Category Archives: Interactive Storytelling

The Doll Games – Shelley & Pamela Jackson

In Shelley and Pamela Jackson’s The Doll Games, there were mix reactions towards this site. I loved it for its breakthrough, unique storyline, with its very creative use of dolls and accessories they created for the sets. I also like how the Jackson sisters remove the mask of how “little girls” are shrouded with this innocent glow of purity and virtue.

There are a lot of disturbing images of these dolls and the stories that go along with them. When you think of doll games, this is definitely not what pops into mind, but the shock value adds to the anticipation of what’s to come next.

This site begins with an introduction and brief history of all 20 dolls. They also documented each individual item they used in the stories from purses to a dagger, and they also describe how what materials went into the items creation.

This is a very twisted version of a mature, feministic interpretation of younger girl’s imagination. The use of the word Barbie is negated with asterisks (e.g. B*****).  I believe these women are trying to show how unrealistic these images of femininity are that are being displaying for young girls to see. It teaches children gender roles at a young age, and we should be striving to remove these gender shackles from these young women.

They have plays associated to the “dolls” perception of body image, and their views on love and romance. These games are similar to the one’s young girls like myself once played, but with a callous twist. The dolls are ruthless towards “fat people”, they are naughty dolls when it comes to sex. These dolls games are the wild and crazy stories that grown women have created with their dolls, and some are true stories of other women’s recollection of how they used to play with their own dolls.

The Jackson’s are on the other end of the spectrum when it comes to Doll Games. They recreate naive childlike games, to be cruder and more sexualized, by introducing characters that are lesbians and hermaphrodites.

Doll Games is all together: a game, a reflection, an art project, a commemoration and an exploration of the various things dolls can get up to, some of which are just not that nice.

This quote is taken from the main page of The Doll Games website:

“As scholars and artists look closer to home for inspiration, and once-despised genres reveal wondrous molecular structures under the lenses of academe and art, the doll games remain the province of what we still fondly and dismissively refer to as ‘little girls.’ Little girls: a term fraught with judgements, some kindly meant, but all much to the detriment of real little girls, who must do their best to throw off the cloying shackles of ankle socks and hair ribbons, and hold some fastness against the numbing fog of cuteness in which their search parties disappear, and their violence, avidity and curiosity is extinguished. The doll games are that fastness. Under the noses of the uninitiated lies a secret laboratory, where inequity is redressed, stupidity violently derided, all desires gratified. Here the ‘little’ girl is, frankly, huge.”

The little girl must be defrocked. This project begins here.

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The Tulse Luper Suitcases – a personal history of Uranium by Peter Greenaway

The Tulse Luper Suitcases is a multimedia project by Peter Greenaway, initially intended to comprise three “source” and one feature films, a 16-episode TV series, and 92 DVDs, as well as Web sites, CD-ROMs and books. Once the online Web-based portion of the project was completed: the “winner” having taken a trip following Tulse Luper’s travels (and often imprisonment) during his first writings about the discovery of uranium in Moab, Utah in 1928 to his mysterious disappearance at the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Two books and three feature films were released to supply material to the Flash/Web designers who competed in a contest to make one of the 92 Flash-based “suitcase” games featured on the interactive, online site The Tulse Luper Journey.

This is a great example of a digital archive with a lot of underlying meaning. This story of Tulse Luper’s life, with all his stories and experiences were displayed in 92 suitcases that were scattered all over the world. These suitcases tell a story in themselves.

The image of the suitcases, has a lot of value behind it. In a suitcase everything is compartmentalized. We do this with the way we think, and even with the way we live; trying to keep everything neat and tidy, and in their own place. We store items in a suitcase, as we store information and memories in our mind. This can be deemed ‘emotional baggage’.

Digital archives are similar to locative narratives. The information is fictional but the geography is real. It begins to blur the boundaries of the real and unreal sections of the tale.

There are many mediums in this project. There are movie clips repeated in the side of the box, hyperlinks in the website, and locative narratives as well. This story has no fluidity, as you jump from storyline to storyline. There are too many links to press and you are directed all over the site, trying to navigate your way back. But this chaotic flow of information is the same as the way we search for information online. We are one click away from finding the answers to all of our questions. But we do not necessarily have to remember all this information. We can compartmentalize it all into different sub-headings so we know where to look for it later. All the information we have ever need is at our fingertips, catalogued into digital achieves such as this one.

We are able to have any book right there in front of us with a click of a button. Everything that gets sent out into cyberspace is archived somewhere on the web. With all this information we are able to view an argument from all sides, we are able to discuss every topic with different people all over the globe. The possibilities are endless, and the Tulse Luper’s Suitcases is just one of many examples of how digital archives are changing electronic history.

