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Chris Crawford on Interactive Storytelling Paperback – Oct 6 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: New Riders; 1 edition (Oct. 6 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0321278909
  • ISBN-13: 978-0321278906
  • Product Dimensions: 18.5 x 2 x 23.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 640 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #746,004 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From the Back Cover

As a game designer or new media storyteller, you know that the story is everything. However, figuring out how to tell it interactively-and in a way that keeps your audience coming back for more-can be challenging. Here to help you out (and to open your mind to ever more creative ways of producing those stories) is the man who created the cult publication The Art of Computer Game Design and who has devoted much of his career to that very topic: Chris Crawford. To highlight the path for future gains in the quest for a truly interactive story, Chris provides a solid sampling of what doesn't work, contrasting unsuccessful methodologies with those that hold promise for the future. Throughout you'll find examples of contemporary games that rely on different technologies-and learn the storytelling lessons to be garnered from each of the past methodologies. Within the context of interactive storytelling, Chris explores ways of providing conflict and challenge, the difference between low- and high-interactivity designs, the necessity to move beyond purely visual thinking (so that the player is engaged on multiple levels), and more.

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Format: Paperback
This book opened up a whole new pattern of thinking for me. The information Mr. Crawford conveys in this publication is invaluable to any writer seeking to break into new areas-particularly gaming and other applications utilizing interactive storytelling. Writing for this genre requires a whole different mindset from traditional genres and Mr. Crawford succeeds at moving the reader towards that mindset.
Time and again I see in game reviews how a particular game has "awesome graphics and great gameplay but the story and dialogue" were severely lacking. With Mr. Crawford's extensive experience in the gaming industry, he very capable gives aspiring writers every tool he or she will need to get a very good start in the industry. Throughtout the book, he stresses how important it is for the "artsie" thinkers (the writers & artists) to work together with the "techie" thinkers (the programmers) and I think this is a valuable lesson that many current game producers have yet to learn. Mr. Crawford reminds the entire programming industry that one sector of development cannot succeed without the other. He more than adequately investigates and chronicles how the different development teams can work together and bridge the "communication" gap between the "artsies" and the "techies."
This book, while not exactly a tutorial piece, offers many examples and exercises to move the writer along in thinking like an interactive storyteller. The only real drawback may be the detail Mr. Crawford goes into.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 11 reviews
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
The Number One Book by the Number One Expert Nov. 2 2004
By Jonathan Beyrak Lev - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
If anyone can write a book on interactive storytelling, it is Chris Crawford. He has a career of pioneering in the field of interactive entertainment, and is the creator of the first and only interactive storytelling technology publicly available.

This jewel is a humorous, intelligent overview of the current state of Crawford's fourteen-years-long research into the subject. Choosing to present the material in this way - as a status report with many loose ends and as many questions as answers, shows great honesty and modesty - and it also allows the author to concentrate on what he does know instead of trying to conceal what he doesn't. In an intellectual field populated by many instant experts and charlatans, this work really stands out.

But don't get me wrong - Crawford knows a great deal about the subject. Perhaps the greatest benefit that you'll derive from this book is learning how not to think about interactive storytelling. For example, it shows why one shouldn't think about the subject in terms of other artistic media, including literature, theatre and cinema, as well as computer games, interactive fiction and hypertext literature. Even before I was aware of Crawford's work, I had been very interested in interactive storytelling. While reading this book I found that I had been making many mistakes in my thinking that were obviated by Crawford's lucid arguments and explanations. The man saved me years of cogitation.

Crawford also presents several of the chief concepts that have guided his research. He offers the best definition of interactivity that I'm aware of, and explains how it can be combined with stories. He makes many important points about the nature of the artistic works resulting from such a combination. All of these ideas are highly valuable, and allow the reader to ask the right questions, which is all one could ask for, since, as yet, no one has most of the answers.

The author also presents the core technologies required for any interactive storytelling system to be successful, and explains their function and role in the system. This explanation is thorough but not overly technical, and really helps to create a practical grounding for all the book's theories.

There are also several smaller topics addressed in the book, like an overview of other research projects on the subject, and a discussion of the mindset required from an interactive storyteller.

This work is a mirror image of Crawford's project - a state-of-the-art work-in-progress filled with inspiration and insight and based on a great deal of expertise attained through trial-and-error. It is also infused with Crawford's excellent sense of humor.

This book is a must read for anyone interested in the great adventure of birthing a new artistic medium.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Will get you thinking... Jan. 2 2005
By William D. Ogles - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Mr. Crawford has obviously been thinking about interactive storytelling for a while. Like his previous books, the reader will be most fufilled if they approach the material with both an open mind and a critical eye. His writing style is both his strength and weakness, in that it will likely turn away skeptical readers quickly, but allows for a very dense amount of information for a book this size, without a lot of meandering and wishy-washy blather. You probably won't agree with him on everything, but certainly every assertion he makes is worth pondering over.

The possibilities of this medium are exciting to just about anyone, but there have continued to be a set of Hard problems that cause theorists to continue to stumble. Crawford proposes that many of these problems are too hard to think about solving anytime soon, or are indeed impossible to solve. Instead, he provides creative abstractions that obviate the problems so that we can get someplace tantalizingly close to a workable model.

The biggest problem with this being that there are no examples. Crawford's assertions are indeed well thought-out and documented, but there is no concrete back-up. I find this forgivable however, considering that even though the ideas are not entirely complete, they do tackle many problems head-on that previously went unanswered.

Another minor point is that while much time is spent on the inner mechanics of a theoretical storytelling engine, little time is spent on how these stories might actually be presented to the user. I believe this to have a pretty significant impact on how the engine might work. One can imagine many possibilities for how interactive stories might be protrayed, and this certainly has an impact on how they would be perceived.

