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The ‘Angstfabriek’ experience: Factoring Fear into Transformative Interactive Narrative Design

Conference paper
Christian Roth
International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling 2019

Interactive Narratives in the form of Interactive Theater have the potential to offer a transformational learning experience on societal and political topics. The purposive interactive installation Angstfabriek (Dutch for fear fac-tory) lets visitors experience fear-mongering and the related safety industry, with the goal of eliciting reflection, insight, and discussion. As a case study for a potentially transformative experience, the installation is described and evaluated by means of a focus group interview and a pilot user experience study (N = 32). Findings show the importance of sufficient scripting of interactions regarding their role and agency, highlighting the conceptual connection between interactive digital narrative design and interactive theater design.

Bandersnatch, Yea or Nay? Reception and User Experience of an Interactive Digital Narrative Video

Conference paper
Christian Roth & Hartmut Koenitz
Roth, C., & Koenitz, H. Bandersnatch, Yea or Nay? Reception and User Experience of an Interactive Digital Narrative Video. In Proceedings of the 2019 ACM International Conference on Interactive Experiences for TV and Online Video (pp. 247-254). ACM. 2019

The Netflix production Bandersnatch represents a potentially crucial step for interactive digital narrative videos, due to the platform’s reach, popularity, and ability to finance costly experimental productions. Indeed, Netflix has announced that it will invest more into interactive narratives-moving into romance and other genres-which makes Bandersnatch even more important as the first step and harbinger of things yet to come. For us, the question was therefore how audiences react to Bandersnatch. What are the factors driving users’ enjoyment and what factors might mitigate the experience? For example, the novelty value of an interactive experience on Netflix might be a crucial aspect of the combination with the successful series Black Mirror. We approach these questions from two angles-with a critical analysis of the work itself, including audience reactions and an initial user study using Roth’s measurement toolbox (N = 32).

Using the Revised Bloom Taxonomy to Analyze Psychotherapeutic Games

Journal paper
Priscilla Haring, Harald Warmelink, Marilla Valente & Christian Roth
International Journal of Computer Games Technology 2018

Most of the scientific literature on computer games aimed at offering or aiding in psychotherapy provides little information on the relationship between the game’s design and the player’s cognitive processes. This article investigates the use of Bloom’s taxonomy in describing a psychotherapeutic game in terms of knowledge level and cognitive processing. It introduces the Revised Bloom Taxonomy and applies this to five psychotherapeutic games (Personal Investigator, Treasure Hunt, Ricky and the Spider, Moodbot, and SuperBetter) in a two-round procedure. In the first round consensus was reached on the Player Actions with Learning Objectives (PALOs) in each game. The second round sought to determine what level of knowledge and cognitive processing can be attributed to the PALOs by placing them in the taxonomy. Our low intercoder reliability in the second round indicates that Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy is not suitable to compare and contrast content between games.

Ludonarrative Hermeneutics: A Way Out and the Narrative Paradox

Conference paper
Christian Roth, Tom van Nuenen & Hartmut Koenitz
Roth, Christian, Tom van Nuenen, and Hartmut Koenitz. "Ludonarrative Hermeneutics: A Way Out and the Narrative Paradox." International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling. Springer, Cham, 2018.

The practice of designing Interactive Digital Narratives [IDN] is often described as a challenge facing issues such as the “narrative paradox” and avoid-ing the unintentional creation of “ludonarrative dissonance”. These terms are expressions of a perspective that takes narrative and interactivity as dichotomic ends of a design trajectory, mirroring an enduring discussion in-game studies be-tween positions often cast as ludologists and narratologists. The dichotomy of ludo versus narrative is, in itself, problematic and is often the source of the very conflict it describes. In this paper, we investigate this issue through the example of the cooperative game A Way Out, in which two players team up to break out of prison. The game is designed with a narrative twist, involving the escalation and final resolution of the game’s competitive motif in the final scene. To understand the user experiences of this reveal, and the concomitant consequences, we engage in a discursive analysis of “Let’s Play” videos as a largely untapped re-source for research. By analyzing the interactions and performances in these videos, we can more clearly understand player responses to unsatisfying IDN design. As a result, we introduce the notion of a ‘hermeneutic strip’, extending Koenitz’ SPP model to locate and describe the involved processes of narrative cognition in IDN work.

