Nic Junius

PhD Candidate, Computational Media
University of California, Santa Cruz

Pronouns: they/them


I'm a Computational Media PhD candidate in the Interaction Dynamics Lab at UC Santa Cruz. I was previously a Digital Arts and New Media MFA student and an MS student in the Expressive Intelligence Studio also at UC Santa Cruz. I primarily study computational models of character interaction and theatrical practice. At the moment my work is focused on building interfaces and interaction models to facilitate new kinds of expressiveness between players and characters in digital games. Much of the inspiration for the modeling approaches I use is drawn from acting and directing practice in theater as well as computational caricature with the goal of making approachable, customizable systems for interactive narrative projects. Please visit my page for the official pages of my released games.

Selected Projects

animation of the two characters in Tracks in Snow acting out part of a scene
Nic Junius, others (forthcoming credits list)
An interactive drama Ren'Py game using Puppitor that follows two young women on a road trip. It is a digital play about insecurity, communication, and the complexities of relationships as well as the nature of ghosts and golems. The MFA version of the game can be downloaded through its page.
Papers: AIIDE 2022, MFA Thesis
code snippet of the Puppitor update_affect function
Puppitor is a theatrically inspired digital game interface written in Python designed around giving players and AI behaviors control of a character's physicality during a conversation. Its core features revolve around mapping buttons to different designer authorable actions and the creation of character specific rules governing how performing each action changes a character's currently expressed emotional state. This emotional state and set of actions can then be used to alter the character's gestures, facial expressions, color palette, background music, and other in game elements. My C# port of the library can be found here.
Papers: AIIDE 2023, AIIDE 2022, FDG 2019, MS Thesis
The hand does more for my pain than morphine ever could. 'Hey.' I still can't manage to stand up. 'What should I be calling you today?' 'I think I've settled on something after last time.' The hand gently rubs my back. 'You want to guess? It's an easy one.'
One Attempt for the Future is a Twine project that began life as a rewrite of Fear thy Nature (see Projects) and is officially the mark of the beginning of the anthology series titled "Mourner's Kaddish for Golems" (also containing Unto the Night). This story is set long before its predecessor, before space travel was even a thought. The golems are tasked with an assassination under impossible conditions with barely any equipment. Not only are they given an absurd task, their bodies are fighting them every step of the way. This story contains many of my thoughts about having life saving surgery and being pressed back to work as I recovered.
space ship flying through a tunnel, gathering orbs, and launching a bomb to blow up a door
Nick Junius, Joe Rossi, Joseph Bernay, Patrick Russell, Yasha Taylor, Camellia Boutros, Matthew Dunlap, Nicole Maines, Chris R. Rodriguez
Inure is a fully 3D, six degrees of freedom, bullethell game built in Unity as my undergraduate senior thesis project. The project draws heavily from the mid to late 1990s era of science-fiction shooters for its narrative design, told mostly through radio chatter between points of action, and shmups like Ikaruga for the bullet absorption mechanic. Screenshots of the game from prototype to final version can be found here.
Produced in the 2016 Chautauqua Festival, Dir. Nick Whitlow
One of my small cast, near single setting stories that centers on a group of soldiers trapped in a building and forced to reckon with their identities as tensions mount. One of my main interests in writing this script was the responses different people have to their perception of self being challenged. Sometimes we embrace this and sometimes we violently push back and in doing so reveal more about ourselves than we normally would.

Selected Publications

Nic Junius, Elin Carstensdottir
AIIDE 2023
Isaac Karth, Nic Junius, Max Kreminski
ICIDS 2022
Best Student Paper Nominee
Nic Junius, Michael Mateas, Noah Wardrip-Fruin, Elin Carstensdottir
AIIDE 2022
Nick Junius, Max Kreminski, Michael Mateas
FDG 2021
Best Paper
Nick Junius, Michael Mateas, Noah Wardrip-Fruin
FDG 2019


ARTG 140: Writing for Interactive Narrative
Graduate Student Instructor Summer 2020, Summer 2021
I created this class and added it to the Games and Playable Media catalogue to help undergraduate students practice their writing skills with games and other interactive media in mind. The structure was mainly focused around a bi-weekly writing workshop style classroom where students would bring in progress work to be read out loud by their peers or myself followed by a discussion and critique of what was read. I also scheduled time for group playthroughs of narrative focused games to give students a better idea of some of the variety in kinds of projects they might find themselves on.