This time last year I believed the only decent form of truly interactive storytelling could be done through video games, and I’m here to admit I was definitely wrong.
What I really enjoyed most studying concepts & collaboration in the digital humanities was delving into other forms of interactive media – which I wrote about briefly in my ‘storytime’ blog post last year.
Bear 71 by Leanne Allison and Jeremy Mendes is an interactive documentary following the life and death of a grizzly bear in a Canadian national park, who was collared at the age of three. It was a decent concept for a traditional documentary, but it was made a particularly enjoyable and more impactful story as we the viewers (or perhaps more aptly put the players) got to navigate the documentary at our own pace, gloss over what we as individuals found necessary or interesting, and just become absolutely immersed for half an hour or so in a way that you really can’t with a traditional documentary.
Something I enjoyed even more, however, was S., written by Doug Durst, and conceived by Sci-Fi king J. J. Abrams himself. It’s a testament to the fact that interactive media doesn’t necessarily need to be digital. An article on The Chicago Tribune declares the novel “part work of art, literary experiment, and love letter to the physical expression of books”, and I’d be inclined to agree. I’m not a big book reader myself but the concept alone was enough for me to love it. It’s essentially a book within a book with supplementary material, and it was this simple extra physical material, like a compass and some fake photographs stashed in the middle, that are used to understand the story more thoroughly, that made the novel so much more wonderful & immersive.
Everything said and done I still think video games are the best way to engage & interact with a story, and I believe what I’ve mentioned above works so well ultimately because they’ve been gamified – they are mechanically very similar to classic point & click adventure games like Grim Fandango, and the more recent Broken Age.
Ultimately now that virtual reality is finally becoming a physical reality, and having tried Oculus Rift & the HTC Vive myself, I’m more excited than ever for the influx of more unique interactive media.