Saturday, November 26, 2011

It Takes A Village To Tell A Story

Designing the experience of next generation stories is a multidisciplinary challenge.  While the experience of reading will remain, the compute and storage ability available via the tablet experience is impacting what stories can be in form and function. It's time to consider the evolution of literature when it is connected to a network, a processor and a hard drive. How are we going to define 'Digital Literature?'

The technology for creating interactive stories has been around for a long time. You can argue that video games are interactive stories but are they literature? What is the difference between playing and reading and do they belong together as part of a complete work? What is the experience of a story when it is free from its media? Many novels become movies but if you had both at the same time which would you choose?
 These are some of the experience design questions related to next generation stories.

There have been many attempts at interactive story telling even before the advent of tech. The 'Choose Your Own Adventure Stories' is a perfect example. I like the fact that they have been labeled game books. Another facet of disruption is that it changes language. It necessarily doesn't change the words as much as it extends the meaning of certain words.

(As an example, most of the terminology for film making was developed in the early part of the century. Terms like rotoscoping, matting, referred to specific technologies and techniques, as these technologies were replaced, the language remained the same.)

Whenever i think about interactive story telling, one thing comes to mind. None of them have ever made it Oprah's book club. Interactive story telling, if there is such a thing, is in its infancy. I have always felt that the thing to be cautious about when creatively dealing with emergent technology is " Just because you can, doesn't mean you should."

Bells and whistles are great if you like music that has a lot of bells and whistles in it. But for me, story telling has always been about authorship. Francis Ford Coppola didn't build all the sets for Apocalypse Now and say, I know there is a great story in there I hope you find it. He authored the experience. He made the decisions and that is what made it great. His insights as a film maker, his love of story, his understanding theater, drama, photography and music.

I am interested in developing mass market interactive works that are based on tablet technology. Mass Market means there is actually a business there and it also means that there is something of value that people want. That is where interactive story telling has to evolve to.

As I often say to our team, i feel like we have the right ingredients but I don't think we have bake the sweetest cake yet. As the tiny little group that we are, we are learning and what we are learning isn't just about how to build an interactive story. We are also learning, what the market wants. This is a wonderful opportunity!

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