Interactivity has become a big theme in the world of modern media. Today’s audiences want to be involved in what is shown to them and no longer be passive as they watch. (Kapoor, 2012) The National Film Board of Canada has collected several interactive video projects, and three of them will be analysed in this paper. We will discuss the projects Flawed, God’s Lake Narrows and The Next Day by looking what elements of world building are incorporated in the projects, together with narrative structures, unique elements and the level of success.
The project ‘Flawed’ is an animation story made by Andrea Dorfman. The story is narrated by a female voice, possibly representing Andrea, while the scenes are painted in aquarelle. The story discusses how nobody’s perfect, and how you should share your shortcomings and learn to love yourself. (Dorfman, 2010) When the main story has finished, you can click through to another section of the project where you can click on the aquarelle and find out several flaws about the character.
Flawed is based upon a participatory narrative, which entails that the audience first has to see how the storyline develops, after which they can actively participate in the story by determining which flaws they want to see. (Mesenero, 2012)
Simplicity is what makes Flawed a unique project: the simple combination of the drawings and the narration stimulates your imagination and enables you to link it to your own situation. It leaves you to fill in the gaps yourself; the story provides you with a basis from which you can start thinking about the topic. Dorfman also tries to accomplish this personal touch by telling the story in first person; by using this archetypal feature, the audience automatically makes an emotional connection to the story that’s being told. (Kapoor, 2012)
As Carson (2008) mentions in his article, it is important to add something into the story that is familiar to the audience. Dorfman successfully applied this technique into her project: everybody has their flaws and most people are probably afraid of showing them to the world. This is the biggest strength of the project: every single person can, to varying degrees, relate to it. This is one of the main reasons why this project is used in grades 7-12 to educate children on self-acceptance. (Canada, 2010) The main weakness of this project is that it isn’t very interactive: apart from clicking through several ‘flaws’ and following the story, the audience doesn’t have too many options.
The next interactive project, God’s Lake Narrows, describes an Indian reserve in Northern Canada. Kevin Lee Burton, the creator, immediately makes a personal connection to himself and to the reader; he states that he’s from there, and he tries to get the audience involved by showing how many miles their hometown is from the reserve. Burton uses characterization to further strengthen his argument: yes, the houses look somewhat ghetto and yes, the people might be very to themselves. but by explaining the background, their traditions and showing portraits of several inhabitants, Burton shows us the different layers that this community has. First he shows the expectations, then he breaks them down. By shifting between text and images he makes both components more powerful, providing a balanced yet intense portrait of the reserve.
According to Carson (2008) world building contains three elements, namely taking the audience to a new environment they would never go, making them create a new character and allowing them to do things they could never do. God’s Lake Narrows only suffices in the first element, whereas Flawed also tried to incorporate the third element by making the audience step out of their comfort zone and admit to their flaws. God’s Lake Narrows could further improve its world building by expanding the storyline and adding more interactive elements to the project.
We would say that GLN is a nice example of an interactive project: it shows the Indian reserve from an inside perspective, and it confronts you with the assumptions you have about this culture. It provides the audience with several options: you can look at the photos or text separately, go for the combined experience or just read the background information. However, apart from that, the audience isn’t challenged to do anything else. In order to make this a real interactive project, this should be improved.
The third and final project that we will discuss is called The Next Day. This project is about 4 people who survived their suicide attempts and now open up about their motives, thoughts and emotions concerning their experiences. The project consists of both an animated documentary and a published graphic novel, a preview of which can be found on the project website. The animated documentary first tells you a summary of the stories of all 4 people, and after that you get the choice between several words that represent audio clips. Each audio clip contains details about their personal stories, and the audience can decide which clips they’d like to hear: a nice example of the participatory narrative technique (Mesenero, 2012).
This project also incorporates the first element of world building very well; taking the audience to an environment they’d never go. In this case, we shouldn’t take environment literally, but more abstract: they are discovering a topic that usually isn’t talked openly about. This is one of the strengths of this project, together with the fact that you don’t know which audio clip belongs to who. You hear different pieces of different stories without being able to plan it in advance; there is no ‘ready-made’ path that you have to follow.
These three interactive stories showed us that it appears to be pretty difficult to write a fully interactive story: Flawed and GLN are pretty ‘produced’, you can’t really participate in it. You just click through it. The last one is a bit better, since you really have to figure out what you want hear yourself, it does not matter which path you choose you get know the story of each individual, which is not clicking through it but clicking by choice.
Canada, N. F. (2010). NFB. Retrieved from NFB: http://www3.nfb.ca/sg/100665.pdf
Carson, D. (2008) “Environmental Storytelling: Creating Immersive 3D Worlds Using
Lessons Learned from the Theme Park industry,” Gamasutra, 2008,
Dorfman, A. (2010). National Film Board Canada. Retrieved from NFB: http://flawed.nfb.ca/#/flawed
Kapoor, R. (2012, October). CM2052: Transmedia Entertainment & Marketing lecture.
Mesenero, R. (2012). Scriptwriting for Participatory Narratives. Retrieved from http://medea.mah.se/
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CM2052 | Transmedia Entertainment & Marketing