National University of Singapore, 3 to 6 November 2014
The 7th International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling (ICIDS 2014) was held from 3 to 6 November 2014 at the National University of Singapore. The conference was hosted by the Department of Communications and New Media together with the Keio-NUS CUTE Center. The organizing committee consisted of Alex Mitchell (National University of Singapore), Clara Fernández-Vara (New York University), David Thue (Reykjavik University) and Jing Chiang (National University of Singapore).
ICIDS is the premier venue for researchers, practitioners and theorists to present recent results, share novel techniques and insights, and exchange ideas about this new storytelling medium. Interactive digital storytelling is an exciting area in which narrative, computer science and art converge to create new expressive forms. The ICIDS conference series has a long-standing tradition of bringing together theoretical and practical approaches in an interdisciplinary dialogue. The conference draws from a range of fields related to interactive storytelling, including computer science, human-computer interaction, game design, media production, semiotics, game studies, narratology, media studies, digital humanities and interactive arts criticism. This year, the conference was attended by 78 academics, practitioners and artists from 49 different institutions in 26 different countries, demonstrating both the broad appeal and the truly international nature of the conference.
The conference program included three keynote speakers: Bruce Nesmith, Design Director, Bethesda Game Studios, and lead designer of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim; Emily Short, narrative design consultant with a special interest in interactive dialogue and author of over a dozen works of interactive fiction, including Galatea and Alabaster; and William Uricchio, Professor of Comparative Media Studies at MIT and Principal Investigator of MIT’s Open Documentary Lab. Bruce Nesmith’s talk explored the issues encountered during the development of the storytelling system in Skyrim. Emily Short discussed the challenges of creating believable generative dialogue, referring to a range of her works from her early interactive fiction pieces through to her more recent works. Finally, William Uricchio spoke about the ways in which the intersection of interactive storytelling and interactive documentary can provide new insights into both fields. The diversity of the keynote speakers, covering both industry and academia and addressing a wide range of approaches to interactive storytelling, reflects the breadth of the field.
This year the review process for the main academic program was very selective. Altogether there were 67 submissions (42 full papers, 20 short papers and 5 demonstrations). Out of the 42 full paper submissions, the program committee selected 12 for presentation and publication as full papers, corresponding to an acceptance rate of less than 29%. In addition, 8 submissions were accepted as short papers, 7 were as posters, and 5 were as demonstrations. In total, the ICIDS 2014 program featured contributions from 26 different institutions in 18 different countries worldwide.
The paper presentations were divided into six thematic areas over seven paper sessions.
Story Generation was the most technical track, offering a perspective on current issues in the area of procedural generation of stories. Papers in this track covered issues such as automatically adjusting narrator styles and sentiments, automatically generating new dialogue exchanges from a small base of human-authored fragments and dynamically matching sequences of narrative events to narrative patterns. All of these papers explored ways in which generative systems can work together with human authors to create dynamic, adaptive narrative content.
Authoring I and Authoring II, two consecutive tracks dealing with the process of authoring interactive stories, explored the interplay between human authors and automated storytelling systems. Contributions in the first session included a system for creating personalized museum stories and user studies of a simple authoring tool for creating 2D abstract animated stories. The second authoring session covered a performative authoring tool for children, a prototype competitive storytelling game system and a discussion of online tools for creating internet crime narratives.
Evaluation and Analysis explored various ways of conceptualizing, analyzing and evaluating interactive stories. These ranged from a proposal for a set of objective metrics for interactive narrative, an analytic framework incorporating process, content, control and context and a model to describe storytelling artifacts consisting of ordering, availability and mechanical significance. These discussions provided a good foundation for the following theoretical session.
Theory presented two interesting views on interactive storytelling, one from a narratological perspective and one that took a broad view of the field, presenting five crucial areas to be addressed: narrative analysis, interoperability between different implementations, sustainability of digital artifacts, the need for an author-centered view, and the importance of adopting a user-focused perspective.
Retrospectives covered a number of different approaches to interactive storytelling. Papers ranged from a survey of the issues of engagement and interaction in interactive cinema to a discussion of the transmedia work “Marble Hornets” and an overview of trends in the field of interactive documentary. These papers all helped to expand the scope of discussion within the community, pointing to connections between the traditional areas of focus in the conference and related fields such as interactive cinema, transmedia storytelling, and interactive documentaries.
User Experience was a track that featured several perspectives on the experience of interactive stories. These included a discussion of the use of physiological measures to examine suspense and surprise, the use of ontological approaches to analyze character intention, the role of sound and user pre-knowledge in a mixed-reality interactive story and the use of augmented reality to create structured, location-aware stories.
The papers presented at the conference ranged from highly technical on the first day, to more experiential and theoretical on the second and third days. This clearly shows the range of approaches covered by the conference. The best paper award was given to “Narrative Cognition in Interactive Systems: Suspense, Surprise and the P300 ERP Component” by Luis Emilio Brun, Sarune Baceviciute and Mohammed Arief. Honorable mentions were given to two papers: “Ontology–based visualization of characters’ intentions” by Vincenzo Lombardo and Antonio Pizzo and “Combinatorial Dialogue Authoring” by James Owen Ryan, Casey Barackman, Nicholas Kontje, Taylor Owen-Milner, Marilyn Walker, Michael Mateas and Noah Wardrip-Fruin.
Two panels, one featuring short presentations by the artists involved in the accompanying art exhibition and one featuring the three keynote speakers, complemented the paper presentations, providing an opportunity for the audience to engage in a discussion with professionals, artists and researchers.
In addition to paper and poster presentations, ICIDS 2014 featured five post-conference workshops on Thursday, 6 November. These workshops covered a range of topics, including a full-day workshop on using tabletop role-playing games to tell stories, and half-day workshops on managing informational interactive digital storytelling projects, narrative analysis of interactive digital storytelling, future perspectives for interactive digital narrative and story modeling and authoring.
Starting from ICIDS 2013, the conference has included a curated art exhibition. This year, the exhibition was held from 2 to 5 November 2014 at ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore. The art exhibition featured 12 artworks selected from 39 submissions by an international jury. The works showcased a range of approaches to interactive storytelling, from hypertext to immersive virtual reality.
As in previous years, the ICIDS conference proceedings are published by Springer and are available both in print and in ebook format as part of their Lecture Notes in Computer Science series. The proceedings can be found online at
Alex Mitchell, National University of Singapore
Clara Fernández-Vara, New York University
David Thue, Rekyavik University
Jing Chiang, National University of Singapore