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Responsiveness in Narrative Systems


While game studies and interactive narrative communities have developed a rich body ofresearch around agency in our interactions with narrative systems, comparatively littleresearch effort has been devoted to studying the system’s role in fostering, supporting,and reinforcing that agency.This dissertation offers a combined theory-design-technical exploration of asystem’s ability to respond to player agency. Building upon Chris Crawford’s modelof interactivity as a loop between two participants who each Listen, Think, and Speakin turn, this work considers the interactivity loop as a dynamic between a player anda system. It formulates agency as the experience of this loop from the perspective ofthe player, and incorporates current theories of agency into this model. It exploreshow affordances andfeedbackact as the means of communication between the playerand system, and defines a system’s responsiveness as the degree to which a systemchanges its affordances and feedback as a result of player actions. The theoretical lensof responsiveness is then applied to a range of games as a design analysis tool.The technical contributions of this dissertation include a technical design anal-ysis of the inner workings of Lume—an AI storylet system designed to offer highly re-sponsive narrative experiences—with an eye toward examining how its technical designand component systems foster responsiveness. Finally, the dissertation offers a casestudy of a prototype game created with the Lume system. The case study discussesthe authorial affordances of the Lume system, a range of procedural narrative designtechniques, and how the components of responsiveness outlined in this dissertation canbe leveraged to create a compelling narrative experience

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