoupt, Jenni Polodna, Emily Short
      (3:30–4:30, room 123)
      A discussion of Cragne Manor, a parser game written in Inform 7 by over eighty authors. We’ll talk about the game’s inspiration (the 90s horror classic Anchorhead), as well as the goals, processes, successes, and failures of the Cragne project.
    • Worldbuilding Out of BoundsJess Haskins
      (3:30–4:30, room 141)
      Have you ever had an idea you wanted to explore but been unsure if the story was yours to tell? Does the dictum to “write what you know” apply when you’re creating fictional, even fantastical worlds? How can you create work that respectfully depicts or reflects diverse cultures and identities when you’re a small team or a solo creator, with a singular background and perspective? This craft-focused talk will discuss strategies for expanding the types of stories we tell — especially when venturing outside our own direct experience, identity, or culture.
    • Dinosaurs, Podcasters, and Wake Words, Oh My!: The Narrative Design of Earplay’s Jurassic World RevealedHeather Albano
      (3:30–4:30, room 155)
      The speaker was a writer on Jurassic World Revealed, a tie-in game for Jurassic World 2, created by Earplay for the Amazon Alexa. This project presented three interesting challenges for its narrative design and writing staff: 1. The challenges of designing a tie-in game whose narrative is supposed to occur in the interstices of a movie. 2. The challenge of incorporating enough actual non-cosmetic choices in a linear plotline that the player’s choices affect the outcome (and are proven to do so by the end stats). 3. The challenges of designing for voice.
      The speaker has requested no video or audio recording of this talk.
    • Wrap-up, feedback session
      (4:45–5:30, room 123)
      Closing remarks and thank-yous. We’ll poll you about how the weekend went, and open the floor for comments about how to make NarraScope 2020 even better.


    • Afterparty
      (6:00–9:00, Za, 350 Third St)
      Join us at Za for drinks and/or pizza and/or unwinding!