What is Interactive Digital Narrative?

Interactive Digital Narratives (IDNs) are referred to in many different ways: text adventure games, interactive fiction, digital fiction, Twine games, choice-based stories, storygames, literary games, hypertext stories, and more. They range across a wide array of platforms, media styles, and narrative configurations. The key elements, however, are that they are focused on a (usually fictional) narrative, are delivered in a digital format, and incorporate meaningful elements of interactivity with the reader/player.

Yes, some games fall into this definition, especially walking sims. Some stories in other media also come close, such as interactive TV, choose-your-own-adventures, and pop-up books. As interactive media become more and more a part of our daily lives and cultural communication, it is important that we explore these texts for the full range of their affordances and effects.

What do you mean by “health & science communication”?

Pretty much what it says on the tin, as they say. We’re in school for about 3% of our lives; we engage in media (from books to film/TV to games) for about 33% of our lives. We learn a lot about our world not from teachers and textbooks, but from media (including journalistic, entertainment, and social media).

Although health & sci-comm (or h/sci-comm) is becoming more and more important as we experience growing global issues such as climate change and communicable disease. We’re currently facing an immense gap in public (and political!) understanding of health issues, cast into deep relief by the COVID-19 pandemic. Politicians struggle to make sense of the science, and decisions go awry accordingly. The public struggles to cope with conflicting messages.

We learn a lot about our world not from teachers and textbooks, but from media…

There is also the resistance factor to contend with. Climate change deniers, anti-vaxxers, and conspiracy theorists use media to misinform their communities, leading to a culture of distrust for experts and science. Health and science communication attempts to counteract both ignorance and resistance through accurate and amenable messages about information relevant to the public.

What is entertainment-as-education, as opposed to “edutainment”?

The goal of this project is to explore IDNs as an untapped source of health and science education, particularly through the use of engaging narratives as entertainment that also educates. The aim is to counteract resistance to “edutainment”, as many audiences see it as “chocolate-covered broccoli”. Far better to create narratives—the primary human method of communication and learning—that align with the audience’s culture, that speak to them emotionally, that they will voluntarily read/play and most likely share with friends, family and colleagues.