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A Million Penguins – Collaborative Fiction

As the saying goes, if you put a million monkeys in front of a million typewriters, they are bound to produce something of worth; is this the case for a million penguins as well?

A Million Penguins was the world’s first community written novel. Almost 1,500 participants contributed to the writing and editing of this novel. The chief executive of Penguin publishing stated that this is definitely not the most read novel in history, but it could be the most written. So was the literary experiment a success or a flop? Here is the link for the Research Report.

I guess it depends on how you look at it. It was successful in the sense that the novel was completed, but was it any good? As a literary fiction novel, not so much, but this is why the experiment was converted to a sociological experiment, because it made more sense.

The downfall of this project was that the electronic vandalism of spammers and sexually explicit content was overwhelming. They had to freeze the site at some points to allow the serious editor’s time to view the content.

Writing a novel is not always a particularized event, there can be more than one writer, as well as more than one editor. But in the case of A Million Penguins, apparently there needs to be a cut-off line for the amount of participants, if you wish the novel to be coherent. I am not bashing Penguin for their efforts. This was a unique and extraordinary social experiment, and it was a very interesting concept. It’s too bad that it didn’t turn out as hoped, but overall it wasn’t a complete disaster.

Penguin set out to find the answer to ­- can a collective actually write a novel? I guess they did not find the answer, seeing as the chief executive answer to this question was, “Maybe”. They might try another collaborative piece with different parameters this time. They should see if a class of English majors could write a novel, or something along those lines, because apparently the general public as a whole cannot.

There was so much hope of this novel coming together. If you viewed any of the discussion pages, you could see different “authors” deliberating over how the structure and flow of the plot line was going to progress. Some of the participants were very dedicated to the weight this novel might have. So in the end, it was a great sociological experiment, to see how people from all over the world worked together to produce this novel. But there will always be trouble makers, especially on the World Wide Web if they are able to access this type of material.

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An Analytic Approach to Locative Narrative: Focusing on Charles Cumming ‘The 21 Steps’

I found one of my old essays on my laptop, about an locative narrative that I found extremely interesting. I thought I would attach my essay as well. But please check out this interactive tale by Charles Cumming, The 21 Steps

With technology expanding at such an expediential rate, it is not a surprise that even fictional stories have advanced along with the trend. I am speaking of new forms of digital narrative, specifically locative narrative, which is digital media applied to real places where something happens and it then produces a real social interaction. With the combination of mobile data communications with global positioning systems (GPS) and mobile computing, authors can assist in the process of creating a story and merging it with digital physical space to give it a whole new genre, with the use of mostly fiction and some non-fiction, it is coalesced into what is known as a locative narrative. This paper will be analyzing Charles Cumming locative narrative entitled The 21 Steps, which is a tale of a man who is dashing through London, England and ends up in Edinburgh, Scotland, on a hunt to find his kidnapped girlfriend. This paper will also discuss the relationship between memory and space as well as story and history throughout the piece.

With the use of Google maps, and narrative bubbles that include quick snippets of information and images, this tale immerses you into the story and you are on the edge of your seat till the end. Locative narratives, such as this one, are immersive because the story is based in a real public space, which requires viewer/reader to rely on their senses, their powers of observation and their engagement with materials concrete reality. There are many different forms of locative narratives, and the prospects are widening all the time. With locative narratives being a fairly new phenomenon there are so many different way to manipulate the original to be something even more unique.

First off, locative narratives can use memory in different ways. For example, instead of showing a friends or family a picture slideshow of a particular trip, one could make their own locative narrative with the photos they took on their journey, and add comment bubbles along the way to make more enjoyable and interesting for the viewer. Secondly, I believe The 21 Steps to be very memorable, because in our photographic world, we remember images more easily than words, and The 21 Steps is something I shall not forget anytime soon.  Lastly, and most importantly, The 21 Steps uses memory similarly to murmur (which I will post on later), another locative narrative. They use real places and give you stories behind these locations. The buildings you see within The 21 Steps are a collection of memories and emotions, and as the city progresses and changes, and as buildings come and go, these memories begin to be neglected,  or kept inside the minds of others, and can be experienced over and over again. What locative media and site-specific practices allow us to do is ascribe meanings to places in innovative ways, so that the streets, neighbourhoods and buildings we move through are not just decontextualized objects but rather sets of meanings, patterns in time, nodes in social/materials networks and places suffused with person experiences and affect. With the emergence of locative narrative people will give new meaning to places around the world they have never been to before. They will be able to learn about historical locations without having the leave the comfort of their own homes.

