The Computer as Storyteller

  • 1973 Klein Plot Generating Software

  • 1976 Tale-Spin (PGS)

  • 1981 Author (PGS)

  • 1984 Racter (PGS)

  • 1984 Universe (PGS)

As soon as something has been found to have a quantifiable structure, it becomes readily available for computer modelling and simulation. Works such as The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell, Morphology of the Folktale by Vladimir Propp and The 36 Dramatic Situations by Georges Polti proved suggestive of a paint-by-numbers approach to plot construction and therefore storytelling. So from 1973 with the work of S. Klein, various computer scientists have been developing plot generating software.

Klein's work was impressive at the time for its computational linguistic techniques and was meant to be a step in the new field of artificial intelligence. However, other programmers became seriously interested in the task of genuinely creating a storytelling machine. So programs such as Tale-Spin (Meehan 1976), Author (Dehn 1981), Racter (Chamberlain & Etter 1984) and Universe (Lebowitz 1984) were created.

The results aimed for in a number of these programs is the production of as many coherent plots as possible, the sort of task for which a computer is eminently suited. The output may then be viewed on screen or printed out, the production is uniquely computer based but the experience of the results is not. Nevertheless, it must be emphasised that what is produced is merely a plot, not a fully realised story. There are no shortcuts in story development. If at any time a piece of computer software makes some aspect of storytelling easier, it will simply up the ante whereby creators will be challenged to go beyond what is currently possible. However, such software may still be of assistance in the creation of computer mediated roleplaying environments, given the constant need for new experiences by the many players.


Return to Modern Adventure