Interactive Digital Narratives (IDN) for Change: Educational Approaches and Challenges in a Project Focused on Migration

Conference paper
Teun Dubbelman, Christian Roth & Hartmut Koenitz

This paper shares the results of an interactive digital narrative (IDN) project, conducted at HKU University of the Arts Utrecht. We consider the potential of ‘IDN for change’, before we describe the project, the underlying design approach, and the educational approaches. A particular focus of this paper is on pedagogical considerations. We describe the educational challenges we have encountered during the project as well as the pedagogical interventions we have implemented to counter these difficulties. On this basis, we discuss a more general perspective on the state and issues in IDN-focused pedagogy.

Experiencing Interactive Storytelling

Roth, C.
PhD Thesis, 2016

Interactive Storytelling is a promising new technology at the intersection of different media, research fields, and emerging technologies (e.g., artificial intelligence, virtual reality, generative content), offering plenty of application possibilities. This work explores the appeal of Interactive Storytelling applications to get a better understanding of what makes the concept unique and potentially enjoyable. Given the recency of the field under study, we developed a formal definition of Interactive Storytelling and identified fourteen dimensions of user experiences possibly related to the enjoyment of Interactive Storytelling applications. Finally, we conducted a number of experimental studies to investigate the role of interaction, replaying, different user roles, and perceived user agency on the user experience of Interactive Storytelling.

Interactive Storytelling pursues the vision of making the experience of narratives truly interactive, by letting users make meaningful decisions, e.g. influence the fate of characters, and thus co-create the story. The users’ impact on the narrative should be intentional and users should be aware of this influence to experience agency. While the experience of Interactive Storytelling overlaps in part with experiences known from playing narrative-laden video games or watching movies, researchers and designers envision it to become an entirely new type of media. Envisioned applications of Interactive Storytelling often lie in the field of modern literature, education, and therapeutic treatment.

The aim of this work was to provide a comprehensive analysis of Interactive Storytelling’s properties using a theoretical framework based on entertainment theory, resulting in fourteen user experience dimensions. We categorized these into experiences related to the appreciation of interactivity, the appreciation of narrative, and affective outcomes (e.g. overall enjoyment and affect). Existing scales to measure these concepts were selected from the literature and where not available, we developed new measurement instruments. The resulting measurement battery was used in all empirical studies presented throughout the dissertation.

From our perspective, Interactive Storytelling needs to provide users with a sufficient level of entertainment to succeed as a new medium. For this reason, our secondary goal was to investigate how user experiences unique to Interactive Storytelling relate to enjoyment. This is crucial for the design and user experience evaluation of present and future applications, entertainment products and serious applications alike.

This dissertation covers five experimental studies that examine the user experience of different storytelling applications. We studied the effects of interaction on the experience of narratives in two experiments using the applications Fahrenheit (N = 80) and Façade (N = 68), featuring participants either interacting with a computer mediated story or passively watching a recorded sequence thereof. Both studies showed that interactivity significantly fuels the sense of effectance. However, most other experience dimensions were not significantly affected, hence we concluded that providing interactivity does not necessarily lead to intensified entertainment experiences.

The third experiment (N = 50) explored the role of interaction further, this time in relation to perceived effectance or agency, to explain the enjoyment of Interactive Storytelling. We let participants play the application Façade twice to see how their increasing experience with an Interactive Storytelling platform alters user actions and experiences.  We conclude that replay is one way to make agency more visible; at the same time the perception of agency is highly influenced by the meaningfulness of system responses.

