Accessibility statement

Interactive narrative


branching railway tracks

Interactive narrative is the darling of new media, though it is not exclusive to forms of narrative mediated by digital interfaces. Forms of forking-path narrative of the "choose your own adventure" variety are familiar enough in print, sometimes in sophisticated forms (interactivity can be one of the dimensions of a metafictional rhetoric). Similarly, collaborative dramatic improvization is a form of interactive narrative, and by no means confined to the theatrical avant-garde - in fact in its most commonplace form it is familiar to most of us, as an element of children's play.

The focus of research in interactive narrative is primarily in the realms of new media, and videogames in particular, because of their cultural currency, open technological horizons and commercial significance. The Interactive narrative theme engages with this domain directly and obliquely, pursuing several lines of research into the possibilities that narrative theory might open up for the design of interactive narratives, but also attending to the implications of such research for our understanding of narrative both as a mode of cognition and as a cultural form.


York members

  • Peter Cowling
    Computer Science
  • Daniel Kudenko
    Computer Science
  • Richard Walsh
  • David Zendle
    Computer Science
  • Romana Turina

Associate members

Ruth Aylett
Heriot Watt University

Ken Kahn
University of Oxford

Sandy Louchart
Heriot Watt University

Howard Noble
University of Oxford

Steve Whittaker
UC Santa Cruz

David Zeitlyn
University of Oxford



Lectures and Workshops

Occasional lectures and workshops within the Interactive Narrative theme have included:

Narrative and Maps: Cartographic Narratology and Digital Technology
Marie-Laure Ryan (independent scholar, Colorado)

A lecture exploring the relation between narrative and space via interactive media maps, from the foremost international authority on fictional worlds and narrative in digital media.

Interactive Narrative Workshop
Marie-Laure Ryan

A postgraduate workshop on the possibilities for interactivity in narrative, introduced by a paper on narrative interactivity from Marie-Laure Ryan.

Workshop on narrative and adventure game design
Charles Cecil (director, Revolution Software)

A postgraduate discussion of narrative in adventure games, led by a leading figure in the games industry.

Community Engagement

The ICNS has run some community workshops on interactive narrative, in collaboration with the Arts Barge Project and Martin Riley of Alive and Kicking, exploring aspects of narrative creativity in different forms:

"What a LARP": a live action role-play based upon a zombie apocalyse scenario devised and facilitated by members of the University of York Science Fiction and Fantasy Society; played out with year five pupils at Clifton Green Primary School in York.

"The Great Experiment": a classroom-based workshop exploring collaborative constrained storymaking, in which year five pupils at Hob Moor Primary School in York progressed from lab rats to graduate story scientists.


The Interactive Narrative theme has resulted in several research collaborations:

  • Multi-player interactive drama
    A project based upon the GADIN story engine, developing an interactive story generation system for multiple users in a shared environment.  
  • RIDERS network
    York ICNS members Daniel Kudenko, Richard Walsh and David Zendle are participants in the RIDERS network (Research in Interactive Drama Environments, Role-play and Storytelling). 
  • Narratives of video game play
    A network project about the use of serious games as an interactive medium through which users can work through complex decision-making processes. 
  • Museum narratives: curating and creating the once and future narrative museum
    This project aims to develop an app-based interactive narrative approach to facilitating museum visitors’ experience and engagement with the archive. 


Discussion of gliders from


One outcome of the multi-player interactive drama collaboration was Richard Walsh's 2011 article, Emergent Narrative in Interactive Media (Narrative, 19.1, 72-85). 


Current research themes