THE EVOLUTION OF STORY: GAME DESIGN FOR STORIES WITH MARK EYLES

Storytelling for immersive transmedia experiences.

The third workshop in the series got us to explore the ways in which game design could be applied to storytelling. We wanted there to be a participatory and interactive aspect to our story experience and we asked Mark Eyles to lead us into this new terrain.

For our third workshop in the series we had the pleasure of Mark Eyles leading us through the possibilities for integrating story telling and game play. An important concept for us and Mark was able to guide us through a potted history of game design giving us some valuable ideas to play with. I think everyone was challenged to think about the shift from a linear, author led form of story telling to one in which every player brings their own creativity to the game.

The group worked on the design of our project and there were some really interesting developments. Especially in relation to the differing ways that ‘magic’ might be employed, the use of puzzles, the different kinds of interactivity we might want to add to the experience we are designing. Nonetheless, we didn’t lose sight of the importance of character and we spent a lot of time thinking about how each of the writers might create an interactive element to their character development.

Mark Eyles was Head of Design at Rebellion with over 20 years working as a designer, producer and manager in the games industry, a lecturer at the University of Portsmouth in games design and recently winner of the TIGA Person of the Year Award for his contributions to the games industry, teaching of game development and his work. He also wrote scripts for 2000 AD and Sonic the Comic, made holograms and has worked on board game designs for Hasbro, held the first Women in Games Conference and founded the Advanced Games Research Group at University of Portsmouth.

THE EVOLUTION OF STORY: TRANSMEDIA STORYTELLING WITH ALISON NORRINGTON

Storytelling for immersive transmedia experiences.

Our second workshop introduced the concept of transmedia to the participating writers. We were lucky enough to have Alison Norrington lead the workshop, she tooks us through the ABC’s and inspired us with some of her own transmedia projects.

We have been very lucky in finding the mentors we have for the writing workshops. Alison came highly recommended and boy did she deliver. Our aim for the workshop was for those participating to get a taste of what is involved in telling a transmedia story. Actually, after this workshop I stopped describing what we were doing as writing and started to refer to it as experience design. A subtle shift in terminology perhaps, but an important one. As with transmedia, it isn’t the author of the work that tells a story. Instead the story is created by those experiencing it.

This was a bit of a challenge for us all but Alison navigated the workshop participants towards a solid understanding of the principles of transmedia story creation. Personally I especially liked the conversational models Alison used to talk about the different ways we can think of story as a form of communication. It is also interesting to see the groups ideas developing and a growing level of complexity that is emerging from everyone’s input.

If you are unsure of what is meant by transmedia storytelling I have posted a short video below which might give you a quick introduction. The video is a summary of a transmedia story that was produced by a Spanish creative agency. It won’t answer all your questions but will give you a brief introduction. Don’t be put off by the ‘branding’ focus, transmedia story’s can also be done just for fun of for the experience.

Though if you really want to know more there are a couple of ways you can get involved with the project either as a creator or an player. Just get in touch via the website and we can tell you what is involved.

Alison Norrington has over 25 years experience in professional storytelling and entertainment working with working with such companies as Walt Disney Imagineering and a featured member of the BAFTA Guru Series. She is a founder of STORYCENTRAL incubating new franchises, participative experiences, production, story architecture, mythology and planning, prototyping, audience development and engagement and utilizing social media.

The Snow Witch Rebrands as “Cursed City – Dark Tide”

As some of you who follow us will know we have been working hard on the development of this Arts Council England funded project inspired by the novel “The Snow Witch” by Matt Wingett. As the project has developed the ideas behind it have become more focused and we are now ready to unveil the rebranded name for the project which will henceforth be known as “Cursed City – Dark Tide”.

At a recent writers meeting we were given the opportunity to pitch the project to one of our mentors Alison Norrington. She was keen that we rename the story and give it more of a sense of danger. She also suggested that the name should tell people more about what to expect from the project as it rolls out this autumn. After much discussion we finally settled on the new name and all of our marketing and outward facing branding is now being adapted.

The Cursed City writing group workshopping a scene with Alison Norrington.

Alison also showed us some examples of the way in which she documents her own transmedia projects. She took us through a spreadsheet she has previously used to script a minute by minute social media interaction between some of her actors. We will be doing something similar so it was extremely useful to be able to workshop some of our opening scenes in the same way with Alison guiding us. She will be back again to input into the final draft of the project later in August and we will update you with progress after that meeting.

