Playing with Persiflage: How Free-Form Dialogue Enables Emergent Narratives in Orchestrated Digital Games
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Digital games struggle to blend compelling narrative with interactivity. For example, computer role-playing games allow players the freedom to explore an open world, yet limit their interaction with the world’s inhabitants to selecting from pre-determined dialogue choices. This constrains players’ interactions and the game’s narrative to those conceived in advance by the game’s designers. We show how game orchestration enables a human to play the role of non-player characters, expanding interactive narrative through truly open-ended conversation. This idea is concretely realized in the novel game Persiflage. Through a study of five groups playing the game, we show how players and orchestrator converse, interact, and play using natural language. Players engage deeply in the game’s story, but do not adhere rigidly to the game’s setting, liberally employing slang and anachronistic references. Orchestrators accommodate the players but themselves play truer to the game’s setting, leading to asymmetric dialogue. Groups exhibited a range of dominance structures that affect the fluidity of the gameplay. Players and orchestrators use open ended conversations to collaboratively construct a narrative that emerges through gameplay. Orchestrators take the lead in authoring the story by preparing the game world for the players to explore. As the game progresses players make contributions and authorial control shifts between players and orchestrators. We show that orchestrated computer roleplaying games are an enjoyable outlet for players to exercise their creativity and that interesting and complex narratives can emerge from their play.