PORTFOLIO | LINKEDIN
- Nicholas Fortugno is a game designer, artist, and entrepreneur. Co-founder of the game design studio Playmatics and the street game festival Come Out & Play, Nick has lead the design, production, and writing of dozens of digital and non-digital games and interactive narrative experiences.
Many forms of interactive narrative suffer both in execution and in critical reception from a lack of understanding of the ways interactivity affects storytelling. Successful work across media shows that specific rhetorical techniques of interactivity appear that create reliable narrative effects. Therefore, analyzing some of the structures of this rhetoric would be valuable for both creators and critics. In this thesis, I lay out some of these rhetorical techniques as they are specifically related to the computing concept of state, the way that systems can store and track actions and changes. Using state in interactive narrative work creates possibilities for personalized experience, exploration as a storytelling form, dynamic narrative content, “seamless” invisible technologies, and embodied interactions.
To explore these issues, I chose the genre of escape rooms, a puzzle-based installation form that often fails to be a good play experience or an effective narrative. One reason so many escape rooms fail is that the combination of the difficulty of the puzzles and the analog nature of the system means that most players lose the first time and can never play again because they will repeat content. State would allow players to record where they left off, so that success could be more universal and content could be different on repeat visits. More importantly, state allows the story of the escape room to develop, which means that it can be richer and more compelling. To this end, I conceived of and prototyped Janus, a sci-fi based escape room that uses the internet of things (IoT) to track player state. Players engage in a multi-session interactive mystery as scavengers on a derelict spacecraft, and uncover a story of corporate espionage, labor activism and betrayal. The features of Janus serve as a case study to understand these state-based rhetorical techniques in action.