We have a new logo as well which we hope will give you all a good idea of what to expect from the project and we hope you will enjoy the story we aim to tell over the coming months and will want to take part.

THE EVOLUTION OF STORY: COLLABORATIVE WRITING WITH JOE REDDINGTON

Storytelling for immersive transmedia experiences.

The workshop came about through a desire to explore a collaborative writing process that would enable the project to work with a group of creatives from the local community. We wanted to know what the challenges were and how we might overcome them. Author Matt Wingett, describes his experience of Joe Reddington’s collaborative writing workshop.

Local writers working on a draft of a collaborative piece of writing.
Local writers working on a draft of a collaborative piece of writing.

Joe Reddington’s workshop on collaborative was a fascinating experience that really took the lid off how to go about getting a particular writing goal performed through a structured and strict approach to working together collaboratively – that goal being the production of a novel, from conception, through development to printing, in 5 days.

Joe explained that in order to achieve it, specific limits and structures had to be achieved. This meant that each person had ownership of one character, that location and space within the book were also their own “characters” – ie: factors that needed to be included – and that one did not interfere with other people’s stories.

But how could it all work? How do you get into the frame of mind to enable that to happen. Joe started with an exercise that asked each of us to tell the story of a secondary character in a well-known novel as if they were the lead character. They must have an objective, an emotional drive and a purpose. This exercise I found really useful. I have a tendency in my writing not to round out secondary characters, or to make them subservient to the main story. But in this exercise, I began to see more clearly than ever before how actually the secondary character, the villain, the foil – these are all heroes of their own stories, in which they are operating to their own moral and logical standards. When this exercise was over, I could much more easily see how to develop a story between a group of many different people.

So, we were given a task to develop a plot based on the central ideas of, in our case, sport and Jane Austen. Initially, we had to work out each of our characters. What I found really interesting in this was when it came to discuss plot. There was a general agreement to approach this with the notion that “I want a scene in which this happens”. This was a really useful approach, and although the story elements appeared quite tropey, when it came to actually getting those events to fit together, I could see that there were very particular and interesting drives and scenarios beginning to unfold.

In all, it was a pretty joyous activity. I certainly felt I learned a lot about collaborative writing, and that it is possible to produce much more quickly with more voices, which I really wouldn’t have believed before. I also felt that the insight into the rounding of characters is something I will take with me into the future. Excellent stuff. 

Dr. Joe Reddington is the designer of the White Water Writers process.  He manages the day-to-day operation of the project. White Water Writers enables groups of up to ten writers to write and publish their own novel within five days. Writers are given an idea for a story on a single side of A4. They take the idea, develop it, draft it, proof it, refine it and polish it. After four and a half days – they publish it.

THE EVOLUTION OF STORY: WRITERS WORKSHOP PROGRAMME

Storytelling for immersive transmedia experiences.

In January 2018 we received some good news, our application to adapt a transmedia story from The Snow Witch, a novel by Matt Wingett had been successful. We were now in a position to start planning delivery of what would become our contribution to the 2019 Darkfest, a local festival celebrating the darker imagination of Portsmouth’s creative community .

Our project kicked off with a series of active participatory workshops are intended to inspire, inform and galvanise interest in new forms of writing. The workshops aimed to provide participants with an understanding of the concepts of transmedia storytelling, to provide participants with skills for telling their own transmedia stories and to equip them with a different perspective on this new emerging form of storytelling. The workshops were open to anybody and there was no requirement for any previous experience, just an open mind and a willingness to learn something new.

Transmedia storytelling (also known as transmedia narrative or multiplatform storytelling) is the technique of telling a single story or story experience across multiple platforms and formats using current digital technologies. We wanted to work with local writers to explore this new form of expression and discover new ways of writing collaboratively. The workshops were advertised widely including local writers groups as well as through New Writing South.

With the assistance the of University of Portsmouth we were able to run three day long workshops that bought some incredible talent to the city. We started with Joe Reddington’s Collaborative Writing session, followed it up with Alison Norrington’s transmedia session and concluded with a workshop by UoP’s own Mark Eyles on gameplay and fiction writing.

Watch this short video published by That’s Solent featuring author Matt Wingett and creative producer Roy Hanney talking about the EVOLUTION OF STORY writers workshops.

Some of the following blog posts are short reflections on the experience of the workshops and will hopefully outline some inspirations from those who participated. Others will explore a other aspects of the project and will perhaps offer an insight into the process of developing and delivering the Cursed City project.