Doing a deep-dive today into digital storytelling research with a look at research from Zhao, Zhang, and McDougall (2011) titled Emotion Driven Interactive Digital Storytelling. The premise of their research is that most interactive digital storytelling is based on participants achieving specific goals, whereas their research indicates that emotion can be the driving force to move the story forward.
The author’s work is based on Smith and Lazarus’ cognitive-motivational-emotive theory, which states that there is an “appraisal process” that affects how the participant will respond based on their current needs and situation. Two players may react similarly or very differently to situations based on their personality. For example, the emotions of the participants may vary from attacking in anger, fleeing, or avoiding the situation entirely due to anxiety.
The research was based on creating an interactive digital story based on an episode of the TV show Ugly Betty. The participants were shown the episode, but at different points in the narrative the story would stop and the participants were asked what emotions they were feeling at the moment. Based on their emotions, the story could go in any number of different directions. The result was that each participant would see a story based on their own emotions.
In their research, empathy with characters in the story was a driving factor for how the participants navigated the story. When they felt the emotions from a particular character’s perspective, they tended to influence the story based on their feeling towards that character. And there was a significant difference between female participants (who tended to feel empathy towards the character and that character’s situation) and male participants (who tended to make up their own goals not based on the character’s situation). The researchers also found that the participants preferred method of interaction with the game (game-players vs TV watchers) also had a significant influence on the results.
This research is an indicator to developers of interactive digital storytelling that emotion based story development can be an interesting and compelling means of player interaction that will create a unique story based on their personality. As an instructional tool, it can be used to increase participation and interest in digital storytelling.