ICIDS and ACE conferences

tl;dr Presented a paper on user communication during interaction with an interactive digital storytelling system at ICIDS; presented a paper on the possibilities of meta-techniques from live action role play for serious games at SBG workshop at ACE.

Two weeks ago, the Bahçeşehir University in Istanbul, Turkey hosted the 6th International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling (ICIDS) and I had the pleasure of presenting a joint work of Mariët, me and Thijs Alofs on the communication of users during interaction with an interactive storytelling system (the paper, entitled “Acting, Playing, or Talking about the Story: An Annotation Scheme for Communication during Interactive Digital Storytelling”, can be accessed here, the presentation here). This was actually a continuation of our analysis of the coherence of stories created by children with the Virtual Storyteller (see my post about, among other things, the Computational Models of Narrative workshop). We were motivated to do this because we saw that the children explained their actions in the story to each other, which strengthened their coherence. In this research, we looked at their communication in more detail and created an annotation scheme that revolves around the children taken three different perspectives (as a character, player or person outside of play) towards three different frames of reference (the story, game and ‘real’ world). This gave us insight into how immersed the children were in the story and game.

View from the Bosphorus.

A large portion of the other talks given at the conference were interesting and a few of them were very much related to the research we are involved with. Especially Neil Suttie’s thoughts on authoring emergent narratives, John Truesdale and Ruth Aylett’s ideas about using context to enrich emergent narratives and Stacey Mason’s distinction between types of immersion seemed very relevant (see here for the complete proceedings).

Last week, the Advances in Computer Entertainment Technology (ACE) conference was organised by, among others, Dennis Reidsma and Anton Nijholt of my department and I had the privilege of assisting them, together with some other PhD students, in building up and tearing down the necessary installations. Yet more importantly, I had also written a paper, “What Is at Play? Meta-techniques in Serious Games and Their Effects on Social Believability and Learning” (available here; presentation here), together with Mariët and Thomas about the link between live action role play (larp), interactive storytelling and serious games, which was accepted for presentation at the Social Believability in Games workshop (SBG) at ACE. In the paper, we argued that so-called meta-techniques that are used in larps to communicate meta-information (information that is not available to the characters in the larp, but only to the players, for example, information about the progress of the larp) can be implemented in serious games to give players more insight into what is at play during the game. For instance, the inner monologue is a meta-technique that can be used to let a player communicate his or her character’s thoughts to other players so that they understand what this character is feeling or why he or she is acting in a certain way. The other talks during the workshop focused on models for building trust, having heuristics for character believability and providing characters with their own identities based on social context. Another paper in which I was involved, “Keeping up Stories: Design Considerations for a Police Interview Training Game”, was presented by Merijn Bruijnes (and co-written by Jan Kolkmeier, Rieks op den Akker, Mariët Theune and Dirk Heylen; available here). In it, we describe theories from social psychology together with the necessary elements for building a serious game for police interview training. The interesting part in this is that we want to build a virtual suspect agent that does not necessarily cooperate with the player but follows its own agenda and should be able to lie or be incomplete in sharing its information. Merijn and I are currently working on a more complete mental model for this virtual agent which will also be the basis for the mental models in the serious game we are developing for street intervention scenarios.

Later that day of workshops, I attended a workshop about XIMPEL, an authoring tool for branching narratives and had a few hours of fun trying to create an interactive story which included pictures and videos from YouTube. Of course, I also attended the main conference track, which was, indeed, mainly about entertainment purposes of computer technology: cuddly toys that respond to how you play with them, virtual archery, emergent music based on flocking algorithms, interactive comics, human-like behaviour in a Super Mario game, etc. I fairly enjoyed most of these talks, but, as always with these broad conferences, not that much of them were directly related to my own interests. Still, it was a well organised conference and a fun opportunity to see some work being outside of my field.