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All the World's a Stage: Creating New Interactive Experiences with Playable Models

Presenter: Josh McCoy

Feb 01, 2018
from 12:00 PM to 01:00 PM

Kerr Hall 386

Presenter: Josh McCoy

Title: All the World's a Stage: Creating New Interactive Experiences with Playable Models


Through tapping into the human systems of storytelling and play, modern games are a new medium where players are told narratives and learn gameplay systems. A strong form of this communication is a goal of many AI researchers, experience designers, and game developers is the realization of the Holodeck, a fully-realized virtual world replete with human-like characters in which the player can participate in stories via fully embodied interaction. Such playable experiences have the potential to not only convey detail but allow that detail to be made playable in ways that allow the player to have lasting impacts on the unfolding story world. Progress toward this ideal is uneven as can be witnessed in our most sophisticated interactive experiences: video games. This uneven progress has left our best and most beautifully-rendered games with stories that are brittle and shallow outside of a small range of pre-design sequences. 
A primary cause is that innovation video games have been largely driven by improvements in graphics technology and our ability to model physical spaces. This has resulted in the slow exploration of other areas of game design such as interactive narratives and social story worlds. Experiences featuring complex story-driven gameplay are rare because we lack playable models of these design areas. Unlike graphics and physics simulations with their common language of mathematics, models of social interaction and storytelling have no such implementations. One solution to these problems is the creation computational models based on ideas from the social sciences and humanities that enable a level of play akin to physics systems for other domains.
This computational model approach is one of several key challenges to the goal of more playable virtual worlds. This presentation features these key challenges and the current state of my research agenda in this area. Included are the use of a computational model of social interaction in the game Prom Week that enables a new level of playability in story-driven games where player choice has true and lasting impact on the story world; the application of this technology to fully-embodied training simulations for use with peacekeeping forces; support for realism in background characters; using social science and the humanities as the basis for knowledge representation in AI systems; authoring tools and methodologies for building complex story worlds; and exploring new modes of input for playable stories. 


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