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Chris Crawford on Interactive Storytelling Paperback – October 16, 2004

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: New Riders (October 16, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0321278909
  • ISBN-13: 978-0321278906
  • Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 0.8 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #965,568 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Chris Crawford earned a Master of Science degree in Physics from the University of Missouri in 1975. After teaching physics for several years, he joined Atari as a game designer in 1979. There he created a number of games: Energy Czar, an educational simulation about the energy crisis, Scram, a nuclear power plant simulation, Eastern Front (1941), a wargame, Gossip, a social interaction game, and Excalibur, an Arthurian game.
Following the collapse of Atari in 1984, Crawford took up the Macintosh. He created Balance of Power, a game about diplomacy, Patton Versus Rommel, a wargame, Trust & Betrayal, a social interaction game, Balance of the Planet, an environmental simulation game, and Patton Strikes Back, a wargame. In 1992, Crawford decided to leave game design and concentrate his energies on interactive storytelling, a field that he believed would become important. He created a major technology for interactive storytelling systems, patenting it in 1997. He is now commercializing his technology at his company website at
Crawford has written five published books: The Art of Computer Game Design, now recognized as a classic in the field, in 1982; Balance of Power (the book) in 1986; The Art of Interactive Design in 2002; Chris Crawford on Game Design in 2003; and Chris Crawford on Interactive Storytelling in 2004.
He created the first periodical on game design, the Journal of Computer Game Design, in 1987. He founded and served as Chairman of the Computer Game Developers' Conference, now known as the Game Developers' Conference.
Crawford has given hundreds of lectures at conferences and universities around the world, and published dozens of magazine articles and academic papers.
Crawford served as computer system designer and observer for the 1999 and 2002 NASA Leonid MAC airborne missions; he also has done some analysis of the resulting data. He lives in southern Oregon with his wife, 3 dogs, 7 cats, 2 ducks, and 3 burros.
His current work is in interactive storytelling. After seventeen years of work, Crawford's company, Storytron, is releasing its technology to the public at

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Beyrak Lev on November 2, 2004
Format: Paperback
If anyone can write a book on interactive storytelling, it is Chris Crawford. He has a career of pioneering in the field of interactive entertainment, and is the creator of the first and only interactive storytelling technology publicly available.

This jewel is a humorous, intelligent overview of the current state of Crawford's fourteen-years-long research into the subject. Choosing to present the material in this way - as a status report with many loose ends and as many questions as answers, shows great honesty and modesty - and it also allows the author to concentrate on what he does know instead of trying to conceal what he doesn't. In an intellectual field populated by many instant experts and charlatans, this work really stands out.

But don't get me wrong - Crawford knows a great deal about the subject. Perhaps the greatest benefit that you'll derive from this book is learning how not to think about interactive storytelling. For example, it shows why one shouldn't think about the subject in terms of other artistic media, including literature, theatre and cinema, as well as computer games, interactive fiction and hypertext literature. Even before I was aware of Crawford's work, I had been very interested in interactive storytelling. While reading this book I found that I had been making many mistakes in my thinking that were obviated by Crawford's lucid arguments and explanations. The man saved me years of cogitation.

Crawford also presents several of the chief concepts that have guided his research. He offers the best definition of interactivity that I'm aware of, and explains how it can be combined with stories. He makes many important points about the nature of the artistic works resulting from such a combination.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By William D. Ogles on January 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
Mr. Crawford has obviously been thinking about interactive storytelling for a while. Like his previous books, the reader will be most fufilled if they approach the material with both an open mind and a critical eye. His writing style is both his strength and weakness, in that it will likely turn away skeptical readers quickly, but allows for a very dense amount of information for a book this size, without a lot of meandering and wishy-washy blather. You probably won't agree with him on everything, but certainly every assertion he makes is worth pondering over.

The possibilities of this medium are exciting to just about anyone, but there have continued to be a set of Hard problems that cause theorists to continue to stumble. Crawford proposes that many of these problems are too hard to think about solving anytime soon, or are indeed impossible to solve. Instead, he provides creative abstractions that obviate the problems so that we can get someplace tantalizingly close to a workable model.

The biggest problem with this being that there are no examples. Crawford's assertions are indeed well thought-out and documented, but there is no concrete back-up. I find this forgivable however, considering that even though the ideas are not entirely complete, they do tackle many problems head-on that previously went unanswered.

Another minor point is that while much time is spent on the inner mechanics of a theoretical storytelling engine, little time is spent on how these stories might actually be presented to the user. I believe this to have a pretty significant impact on how the engine might work. One can imagine many possibilities for how interactive stories might be protrayed, and this certainly has an impact on how they would be perceived.

A dense, exciting book that particuarly those in the games industry should read and think about. I look forward to his future work.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Adaera on April 7, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book opened up a whole new pattern of thinking for me. The information Mr. Crawford conveys in this publication is invaluable to any writer seeking to break into new areas-particularly gaming and other applications utilizing interactive storytelling. Writing for this genre requires a whole different mindset from traditional genres and Mr. Crawford succeeds at moving the reader towards that mindset.
Time and again I see in game reviews how a particular game has "awesome graphics and great gameplay but the story and dialogue" were severely lacking. With Mr. Crawford's extensive experience in the gaming industry, he very capable gives aspiring writers every tool he or she will need to get a very good start in the industry. Throughtout the book, he stresses how important it is for the "artsie" thinkers (the writers & artists) to work together with the "techie" thinkers (the programmers) and I think this is a valuable lesson that many current game producers have yet to learn. Mr. Crawford reminds the entire programming industry that one sector of development cannot succeed without the other. He more than adequately investigates and chronicles how the different development teams can work together and bridge the "communication" gap between the "artsies" and the "techies."
This book, while not exactly a tutorial piece, offers many examples and exercises to move the writer along in thinking like an interactive storyteller. The only real drawback may be the detail Mr. Crawford goes into.
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