The interactive screenwriter

Note this article was written in 1996 - it was only lightly and cosmetically updated in mid 2002

Mark Morisson designed and co-scripted The Dame was Loaded for Beam Software Australia, a foray into interactive scriptwriting with similarities to Raymond Chandler's hard-boiled detective world. At an Australian Film Commission conference (1995) on the theme Narrative and Interactivity and starting with Chandler's classic description of a detective, Morrison provided a superb description of an interactive scriptwriter:

"The interactive scriptwriter is a complete writer and a common writer and yet an unusual writer. She has a full understanding of her back story. She knows how to parcel up her narrative and pass it out to the player. She provides all the tools whereby the player can interact with her story, and thus she can anticipate any combination of actions which the player might want to undertake. Her script allows for this, whether those actions be ingenious, stupid, or surreal.

She knows that some players are content to wander through a narrative landscape, while others want to pursue goals. She knows when to intrigue the player, when to frustrate, and when to reward. She understands that the player above all wants control, be that to succeed or to fail or merely to discover, and she grants that.

Within her story, she knows all of her characters and their moods. She knows how her characters react to the actions of the player, and scripts them accordingly. She knows that her scenes might be experienced in any order. She knows that her world must live and breathe, that day follows night there, that people sleep and work rather that waiting in boxes for the player to spark them awake. She knows that the player is the catalyst for her world, but that her world exists without the player.

The interactive scriptwriter is frugal. She realises that computer memory sets the limit of multimedia narrative. She knows that the player does not wish to see the same sights or hear the same sounds ad infinitum. She extends multimedia play time by making maximum use of her locations and her video sequences. She is adept at the shell game: she knows when to show the player a still, and when to reward the player with footage. Above all, she is thorough. She knows that computers are cold logical beasts, and matches them for logic and shrewdness. She thinks of everything, and then scripts for it. If she cannot do this alone, she knows when to get help.

To steal one last line from Chandler, she must try to be the best writer in her field, and a good enough writer for any field."

Printed with the author's permission.