With the appearance of locative narratives, the terms space and place have had to be revamped to consider this new technology. Space is referred to as geographical space; it is what is contained inside of our planet. Place only exists when someone gives meaning to a specific location. Places are spaces that are valued. In the story The 21 Steps, Cumming uses downtown London, England as the setting for the majority of the first half of the story. We are immersed in different locations, from St. Pancras Train Station, to the National Gallery, and over to Heathrow Airport, which are just some of the locations we travel through on this journey. What The 21 Steps and locative narratives are trying to accomplish is to keep history alive, in this digital space as well as in our minds. Locative narratives are giving functionality to space. They are making it possible to cultivate physical locations, by adding digital information; this in turn allows the places to be “read” in a sense.

With the ability to “read” a physical location, we are able to learn the history about these particular locales, and the stories behind them. Many locative narratives are representations of how people occupy and use urban public space, offering an evocative portrait of the past and current life of the city, its residents and visitors. With the use of locative narrative the author in a sense are preserving historical information. For instance, with the materialization of geo-tagging or photo-tagging, this is the process of adding a digital longitudinal and latitudinal imprint on a photograph. You can search for a specific location on Google maps, and it will display photographs that have been attached to that precise location by other individuals. All these photos and locative narratives saved in the digital realm online are preserving the aesthetics of these locations forever. For example, in The 21 Steps there are images of Sir John Betjeman’s statue in St. Pancras Station and Paulo Uccello’s famous painting of the Battle of San Romano. If there were something to have to Sir John’s statue, it will be forever remembered in The 21 Steps, and this should encourage author to continue with the creation of more locative narratives, as to protect the original images of the beautiful architecture throughout the world.

The plot lines of locative narratives, such as The 21 Steps, are not particularly easy to create. There are many limitations in the construction of the story. Character development and in depth plots are hard to create because of the space available to the author. This creates a problem for the author, because they are trying to captivate their audience, and most authors do so by creating characters that readers can relate to, and this becomes a challenge for authors of locative narratives. Cumming used these parameters in a very interesting way. In chapter 19, the main character Rick Blackwell is trying to escape the police and is forced out a window, and then commences to run along the rooftops. He used the resources he had, and knew what would intrigue the reader, which was very cleaver. Also, in Chapter 12 when Rick comes to after being knocked unconscious the reader can see his location, but Cumming added pin-point locators all over the general area with the words “here?” in each comment box. Trying to give the reader the illusion that he could be anywhere in this general location, but only we know where he really is. Also, in chapter four, when Rick enters the National Gallery, he gives the imagery to assist the reader in recreating the setting in their mind, “It was in the Sainsbury Wing, second floor. Botticelli was in 64, religious iconography in 65” (Cumming). All these features aid in the reader’s imaginative process.

What also facilitates the reader in this locative narrative are the comment bubbles, and the locations of when and where they appear. It gives the reader a sense of how quickly the character is thinking and reacting to the situation. For instance, in chapter six, when Rick is inside the roundabout in London, trying to make his way to Heathrow airport, you can see that he is thinking and reacting suddenly, because the comment bubbles pop up so quickly, and the are indicators are so close together. In this scene, he has just received a call from his girlfriend, and he gets the sense that she is in trouble from their stunted conversation. There are 5 bubbles that pop up in just a tiny roundabout, so you get the sense that he is speaking abruptly, which gives a great sense of urgency in the text.

Another suggestion for The 21 Steps, would be in Chapter four, when Rick jumps on the subway/tube to get to the National Gallery. I believe it would have been more effective and visual pleasing if Cumming would have zoomed out. One of the reasons being, that the subway was moving at a rapid speed and it was hard to see everything as it passed by. I think he kept the frame in the same location because it gave the appeal of speed, while he was whizzing through the city. But I think he could have kept the illusion of speed, with the acceleration of the travel path or blue line, while panning out as the viewer can see the sites and see how far through the city he actually travelled. It would give the viewer something to watch other than a blue line speeding through the map so quickly, as to not be able to see the buildings passing by. It does go on for over a minute, and gets tiresome waiting for the scene to end. And as an additional analysis of this scene, I was displeased in Chapter six when Cumming decided to replace the lifelike satellite view for the unrealistic map view, on the journey to Heathrow airport. I guess he decided that there was a lot of narrative going on in this scene and the satellite map would only be distracting to the reader.

Locative narratives are very immersive and interactive, but there is still so much room to grow in this untapped medium. Locative narratives can be enhanced, by allowing the reader/viewer the opportunity to choose their own storyline. In a story similar to The 21 Steps the author could allow the participant to choose which way to go, and allow them to navigate through their own adventure. This would allow for the maximum participation from the reader, and might make the story that much more enjoyable.

