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Once Upon a Future: 
An Audio Drama Game for Episodic Imagination

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Envisioning the future in a multidisciplinary collaboration continues to be a challenge. This paper presents a tool for engineers and designers to envision applications of emerging technologies. Drawing on the "suspension of disbelief" in audio drama and episodic memory theory about creativity, we build a four-act board game for creative narration. Participants are guided to enact future application scenarios by using playing cards along with theme music and sound effects. To test the tool, we conducted three workshops to discuss the distinct advantages and challenges of this approach.


  • Research through Design

  • Semi-Structured Interview

  • Design Workshop

  • Thematic Analysis

Results & Contribution: 

  • An Audio Drama Board Game: Once Upon a Future

  • Introduce Design Strategy of Episodic and Associative Imagination into Creative Design Tasks

  • Mediate and Facilitate Discussion between Diverse Background of Experts in a Research Center

Collaborators & Acknowledgement: 

Rung-Huei Liang (supervisor), Wenn-Chieh Tsai (researcher), David Chung (researcher), Willson (engineering), Guo-Lin Tsai (designer), Hen-An Lin (designer), Ya-Han Lee (designer), Wen-Wei Chang (designer).  


Yu-Ting Cheng, Wenn-Chieh Tsai, David Chung, and Rung-Huei Liang. 2018. Once Upon a Future: An Audio Drama Game for Episodic Imagination. In Proceedings of the 2018 ACM Conference Companion Publication on Designing Interactive Systems (DIS '18 Companion). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 159–163.


The following presents a brief introduction and research photos of the project. More details can be seen in my publication or contact me for further information.



Envisioning futures can be a challenge for researchers, taking time and effort to collect data and collaborate with a multidisciplinary team. In the NTU IoX research centre we cooperated with, we found that most of the existing practice is a one-way process relying heavily on individual interpretations (see Problem). Therefore, we demonstrate a possible solution that facilitates co-imagination among researchers from different disciplinary to address this issue (see Our Goal).



Our design exploration found that audio drama can encourage people to imagine characters, things, and stories without relying on visual components. Audio drama has the power to suspend disbelief, which is a key advantage of design fiction. By immersing people in the story world and encouraging them to create episodic details, audio drama can help boost creativity and imagination.

We believe that imagined scenes are crucial for making sense of possible usage scenarios of innovative technologies. To engage people in co-creating the futures, we developed a card-based audio drama game called "Once Upon a Future".

We explored different narrative structures that can support a dialogical future scenario discussion between designers, researchers, and engineers. 


temporal structure

The temporal structure of a narrative provides a scaffold that guides the story from its beginning to its end. One well-known narrative structure is the hero's journey (Campbell, 2014), which consists of four major plots: departure, initiation, challenge, and return. We utilised the hero's journey's four-plots structure to design the major narrative structure for this project.

Read More >

spatial structure

The spatial structure we used in this project is inspired by the popular board game, Betrayal at House on the Hill. This game provides players with various locations to explore, unlocking different rooms and progressing through the story. The visualization of these places engages players in the story's spatial structure. We adapted this spatial structure to design the storytelling materials for our project.




A speaker is embedded with RFID scanner that can scan cards to play sound. 

RFID Speaker



We held 3 interdisciplinary workshops for NTU IoX research center. Each workshop was led by an HCI background facilitator who is familiar with the game topic and rules. After four rounds, a team constructed the narratives and got four audio recaps. Finally, participants were encouraged to discuss and reflect critically by voting for the most inspiring moments.



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