Based on the results of the previous experiments, we developed the hypothesis that the perception of global agency is a key determinant of enjoyment in Interactive Storytelling environments. Global agency is the users’ awareness that they do not only impact local events (handling physical objects, engaging in social interactions) but also global events (the story plot, its development, and its outcome). Two final experiments tested the effects of manipulating perceived global agency on user experiences. The first experiment examined two different user roles (local: “actor” vs. global: “ghost”) in the Interactive Storytelling system Emo Emma (N = 34). To test the effects of agency, participants played both roles, and reported user experiences after each session. In the second study, we manipulated the perception of local and global agency by adding sonic feedback to the commercially available interactive narrative Dinner Date (N = 46). The perception of agency was manipulated through two differing introductions participants were randomly assigned to, claiming that the feedback sounds signal local agency or global agency respectively. Results showed the application was more reciprocal (autonomy), interesting (curiosity), and immersive (flow) for participants in the global agency group. We conclude that more freedom and autonomy, as found in the ghost mode, and more meaningful effectance, as a result of perceived global agency, could be unique drivers for the enjoyment of Interactive Storytelling applications.

Overall, we found that current Interactive Storytelling applications are still limited in providing either autonomy or global agency. We argue that for genuine Interactive Storytelling experiences, users need to perceive interactions with a system as meaningful and we offer some ideas to make interactions more tangible. This dissertation advanced insights into drivers of appeal of Interactive Storytelling both theoretically and empirically, and provides the means to evaluate future applications.

Evaluating the User Experience of Interactive Digital Narrative

Conference paper
Christian Roth & Hartmut Koenitz
ACM Multimedia Conference 2016

Many virtual and alternate reality projects create narrative experiences in the digital medium. These are Interactive Digital Narratives (IDN), a form of expression at the intersection of different artistic approaches, research fields (humanities, computer science), and emerging technologies (e.g., artificial intelligence, virtual reality, generative content), with a wide potential for different applications. A key element towards fulfilling this potential is the creation of satisfying user experience. In this paper, we present a toolbox for the evaluation of the user experience that connects which enables the systematic and quantitative study of IDN user experiences. This approach connects research in psychology based on Entertainment Theory with a humanities-based perspective. Specifically, we map Murray’s influential theoretical framework to Roth’s empirical dimensions and thus connect an analytical framework to empirical research.

Interaction in Surround Video: The Effect of Auditory Feedback on Enjoyment

Conference paper
Vosmeer, M., Roth, C., & Schouten, B.
Interactive Storytelling Conference Proceedings (ICIDS), 2015

This study investigates whether an interactive surround video is perceived as more enjoyable when there is some auditory feedback on interactive moments. We constructed a questionnaire that measured presence, effectance, autonomy, flow, enjoyment, system usability, user satisfaction and identification, filled in by two groups of respondents who had either watched an interactive movie on Oculus Rift with feedback sounds, or a version without. Our results show that users rated presence significantly lower in the feedback condition. We rejected our hypothesis, that auditory feedback would increase the perception of effectance.

Breaching Interactive Storytelling's Implicit Agreement: A Content Analysis of Façade User Behaviors

Conference paper
Roth, C., & Vermeulen, I.
Interactive Storytelling Conference Proceedings (ICIDS), 2013

Using both manual and automatic content analysis we analyzed 100 collected screen plays of 50 users of the IS system Façade, coding the extent to which users stayed “in character”. Comparing this measure for first and second exposure to Façade revealed that users stay significantly less in character during second exposure. Further, related to a set of independently collected user experience measures we found staying in character to negatively influence users’ affective responses. The results confirm the notion that the more Façade users keep to their assigned role, the easier they become dissatisfied with the system’s performance. As a result, users start exploring the system by acting “out of character”.

