Overview of the project

This project was an exciting fusion of creative writing and artificial intelligence to help writers create new forms of dynamic, interactive stories. It specifically aimed to understand what the impact of artificially-intelligent memory is on storytelling and narrative structure, and how to transfer the resulting research into industry.

The project was a collaboration between To Play For, a pioneer in interactive storytelling, and a cross- disciplinary team at King's College London covering digital humanities, culture and software engineering. Together these two teams performed the research and development required to interrogate the complexity of memory as a concept in interactive storytelling and the impact that this can have on the story experience. The partnership will leverage To Play For's interactive storytelling technology, Charisma.AI, as a research tool and commercialisation platform.

This major new innovation will open up opportunities for creative industries across all media who are interested in harnessing the power of machine learning and artificial intelligence for their craft in writing stories. It will act as both a tutorial and an accelerator for new creative processes, opening up new publishing opportunities, jobs and revenue streams, keeping the UK at the forefront of established and newly emerging creative industries.

Game settings and props collage.

About us

King's Digital Lab

King's Digital Lab (KDL) is an innovative new unit within King's College London that brings together academics, researchers and developers to apply software industry standard practices to academic research.

To Play For

To Play For is an interactive entertainment company building new forms of storytelling on its proprietary technology platform, Charisma.ai. As well as researching pioneering new approaches to interactive narrative, the company is working with broadcasters, networks and publishers to create the next generation of immersive stories.

Innovate UK

We are the UK's innovation agency

Innovate UK is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government. For more information, visit the UK Research and Innovation website.

Charisma AI

Charisma.AI is an interactive media platform developed and owned by To Play For that allows writers to create interactive stories and characters that audiences can talk to and immerse themselves in.

Charisma logo

Showcase demos

The project created two showcase demos using Charisma and Unity to refine the Charisma platform, showcase its versatility and test a model of close collaboration by embedding an RSE in game development team.

For King & Country

It's December 1940 and a Nazi invasion force has landed on the south coast of England. As the invasion force prepares to strike north and capture London, King Edward VIII refuses the resignation of British Prime Minister Lord Halifax, triggering a constitutional crisis.​ Parliament is recalled, and with all the members of both houses meeting in Westminster, a small group of backbench MPs and their families – designated survivors – are taken to a secure location south of the river Thames. They are completely unaware of the imminent events that will thrust them into the limelight, and put the fate of the nation in their hands.You are among those designated survivors. Your decisions will shape the course of history.
  • Produced by Emily Bailey
  • Written by Elliott Hall
  • Based on the story by Owen Kingston
  • Lead Developer Oscar Lindström
  • Executive Producers Annette Parry & Guy Gadney

In 2018, To Play For and Parabolic Theatre partnered to create a Unity game based on Parabolic's immersive theatre show For King and Country. This collaboration became the first test case for the AI & Storytelling project. The audience - which forms a rump parliament in the show - was replaced by AI characters created in the Charisma system. The project experimented with the role of memory in persistent storytelling by creating AI characters that interacted with the player, mis/remember what they'd said, lie and remember when they were lied to.

The collaboration evolved during the game's development. Project Co-Investigator Elliott Hall of KDL became the primary writer of the game, working with the To Play For development team to produce a showcase demo and experiment with narrative possibilities of the Charisma UI.

For King and Country poster.

The Kraken Wakes

“It started with fireballs raining down from the sky and crashing into the oceans' deeps. Then ships began sinking mysteriously and later 'sea tanks' emerged from the deeps to claim people . . . For journalists Mike and Phyllis Watson, what at first appears to be a curiosity becomes a global calamity. Helpless, they watch as humanity struggles to survive now that water - one of the compounds upon which life depends - is turned against them. Finally, sea levels begin their inexorable rise . . . The Kraken Wakes is a brilliant novel of how humankind responds to the threat of its own extinction and, ultimately, asks what we are prepared to do in order to survive.
  • Produced by Emily Bailey
  • Written by Elliott Hall
  • Based on the story by Owen Kingston
  • Lead Developer Oscar Lindström
  • Executive Producers Annette Parry & Guy Gadney
The Kraken Wakes cover.
Game example screenshot, player 1.
Game example screenshot, player 2.



Writers and narrative designers from across the creative industries to interrogate the role of memory in interactive storytelling. This work helped form the foundation of the narrative experiments in the project prototypes.

For King & Country playtest

An early alpha of For King and Country was evaluated by a wide cross-section of participants to look at interactivity, empathy, and the role of conscious and unconscious design in the design of the AI characters in the game.

RSE & Creative Industry collaboration

This workshop built on insights gained through the project to explore models of RSE collaboration with the creative industries. The workshop brought together leading RSEs with creative industry professionals and academics to define requirements and explore potential collaborative models. A brief keynote provocation was given by Dr Paul Meller, Associate Director of Programmes at the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and Senior Responsible Owner for the Creative Industries Cluster Programme.

Conference papers and articles

Misremembering Machines: A Creative Collaboration on Memory in AI-driven Storytelling

Presented by Elliott Hall and James Smithies at DH 2019

Innovation at the Intersection: Using STS to enable University – Technology Sector Collaboration

Presented by James Smithies at 4S

This paper describers the larger context of the collaboration on a sector level, and how STS methods can be used to analyse, critique and improve these emerging cross-sector partnerships.

RSE collaboration journal article

James Smithies, Elliott Hall, and Sarah Atkinson

A forthcoming journal article based on work of the project.

'AI Authorship – from evangelism to pragmatism.'

Sarah Atkinson

In the context of the very real exponential increase in the complexity and creative potential in AI, in applications as varied as banking, medicine, national security and entertainment there is also a dominant narrative of the obsolescence of human employment and creativity brought about through the rise of these new smarter better technologies.

Next steps

A key challenge identified during the project has been finding and developing people with a range of technical and creative skills to engage in this type of multidisciplinary work. The first step for taking the project forward will be exploring the possibility of a Knowledge Transfer Partnership with To Play For to allow Elliott Hall to work with writers who are new to the Charisma system, passing on the knowledge gained during the showcase development, while at the same time studying the framework for how these skills can be shared. If that model proves successful, the lab would begin investigating how it could be scaled up and standardised for industry. Further Partnerships between universities and SMEs in the creative industries will be essential for taking this work forward.

King's Digital Lab has begun to invest in Digital Creativity across a range of disciplines, including film, video games, VR/AR and immersive performance. The work developed during the project is now being used as a test case for developing a standardised pipeline between Research Software Engineers (RSE) and the creative industry. The lab is now exploring combining the informal collaborative structures developed on an adhoc basis during the project phase – enlisting RSEs with creative and technical backgrounds to embed directly in industry teams, combining that practice work by RSEs with ethnographic study by other members of the lab – with the lab's existing working methods for collaborating with academics to create a new process better suited to needs of the creative industries. This work is directly informed by the feedback from both academia and industry received during the project workshops.

To Play For continue to explore opportunities across media, publishing and education sectors to leverage the learnings and exploit the platform enhancements developed during the project.

Accessibility Statement

KDL has attempted to make this site fully accessible in compliance with the 2018 Accessibility Regulations.

Should you encounter any issues, please don't hesitate to get in touch.