Interactive Fiction and Chatbots

For a little while now I have been trying to think of how to
use Messenger chatbots to tell a resonating interactive story. I deployed the
Bullet Decision messenger bot the other day, and it’s cool and all. It’s
interesting and gives a bare bones feel of what BD will be. But it’s not
magical. It doesn’t deliver an amazing story that leaves you feeling completed.
It’s just for fun, it’s neat, and passes some time.

And that’s all okay, but I think we can do more with it. I
think this medium can be used to deliver stories that deeply affect people. In
Messenger the story is going be so deeply engrained with your real life. That’s
a powerful thing. You can tell a story that actively forces someone to examine
themselves, because in this medium they truly are themselves. That’s so
interesting from a writing point of view, but also challenging.

I do have a dream that one day we will have AI capabilities
to generate a story that can be personalized to that point. A story that will
help you work out your IRL problems. But for now we will still need some focus
in our writing. Your target audience will probably have gone through similar
life experiences.  Child of divorce or anxious
about the future? Those situations carry a lot of emotions that need to be
worked through. To even bigger things like rape, racism, and poverty. Chatbots
are an amazing way to let people explore these issues, to understand them
through exploring fiction. When the player is forced into a situation they aren’t
familiar with they could develop empathy for something that had never crossed
their mind. Or if someone could work through an issue they currently have, by
doing things they never would’ve considered without the context of play.

In BD, it’s a bit easier. You are playing as Lilah. Maybe
you wouldn’t do this, but Lilah would, so I can get away with a little disconnect.
In Messenger, It would ruin the connection to the medium if you played as
someone else. It would take away the power. That’s the real challenge. You need
to really understand your audience to get them to accept they are in a
situation they would have never put themselves in. If I wanted to tell the
story of a girl who’s nudes were leaked on facebook, and she was messaging
everyone who shared it; how would I convince you that you shared it? I don’t have
an answer to that, but I’m working on it.

I don’t have anything to share yet. I’m still working on how
to harness this media for storytelling myself. But the capabilities are there.
It could be one of the most powerful ways to play a game. Where someone is
truly themselves exploring a world foreign to them, or working out a problem
that hits very close to home. It’s exciting to think about! It could be a very
powerful gaming method that is accessible for tons of people. If you are
creating an IF/VN think about it. It could be a powerful tool to deliver your


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