Real Story Interaction: The Role of Global Agency in Interactive Storytelling

Conference paper
Roth, C., & Vermeulen, I.
Entertainment Computing Proceedings (ICEC), 2012

Interactive Storytelling (IS) is a promising new entertainment technology synthesizing pre-authored narrative with dynamic user interaction. Research on user experiences in IS is sparse. The current experiment tested whether different player expectations regarding the impact of their actions yield different user experiences by framing user agency as “local” vs. “global” in the introduction to the story. Local agency influences character behavior and story events, whereas global agency influences story development and outcomes. A between-subject design involved N=46 participants playing the interactive story “Dinner Date”. Findings suggest that experiential qualities (autonomy, flow, curiosity) reached higher levels when players believed to have an impact on the story outcome (global agency). Enjoyment did not differ between conditions. Systematic gender differences in user experiences are discussed.

Playing In or Out of Character: User Role Differences in the Experience of Interactive Storytelling

Journal paper
Roth, C., Vermeulen, I., Vorderer, P., Klimmt, C., Pizzi, D., Lugrin, J. L., & Cavazza, M.
Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 15(11), 2012

Abstract Interactive storytelling (IS) is a promising new entertainment technology synthesizing preauthored narrative with dynamic user interaction. Existing IS prototypes employ different modes to involve users in a story, ranging from individual avatar control to comprehensive control over the virtual environment. The current experiment tested whether different player modes (exerting local vs. global influence) yield different user experiences (e.g., senses of immersion vs. control). A within-subject design involved 34 participants playing the cinematic IS drama “Emo Emma” both in the local (actor) and in global (ghost) mode. The latter mode allowed free movement in the virtual environment and hidden influence on characters, objects, and story development. As expected, control-related experiential qualities (effectance, autonomy, flow, and pride) were more intense for players in the global (ghost) mode. Immersion-related experiences did not differ over modes. Additionally, men preferred the sense of command facilitated by the ghost mode, whereas women preferred the sense of involvement facilitated by the actor mode.

Forecasting the Experience of Future Entertainment Technology. Interactive Storytelling and Media Enjoyment

Journal paper
Klimmt, C., Roth, C., Vermeulen, I., Vorderer, P., & Roth, F. S.
Games and Culture, 7(3), 2012

Advances in gaming and other entertainment technologies are evolving rapidly and create new conceptual challenges for understanding and explaining the user experiences they can facilitate. The present article reports a prospective study on a particularly promising entertainment technology of the future: Interactive storytelling (IS). Integrating various streams of computing technology, such as advanced visualization, natural speech processing, and autonomous agents, IS systems are envisioned to offer new, personalized and thus unique kinds of entertainment to mass audiences of the future. The authors refer to existing models of media entertainment for a theoretical analysis and analyze expert interviews with members of the international IS development community to lay out the foundations for a forecast model of the entertainment experience of future IS systems. The resulting model organizes fundamental requirements, modes of users’ information processing, and specific types of (pleasant) experiences, which holds implications for (future) entertainment theory and research that accompanies further development of IS media.

Exploring Replay Value: Shifts and Continuities in User Experiences Between First and Second Exposure to an Interactive Story

Journal paper
Roth, C., Vermeulen, I., Vorderer, P., & Klimmt, C.
Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 15(7), 2012

While replay value is a common term in interactive entertainment, psychological research on its meaning in terms of user experiences is sparse. An exploratory experiment using the interactive drama “Façade” was conducted (N=50) to examine shifts and continuities in entertainment-related user experiences between first and second exposure to the same system. A questionnaire with brief scales measuring various user-experience dimensions (interaction-related facets such as usability, flow, and presence, as well as narrative-related facets such as suspense and curiosity) was administered after the first and the second round of exposure. Findings suggest that replay produces gains in action-related experience components such as presence and effectance, whereas narrative-related experiences such as curiosity and suspense remain stable across exposures. Implications for theorizing on interactive entertainment experiences are discussed.

Cognitive Processes Involved in Video Game Identification

Conference paper
Blake, C., Hefner, D., Roth, C., Klimmt, C., & Vorderer, P.
Entertainment Computing Proceedings (ICEC), 2012

Identifying with video game characters is one potentially important process in game enjoyment. Based on a theoretical model of video game identification as transformed self-perception, cognitive processes in video game identification were explored. An experiment with N = 60 male players revealed that increased cognitive accessibility of character-related concepts should be considered as element of the identification process. Moreover, shifts in players’ self-perceptions were observed so that players of a shooter video game (Call of Duty 2 TM) described themselves as less gentle and more soldier-like than a control group. Overall, the study suggests that shifts in self-related cognition occur as part of the gaming experience. Implications for future research on game enjoyment and long-term game effects are discussed.

