Story Maps and the Sandbox – The Narrative Design Exploratorium™

Story Maps and the Sandbox

In my work recently I have stumbled upon a new concept I call Story Maps. Similar to location based media and projects like Pathalog. When a perceptive entity enters a space, stimuli, quite naturally is embedded or 3-D, as it were. If one was to take these experiences and map them to a space, so that one could alter a story simple by wandering through a map and experiencing different mixes of 3D stimuli.

This concept works quite well when designing any type of experience, be it “real” or “virtual”.


MONDAY, 8:00 AM, I feel like shit, the usual dark dreary Vancouver morning. Gotta get to work, the studio beckons. The 367 Bus arrives @ 8:05. Turning the corner @ Georgia and Granville there is this gorilla looking bum screaming a call to the wild, pissing himself no-less. Civil grace tells me not to look, but the internet-voyeur-self can’t help but toss one eye that poor guys way. Sky-scraping Richie Rich condos at his feet and all he can do is moan in pain. I approach, though keeping my distanced, curiously looking on. A women from the alley yells, “Want some rocks?”. I cross the street @ 8:03 and wait for the bus to show.

FRIDAY, 8:00 AM, Vancouver shines when the sun shows up. My body races with energy, the street seems to buzz a sweet song. As I turn the corner onto Georgia there is this woman across the street. A beauty for sure, but something more, beyond the sight of my libido her soul glows, she smiles and I give one back. Crossing traffic to meet her, we walk for a time together in the morning light, exchange names, and a handshake. Skipping away I wonder if I should have said more, but the bus arrives ending my morning 5 in the street, and only the experience of another day might bring her back to me.

Both of these scenarios played out in the same spatial location but varied on some parameters. Specifically my attitude, the environment, and agents encountered in that space. Though semi-fictitious, they serve my point. The universe as author has allowed me to create my own story, through a subjective first-person perspective.

An interactive experience author does not define the story, or structure, but allows for the nature of a subjective viewpoint to create a linear path through a narrative ecosystem of authored responsive agents. It is this path that in post becomes story for the player.

Narrative agents, objects (people, places and things)embedded in space, authored as elements of a experiential tapestry which is then tailored by the player upon perception. In such a way that the agents have a limited degree of response to the players movement within the system, it can be argued that the branching narrative still lives. No longer though is it a simple binary of branching decisions, some much as a chaotic symphony of elements that have varying degrees of response to the player.

It is a sandbox system like this that most closely represents the agency in life.  A space of non-linear elements, each on their own timeline, that occur to the subject perspective in a linear fashion, allowing each player to leave the experience with a different perception of what may have or have not transpired.

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This page contains a single article by Stephen E. Dinehart published on April 28, 2007 10:36 AM.

RTS as Database Narrative was the previous entry in this blog.

Virtual Representation, Art, Business, and Ethics is the next entry in this blog.

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Author Stephen E. Dinehart is a producer, designer, writer, and artist. You can find out more about him on his self-titled website.

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