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Interactive stories and games

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Why make things interactive?

By interactive, we mean making something that someone else can interact with. In other words, they don't passively take in the content, but they have to do something to interact with it. A bit like clicking the heading below to find out more.

What kinds of things are interactive?

In everyday life, many things are interactive - you do things to them to control them. A light switch, for example, is interactive.

However, we're thinking specifically about media that is interactive, especially things you might create digitally. Video games are an obvious example, from simple games you might play in a web browser or an app to complex games with almost infinite possibilities.

Games aren't the only example, however. Websites are interactive, as users can choose their own path through them. You can even create slide presentations and spreadsheets that are interactive. And almost everything you might use on a digital device tends to be interactive in some way.

Interactive stories are also very common in some areas. You might be aware of 'Choose Your Own Adventure' books or films like Netflix's Bandersnatch, as narratives that have user interaction. As you consume the story, you make decisions, and there are multiple ways the plot could go. Digital technology opens up more ways of creating these kinds of stories, using different kinds of tools.

Making things interactive can help you find new ways to communicate your argument or story, or give people different routes through your material. Interactivity can:

  • Help people empathise with others by recreating the choices they make or paths they follow. Second person pronouns like 'you' might be used to make the user feel like they're part of the narrative.
  • Get greater engagement by turning people from passive observers into active participants.
  • Give people a chance to choose which material to engage with or not, like choosing areas they're more interested in or setting a difficulty level.

Twine

Twine is a tool for creating interactive, non-linear stories and text-based games that work by getting the user to choose the path they want to follow through your structure.

Twine creates an HTML file containing your story/game, making it easy to then publish your story on the internet for others to try.

It is also a good tool for planning out interactive narratives, even if you don't want to publish a text-based game version. The Netflix interactive film Bandersnatch was plotted out using Twine.

Although Twine is designed for making games and interactive narratives, you might also find it useful for organising information in different ways, making more of a mind map structure rather than something linear. Try using it to make notes or organise your thoughts!

Making games

Games are fun, but they can also be useful ways of communicating ideas and concepts to people (whilst they have fun). Educational games can teach you things whilst you play, and informative games might open your eyes to different perspectives and ideas.

If you want to create a game, whether just for fun or to communicate your work or research in a new way, you're probably going to need to use some kind of coding. This is so you can tell the computer how your game should work: what the user needs to see and be able to do, and how the game should react to their actions.

Our Coding Practical Guide covers the basics of coding. If you want to start making a game, you might want to try block-based coding with Scratch, which gives you a game screen you can customise and 'blocks' of code to put together, or start learning another coding language if you want to create your game exactly how you want it.

You might also want to create a quiz. You could use a coding language to do this, or you might want to use a specific quiz or form tool to do this. Our forms & surveys guide has more information on using these - try using options to display certain blocks if someone picks a particular choice if you want to create more of a sense of personalisation or adventure.