The Experience of Interactive Storytelling: Comparing Fahrenheit with Façade

Conference paper
Roth, C., Klimmt, C., Vermeulen, I. E., & Vorderer, P.
Entertainment Computing Proceedings (ICEC), 2011

At the intersection of multimedia, artificial intelligence, and gaming technology, new visions of future entertainment media arise that approximate the “Holodeck” ® idea of interactive storytelling. We report exploratory experiments on the user experience in a ‘classic’, foundational application of interactive storytelling, “Façade” (Mateas & Stern, 2002), and compare results with an identical experiment carried out with users of the adventure game “Fahrenheit”. A total of N = 148 participants used one of the systems interactively or watched a pre-recorded video sequence of the application without interactive involvement. Using a broad range of entertainment-related measures, the experience of Interactive Storytelling was found to depend strongly on interactivity (mostly in “Façade”) and to differ substantially across the systems, with “Façade” achieving a stronger connection between interactive use and the resulting profile of entertainment experiences.

The Audience Embedded in the Narrative: An Experiment in Interactive Storytelling

Conference paper
Vorderer, P., Klimmt, C., Roth, C., & Vermeulen, I.
International Association for Media and Communication Research Proceedings (IAMCR), 2011

Research on audience experiences and responses to media entertainment has made remarkable progress over the past decade. Innovations in media content and technology continue to rise new challenges to entertainment studies, both in theoretical and empirical dimensions.

One ‘hot’ innovation in entertainment technology is the co-evolution of digital games, artificial intelligence, and other facets of advanced computer systems into “Interactive Storytelling” (Cavazza, Lugrin, Pizzi & Charles, 2007). The synthesis of elaborated story, multimedia presentation and rich interactivity is envisioned to result in a radically new audience experience in which users make meaningful decisions on the progress of the narrative and thus co-narrate the story. To use such an “Interactive Story” may be compared to the experience of ‘being’ in a novel’s word, of especially immersive video gaming or of participating in a virtual improvisation theatre.

The present research aims to theorized and examine the audience’s entertainment experience in ‘Interactive Stories’ before this new type of media technology enters mass markets. Based on existing models of media entertainment, the video game experience in particular (Vorderer & Bryant, 2006), an experiment was conducted with a widely recognized prototype of Interactive Storytelling, “Façade” (Dow et al., 2007). This system involves users in a dialogue with two autonomous characters whose intimate relationship is going through a crisis, which results in interesting affective dynamics.

The study (N = 68 students, 44 females) focused on the importance of interactivity for the story experience. Therefore, participants were randomly assigned to either use “Façade” interactively or merely watch a prerecorded video of another person’s interaction with the system. Interactivity was thus manipulated experimentally (on / off). After 15 minutes of exposure, participants completed a questionnaire and rated their experience on various dimensions relevant to entertainment, including presence, suspense, and enjoyment.

Results show that audience experiences do not differ between interactive and non-interactive use of the story on very many dimensions. Most importantly, no significant group differences emerged for key dimensions such as curiosity and suspense. However, users displayed more overall enjoyment in the interactive condition (p = .07), more positive and less negative affect than users in the non-interactive condition (p’s < .05). Two experiential processes seem to drive this difference in emotional response, namely a higher degree of presence and of efficacy experience (effectance) that come along with interactive story exposure (p’s < .01).

Findings suggest that Interactive Storytelling combines known aspects of narrative experiences (such as suspense) with action-based audience responses (effectance and presence). In this sense, Interactive Storytelling is indeed distinct from prior types of media entertainment, also from an audience perspective. On the other hand, the fact that the interactive “Façade” experience displays substantial similarities with the non-interactive version also suggests that interactive stories are no ‘radically’ new type of entertainment. Implications for entertainment theory and future trends of the entertainment industry need to be considered accordingly.