A dense, exciting book that particuarly those in the games industry should read and think about. I look forward to his future work.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Not Just a Must-Read, It's a Must-Study. April 7 2005
By Adaera - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book opened up a whole new pattern of thinking for me. The information Mr. Crawford conveys in this publication is invaluable to any writer seeking to break into new areas-particularly gaming and other applications utilizing interactive storytelling. Writing for this genre requires a whole different mindset from traditional genres and Mr. Crawford succeeds at moving the reader towards that mindset.
Time and again I see in game reviews how a particular game has "awesome graphics and great gameplay but the story and dialogue" were severely lacking. With Mr. Crawford's extensive experience in the gaming industry, he very capable gives aspiring writers every tool he or she will need to get a very good start in the industry. Throughtout the book, he stresses how important it is for the "artsie" thinkers (the writers & artists) to work together with the "techie" thinkers (the programmers) and I think this is a valuable lesson that many current game producers have yet to learn. Mr. Crawford reminds the entire programming industry that one sector of development cannot succeed without the other. He more than adequately investigates and chronicles how the different development teams can work together and bridge the "communication" gap between the "artsies" and the "techies."
This book, while not exactly a tutorial piece, offers many examples and exercises to move the writer along in thinking like an interactive storyteller. The only real drawback may be the detail Mr. Crawford goes into. While I personally don't have a problem with this, I work with several young people who, while they are very keen on gaming development, probably wouldn't spend an adequate amount of time studying the information contained in the book unless it were required reading in a course.
Personally I feel that any writer who wants to pursue and develop stories for interactive programming should study this book. It's not enough to read it through once, twice or even three times. This is a book which needs to be worked through section by section, until writing for this relatively new genre becomes second nature. This book will have a permanent home in my library; it is very rich in information-hats off to Mr. Crawford for producing a very timely manual.
-Adaera-
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Additional comments Nov. 10 2005
By David H. Walker - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In the spirit of full and open disclosure, I have known Chris Crawford for over twenty years. We are close friends and colleagues. So instead of providing a review, I'd like to comment on some of the things brought up in the other reviews.

In two reviews, it is indicated that the book is not tutorial and doesn't provide specific examples. These are absolutely correct. "Chris Crawford on Interactive Storytelling" is a distillation and documentation of all that Chris has learned and created on interactive storytelling over the last thirteen plus year. He explores areas where none have gone before and he also explores areas where others have been adding insights that are new. There is definitely material here you won't find in any previously written book. However, this is a not a document of a completed journey. A couple of simple stories have been built-as proof of concept for the early working versions of the Erasmatron-but they mostly demonstrated the need for better tools. Interactive storytelling requires a new set of skills and tools. This book is heavy on theory and process, but light on examples because the theory and processes must precede the examples-and we're just getting a handle on the theory and processes. Expect to see examples in Chris' next book, which I expect he'll write once the Erasmatron is out the door and pumping out interactive stories. (I'm guessing here, Chris has never mentioned doing another book, but there will definitely be a need for a book on Erasmatron storybuilding and who better to write it than Chris Crawford and/or Laura Mixon?)

William Ogles comments on Chris' writing style, which is decidedly conversational. His writing style, combined with his strong convictions, often polarizes readers and the attacks against him can be as vicious as the praise is glowing. Chris was a teacher early in his career and lessons learned from those early days drive much of his writing and speaking style. He will present gray area subjects in stark black and white and he writes provocatively. This is his method for making a point and generating thought and discussion.

Indeed, it was his recent article about Women and Gaming in "the Escapist" (an on-line magazine) that provoked the single negative review of this book. The best clue to this is that the reviewer is complaining about Chris' views on women and gaming, yet that subject isn't covered in this book. Also the quotes are from his article, not from the book. Chris' point was that sales of romance novels (especially of the "bodice rippers" genre) and soap opera show that women were the primary customers and that they were immensely popular and that games that appeals to the same needs would be more successful with women than "Doom" clones. It appears to me this is rather obvious-the trick, of course, is figuring out what such games might be. The reviewer's characterization of the above as "blatant gender stereotyping" is a hard trail to follow and suggests that Chris triggered a hot button for the reviewer.

Also, unlike Chris' other book "Chris Crawford on Game Design", this book is not for aspiring "game" designers-it's for aspiring "interactive storytelling" designers (of all ages) or for game designers that want to move into an entirely new and exciting field.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
The Beginning Dec 14 2005
By Patrick Dugan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Crawford's take on Interactive Storytelling, that is the maturation of a medium which will become the dominant form on art and entertainment in the 21st century, provides a foundation upon which future efforts will either be based off of or at least reference in intellectual homage. The breakdown of the modes of human thought in the early chapters provides a sturdy, cognitive lense which game designers can use to understand challenge. This book focuses primarily on social reasoning and the challenge which could be derived from that important facet of human experience, so far unexplored in traditional video and computer games.

In late 2005 Mr. Crawford wrote an article for The Escapist, and online publication which is highly recommended to anyone interested in the cutting edge of the interactive medium. The article addressed appealing to the female demographic of possible players from the angle of utilizing social challenge to meet women on a common ground. The problem with this article was that it used a controversial science to make this point, and it was possible to infer a sense of sexism, where women are inherenlty social and therefore drawn to interactive soap operas, while men are inherently spatial and drawn to games similar to hunting. The real point is that social challenge will put games on a whole new playing field which both men and women can appreciate as art and popular entertainment. Thats the lesson taught by "Chris Crawford on Interactive Storytelling", along with some useful approaches to the design problems. Don't let politics stop you from glimpsing a revolution.


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