Participatory Storytelling: Death by a Thousand Cuts?
Jim Thacker wrote an article over on Jawbone.tv a couple weeks back titled “Participatory Storytelling: A Thousand Authors in Search of a Character,” wherein, he summarizes a roundtable discussion conducted at Power to the Pixel’s “Cross-Media Film Forum.”
The two-peso version is this: How you involve your audience changes your role as an author.
Sweet potato casserole! Wild, right?
Well, it depends.
On the One Hand
Audience as active producers in a narrative is a novel idea. It brings to the virtual world the laws of the real world. It’s a wholly active-reactive ecosystem with a consequence to every decision; small, big, or non-existent.
And so much of what we do here at NB is tethered to that principle.
Full participation exists in the narrative world from the beginning because the real world exists. Instead of wasting energy attempting to repel and maintain separation between the two, their diligent fusion creates significantly more powerful experiences and rewards.
So it isn’t about recreating or transplanting the real world in the virtual one. That’s disingenuous and sure to result in near-immediate rejection, faster than a bear heart in a labradoodle.
But when fun, lush applied gaming worlds connect the audience – be they data entry workers, home insurance or mortgage agents, video game testers, or whoever – in meaningful ways to their tangible world, the result isn’t simply augmented, it’s supplanted.
On the Other Hand
“Know your audience.” And not the superficial demographics. You might as well admit you live by your stereotypes at that point. Instead, truly know them.
Budget the time, spent the money, review your discoveries free of bias because you owe it yourself, and them, to maintain vigilant diligence.
If the audience gets the feeling they’re simply being led through an exhibition, kinda like a second trip through Epcot Center, then you and the narrative world are prone to slow-slicing. Death by a thousand cuts. Whatever you prefer, the whole bird gets carved to pieces.
And, yes, there’s an opportunity to discover while in the most hostile of environments, but our belief is that the workplace is already hostile enough. Why add to it?
There will always exist an element of subterfuge, meaning, people will find ways to get their kicks exploiting or exposing the soft spots in any system. But that’s okay. It’s a behavior that can be rewarded. Some high-profile hackers have found employment within various security organizations doing exactly that.
Remember, fun is not the enemy of work.