Chatbots as Narrative Platform

Recently I’ve been running into a fair amount of news/discussion about “conversation as a platform” and “bots as the new apps” — specifically, that people spend so much time texting that chatbots are a viable way to do advertising and storytelling and personal assistant functions all at once.

This means taking in natural language input (as opposed to the Lifeline-style experience, where the user is still pressing buttons to navigate a choice-based conversation). Historically,  I’ve tended to be skeptical about this because the error rate on chatbot output is high enough to make for a frustrating game experience.

All the same, there have recently been some developments on this front, partly because there’s now stronger AI for classifying natural language input, and partly because app discoverability problems make it appealing to embed content within chat platforms. Meanwhile, streaming means that there’s a greater audience for games that produce amusing results and accept idiosyncratic player input: here’s PewDiePie making Facade produce weird results.

What follows is a summary of some existing work I know about in this area. I wouldn’t be surprised to see quite a lot more come along.

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January Link Assortment

Upcoming events:

Thanks to a burst of focused planning, we have a bunch of forthcoming meetings scheduled for the Oxford/London Meetup. They are

London, February 16. We will be playing a variant of San Tilapian Studies, along with other short card and boardgames focused on storymaking with other people. I’m psyched about this – San Tilapian Studies takes a fair amount of prep to put together and I don’t run it frequently, so if you want to play, this is an unusual chance. We’re using a different setting and sticker set than in the original.

Oxford, April 3. Sunday afternoon pub meet-up; you may bring WIPs or other items to share if you like, though we’re not set up for actual projection or anything like that. Consider this one a really late March meeting, because SXSW/GDC/Easter weekend use up all of my actual March.

London, April 19. Exact activity TBD, though I have some interesting prospects I’m looking into.

London, June 14. Exact activity TBD, though I have some interesting prospects I’m looking into.

Thanks to Failbetter Games for their on-going willingness to co-host!


If you are planning to be at GDC, here’s some IF-related content for you:

I will be talking in a short format about visualization and design, with many examples from interactive narrative contexts (as well as some from elsewhere).

inkle studios folks will be talking about their tool ink that is used for 80 Days and the Sorcery! series, and which they will be open-sourcing. (!)

Meg Jayanth is speaking twice, once about writing NPCs with agency and once about diversity.

Continue reading “January Link Assortment”