Every storyteller thinks about the content and the context of their story, but we rarely take a moment to envision how our audience can get involved outside of comments and tweets. That's because we're thinking inside the wires of the Internet and not taking a step out into the world of interactivity.
In a SXSW panel with experts in interactive storytelling, gaming, and virtual reality, the audience learned that it's all about letting the story dictate the medium, and letting the medium engross the "viewers." But we're not just viewers anymore, are we? We're engagers and interactors. We're not just passively learning from a story because we now have the ability to fully participate in it. The foundations of storytelling have stood the test of time. Now we just need to adapt and recognize the mediums we are able to tell these tales through.
Charles Melcher (founder of The Future of StoryTelling summit), Ari Kuschnir (co-founder of m ss ng p eces), Navid Khonsari (a video game, film and graphic novel writer, director and producer) and Aaron Koblin (digital media artist and co-founder of VRSE) took the stage to share where they believe storytelling is heading... or should be heading.
In an interactive video for the World Cup by Pepsi and Kuschnir's team, the audience was able to influence the story by unlocking 11 suggested moments in time and getting a personalized and immersive experience from the video. In the Johnny Cash Project, Koblin's team created a democratized drawing tool where people could produce their personal perspective of Johnny. All the unique frames were then combined to create one complete music video for "Ain't No Grave." An interactive, communal art project at its best.
Meaningful and clear choices are the most important parts for interactive video. It's important to be definitive in the creation of any story, but especially an interactive one. As a storyteller, appeal to your narrative, what works best for it - not the masses. Work to tap into the universality of emotions, this provide people an opportunity to be engaged with the story. And like Khonsari stated, be true to emotional impact moments - remember to take in account the amount of time it takes a person to tear up so don't just keep moving the narrative without letting the emotions act naturally. Otherwise, the screen becomes apparent which is not the way to a compelling narrative.
Taking the importance of emotions even further is the idea of sensual media, which is where Melcher believes the future of storytelling is heading. Technology enables us to tell stories that are multi-sensoral and immersive. It reminds us of the joy of being alive (and not just living on our computers) by putting us into these narratives and experiencing them in a more powerful/memorable way. This is virtual reality. This is the next era of storytelling.
Long ago, Socrates said that writing something down becomes dead language because we lose the human subtleties i.e. facial expressions and gestures. Digital technology can bring back those subtleties into storytelling. Let's make Socrates proud.