In Season 3, episode 3, we chat with Kathryn Yu, Executive Editor of No Proscenium and a co-founder of the Immersive Experience Institute, a non-profit that aims to create a sustainable future for immersive and experiential arts and artists worldwide.
Kathryn joins us to chat about game design in branching narrative games, including her brilliant creation Metaverse Noir, told through the medium of Twitter threads. Through her work with No Proscenium, she has her finger on the pulse of immersive experiences. Kathryn’s passion for interactive narrative and good storytelling was apparent throughout our conversation. It was a blast chatting with her about VR gaming and talking about how to craft a game that resonates with the players.
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Topics Discussed in this Episode
- Kathryn talks about her first experience with immersive theatre—Sleep No More. [2:58]
- Kathryn talks about some of the secrets at Sleep No More, including one-on-one private scenes. [5:06]
- Kathryn talks about getting her Master of Fine Arts in Interactive Media at USC and tells us about Penrose Station, her thesis VR game. [7:51]
- Kathryn talks about how players connect to characters in VR games, sometimes adopting different body language and postures. [8:30]
- Peih-Gee talks about a hypnosis therapy experience she underwent that had participants adopt the body language of a parent and how it helped with developing a deeper understanding of that parent. [10:56]
- Kathryn talks about the parallels between UX design and game design and understanding player expectations and intentions. [13:38]
- Kathryn tells us about Metaverse Noir, a Twitter-based branching narrative game that was an assignment for a writing class. [20:44]
- Kathryn says the assignment was meant to instill the ability to adapt to different formats and understand the medium you’re working in. [21:39]
- Kathryn talks about the cadence of an interactive story and adjusting the format depending on how available you would be to implement how a story branches. [23:27]
- Kathryn tells us what Metaverse Noir was about and how it worked. [24:32]
- Peih-Gee and Kathryn ponder the boundaries between interactive fiction and gaming. [25:59]
- Kathryn talks about Twine games, self-contained branching interactive narrative adventures. [26:21]
- Peih-Gee talks about Choose Your Own Adventure books and compares them to being given choices for different endings at escape rooms. [27:26]
- David points out the time constraints of an escape room vs. a video game when considering how many narrative options to present. [30:52]
- Kathryn talks about her game Penrose Station and how she balanced a mix of heavy, emotionally complex themes with puzzle mechanics. [34:23]
- Peih-Gee talks about Errol Elumir’s narrative 8-bit game The Present Quest, which also explored some emotionally heavy themes. [36:13]
- Peih-Gee and Kathryn talk about why we play games that make us feel sad or emotional and how they can help people process certain feelings. [37:37]
- Kathryn is the executive editor at No Proscenium, a blog and guide to immersive events. She tells us about their podcast, its new format, and the different segments. [40:32]
Resources Mentioned in this Episode
- Sleep No More
- Penrose Station (Kathryn’s thesis game)
- Half-Life: Alyx
- Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge
- Colby’s Curious Cookoff
- REA review of Colby’s Curious Cookoff
- @MetaverseNoir on Twitter
- WIRED Article on Metaverse Noir
- Verge Article about Twine games
- Present Quest by Errol Elumir
- REA review of Present Quest
- No Proscenium (immersive event guide)
- No Proscenium Podcast
About Kathryn Yu
Kathryn Yu (she/her) is an award-winning immersive designer & developer based in Los Angeles, bridging the worlds of user experience, augmented & virtual reality, games, and immersive theatre. She is currently pursuing her Master of Fine Arts degree in Interactive Media at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts.
Kathryn most recently worked at the indie game studio Tender Claws on Virtual Virtual Reality 2. She was also a recipient of a USC Annenberg Graduate Fellowship for 2020-2021. During her Fellowship, she worked on a pervasive game to foster creativity and collaboration among incoming students to the School of Cinematic Arts; that alternate reality game, The Pickfair Directive, was nominated to the 2021 IndieCade Festival of Independent Games. Kathryn was also featured in WIRED for her interactive Twitter-based story Metaverse Noir. Her game Heirloom won the “Favourite game by a woman or female team” award at the 2021 Women in Games Global Awards and was shortlisted for the 2020 New Media Writing Prize as well as being nominated for Best Student Game at Games for Change 2021. She is currently in development on her thesis game, Penrose Station, a sci-fi single-player narrative VR experience.
Kathryn is also the Executive Editor of No Proscenium and a co-founder of the Immersive Experience Institute, a non-profit which aims to create a sustainable future for immersive and experiential arts and artists worldwide. She has spoken at Games for Change, the Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media, The Knight Foundation, NESTA, and more. Kathryn is currently part of the Oculus Launch Pad program and a member of The Game Awards Future Class. She also recently joined the IndieCade Alumni board.
- @kathrynyu on Twitter and Instagram
- @noproscenium on Twitter
- @no_proscenium on Instagram
- @immersiveexporg on Twitter and Instagram
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Escape This Podcast is a show that’s a mix between tabletop roleplaying and escape room puzzles.
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