The Pararchive team has been reflecting on the merits of linear storytelling versus interactive non-linear storytelling. Though we’re still partway through the process of understanding the needs of our various communities, the question of linear vs interactive is already beginning to shape some of our design decisions.

There’s great value in stories which have a linear path, providing closure, immersion and driving singular narratives. Indeed, books, movies, plays and poetry have offered this for centuries. I’ve often wondered if the uncertainties of our own lives create a yearning for a symmetry in fiction that provides some level of certainty.

However, non-linear stories have been propelled to the forefront of our culture… from early choose-your-own-adventure books, laserdiscs and CD-ROMs, to virtual reality experiences, videogames, hypertext and the web.

The recent Playstation title, The Last of Us, illustrates the sophistication of interactive narratives with great flair, coupling cinematic set-pieces, a thrilling plot and moving performances with entirely digital environments and characters. Last week, the game’s creators released a 90-minute documentary chronicling its two-year production, Grounded: The Making of The Last of Us.

The documentary illustrates the creative complexity and production scale of creating a large scale interactive narrative… an endeavour which dwarfs even that of a large cinematic movie.

Pararchive certainly won’t be aiming to provide tools to create such complex narratives! However, we’re starting to appreciate that a toolkit for creating even moderately interactive narratives, is by no means trivial to both operate and create.