In closing, with the rise of locative narrative, we are now able to see different locations around the globe in many different contexts. We can see the influence as it is seen and experienced as many versions of its self by different individuals. We can preserve history within locative narratives, and keep it alive within the hypertexts. Charles Cumming’s The 21 Steps is an incredible example of a locative narrative, and how the use of GPS and mobile computing can be used to create a story. Locative narratives help contextualize places to the reader, by giving meaning and attaching emotions to different locales on the planet. These locative narratives give you the opportunity to get fully involved in a narrative, and assists in the education of geography and history. One can travel all over the world without leaving the comfort of their home. The 21 Steps shows the relationship between memory and space, as well as story and history, all wrapped up into one great tale. Locative narratives are open to so many new ideas and formations; I cannot wait to see what they will create next.

*I have some more interactive stories I am compiling at the moment, so stay tuned for more!

Enjoy!

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Go BZRK: Interactive Mystery With a Touch of Comedy

Michael Grant, author of the Gone series has a new book coming later this year, Go BZRK, and it’s a little bit different from your usual reading experience.

Michael Grant is the co-creator and co-author of the Animorphs and the Everworld book series, and is also the creator and author of Gone and The Magnificent 12 series. His new project is called Go BZRK, which is a book coming up in Spring 2012, and a new transmedia experience which has been started up now.

The missing son of a U.N. diplomat… the reemergence of a strange organization… a pair of society twins caught in the middle… this is just the beginning of “Go BZRK,” a new transmedia experience from author Michael Grant.

If you’re ready to take the plunge in an interactive story like you’ve never experienced before, visit societytwins.com and register with nexushumanus.com to take your first steps in a strange and compelling universe.

Filled with video, puzzles, community collaboration, and more, “Go BZRK” put YOU the player right in the middle of the action as you join Nexus Humanus and unravel a mystery that may hold the key to the fate of all mankind.

The book may not actually be out yet, but you can already get involved in the story by visiting the two sites above and you can join in as much, or as little as you like. You get to choose. Here’s an interview with Michael Grant himself to tell you a little bit more about this new interactive story-telling and what’s in store in the coming months:

What is “Go BZRK”? Is this a book or some kind of interactive story?

Both. The book comes out this winter, but the interactive part starts now.  One leads up to the other, but they’re part of a complete package.

Why “transmedia”?

There are different approaches to transmedia.  Most people take a single story and reproduce it on various platforms.  My philosophy has been to make each element – ARG, app, web, book – a thing unto itself, each revealing some aspect of the world of BZRK.  I’ve been fascinated with this is as a new way to tell stories.  The book remains central, but now I can reach beyond the book and create a much more complete world.  I can tell stories that enhance the book, and stories that parallel the book, and stories that are offshoots of backstory.  I guess the answer to “why” is “because it’s fun.”

Is this the future of publishing?

I began a few years ago reaching out to publishers and saying we collectively needed to understand that the old models were dead or dying.  I want publishing to survive, and of course I’d like my own career to thrive.  So Egmont Publishing and my partners and I certainly hope this is a part of the future of publishing.

How long is this running? Is this part of a larger picture?

We’ll be running this in several chunks between now and the book release this winter. Because these things have a hard start/stop point, August is a ramp-up phase. There’ll be a lot of content coming out, but the experience really gets underway at the end of the month… just in time to distract the kids from their schoolwork.

What if someone wants to follow the story but doesn’t want to participate?

You don’t have to do anything.  You can do one thing and not another.  But the deeper you plunge the wetter you get.  I think every part of this is fun, I think people will enjoy the ARG, the app, the site and the books.

App? You’ve mentioned that a couple times now.

Just wait and see.

What can you tell us about the story? What is “BZRK”?

It’s a battle for the soul and freedom of the human race carried out simultaneously in the world we know, and in a world that you’re not going to expect. It’s a world where if you make a false move, you’re going to lose your mind.

Insanity… is this something you have a personal familiarity with?

The line between writer and crazy person is very thin.  Both go around holding long, involved conversations with people who aren’t there.

What’s this other world thing all about?

Do you really want spoilers? I’ll tell you this. We’ll be going “down in the meat.” It’s going to be vast, bloody, and beautiful.

Wait… isn’t this supposed to be for kids?

Adults like to flatter themselves that kids won’t get, won’t understand, won’t be able to handle, more intense, more complex stories. That’s nonsense.  It’s the adults who are easy to creep out or scare.  Say the word “biopsy” in a room full of adults. Or “audit.”  See?  Easy to scare.  Kids are a tougher audience because kids think they’re immortal.

After reading this Q&A with Michael Grant and browsing through the Society Twins website, a light bulb went on in my head! I remember doing a project on interactive storytelling in the first year of my undergrad and it was absolutely fascinating, what I found! So I am going to dig through my old research papers, and find some more exciting pieces to share with you!

Until then.. Enjoy!!

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