Measuring User Responses to Interactive Stories: Towards a Standardized Assessment Tool

Conference paper
Vermeulen, I. E., Roth, C., Vorderer, P., & Klimmt, C.
Interactive Storytelling Conference Proceedings (ICIDS), 2010

With the increasing number of prototypes and market applications of interactive storytelling, the understanding and optimization
of how end users respond to computer-mediated interactive narratives is of growing importance. Based on a conceptual model
of user experiences in interactive storytelling, a measurement instrument for empirical user-based research was developed.
We report findings from an initial test of the self-report scales that was conducted with N = 80 players of the adventure game
”Fahrenheit”. Interactivity was manipulated experimentally in order to validate the measures. Results suggest that the scales
will be useful for comparing user responses to ‘real’ interactive storytelling systems.

Measuring the User Experience in Narrative-Rich Games: Towards a Concept-based Assessment for Interactive Stories

Conference paper
Roth, C., Vorderer, P., Klimmt, C., & Vermeulen, I.
Entertainment Interfaces Proceedings (HCI), 2010

With the increasing number of prototypes and market applications of interactive storytelling, the understanding and optimization
of how end users respond to computer-mediated interactive narratives is of growing importance. Based on a conceptual model
of user experiences in interactive storytelling, a measurement instrument for empirical user-based research was developed.
We report findings from an initial test of the self-report scales that was conducted with N = 80 players of the adventure game
”Fahrenheit”. Interactivity was manipulated experimentally in order to validate the measures. Results suggest that the scales
will be useful for comparing user responses to ‘real’ interactive storytelling systems

Identification With Video Game Characters as Automatic Shift of Self-Perceptions

Journal paper
Klimmt, C., Hefner, D., Vorderer, P., Roth, C., & Blake, C.
Media Psychology, 13(4), 2010

Two experiments tested the prediction that video game players identify with the character or role they are assigned, which leads to automatic shifts in implicit self-perceptions. Video game identification, thus, is considered as a kind of altered self-experience. In Study 1 (N = 61), participants either played a first-person shooter game or a racing game. Subsequently, they performed an Implicit Association Test (IAT) designed to detect cognitive associations between character-related concepts and players’ self. Findings indicate a stronger automatic association of military-related concepts to shooter players’ self and a stronger association of racing-related concepts to racing game players’ self. Study 2 (N = 48) replicated the IAT result from Study 1 and demonstrated the stability of the identification pattern. Implications for identification as an element of the video game experience and future research directions are discussed.

The Motivational Appeal of Interactive Storytelling: Towards a Dimensional Model of the User Experience

Conference paper
Roth, C., Vorderer, P., & Klimmt, C.
Interactive Storytelling Conference Proceedings (ICIDS), 2009

A conceptual account to the quality of the user experience that interactive storytelling intends to facilitate is introduced.
Building on social-scientific research from ‘old’ entertainment media, the experiential qualities of curiosity, suspense, aesthetic
pleasantness, self-enhancement, and optimal task engagement (“flow”) are proposed as key elements of a theory of user experience
in interactive storytelling. Perspectives for the evolution of the model, research and application are briefly discussed.

Player Performance, Satisfaction, and Video Game Enjoyment

Conference paper
Klimmt, C., Blake, C., Hefner, D., Vorderer, P., & Roth, C.
Entertainment Computing Proceedings (ICEC), 2009

An experiment (N = 74) was conducted to investigate the impact of game difficulty and player performance on game enjoyment. Participants played
a First Person Shooter game with systematically varied levels of difficulty. Satisfaction with performance and game enjoyment were assessed after playing. Results are not fully in line with predictions derived from flow and attribution theory and suggest players to (1) change their view on their own performance with its implications for enjoyment with increasing game experience and (2) to switch strategically between different sources of fun, thus maintaining a (somewhat) positive experience even when performance-based enjoyment is low.