We know by know that story telling has come a long way from sitting by a fire and hearing an old lady tell of the man that came form the river…..Stories themselves have not become more sophosticated but the delivery methods have. Dee Cook looks at three different stories being told in three different ways.

cover.jpg
Alabaster
The Queen has told you to return with her heart in a box. Snow White has made you promise to make other arrangements. Now that you’re alone in the forest, it’s hard to know which of the two women to trust. The Queen is certainly a witch — but her stepdaughter may be something even more horrible…

Alabaster is a form of interactive fiction that sets about to retell the tale of Snow White from a somewhat different perspective. The story is told through text, and you are given a prompt to enter responses. The story then reacts to what you have just told or asked it. Additionally, Alabaster includes illustrations that change in accordance with the mood of the story. This collaboration between 11 different authors is a sophisticated tapestry of dialog and plot. In all, 18 separate endings are available, depending on the choices the player makes.

If you’ve never had the opportunity to explore the world of interactive fiction, or IF, you’re missing a treat. If Alabaster whets your appetite, give the classic Zork series a shot next. Theatre of the mind at its finest.

Nawlz
Another sort of storytelling entirely, Nawlz is an online graphic novel. Nearly every panel features some sort of animation and sound, and some have interactive hotspots that readers can play with. The cyberpunk setting “follows Harley Chambers as he kicks thru the futuristic City of Nawlz engaging in overlaying virtual realities, mind-bending drugs and other strange techno-cultures.”

What’s interesting about Nawlz is that the panels are not static. Items and elements appear and rearrange themselves within the panels as the reader navigates through the story. This gives a totally new dynamic to the experience and is exciting even for graphic novel neophytes to navigate through.

screenshot_11.png

Survive the Outbreak
When the zombies attack, are you dead meat or will you be leading your people to safety? Chris Lund’s Survive the Outbreak let people put their best armchair zombie quarterbacking skills to the test, providing a choose-your-own-adventure style interactive movie that allowed viewers to make the decisions what to do next. Unfortunately, the high quality version seems to be a victim of its own success (or perhaps it’s a vast undead plot), but a reasonable facsimile of the movie/game can be found on YouTube complete with the decision tree. According to the designers, there are eight possible endings - but only two where the protagonist lives. As Homer Simpson would say, “I like those odds!”

So take note, storytellers - every day there is someone out there finding another new and innovative way of captivating an audience. What’s been most interesting has been to see the shift from author-driven story to author/audience collaboration. Giving your audience a stake in the story is a sure-fire way of building a very strong relationship with them. Finding interesting ways of doing that is the challenge - and the fun part.

Dee Cook was elated to discover the world of interactive storytelling because, at that moment, she finally discovered what she wanted to do when she grew up. A fish out of water with lofty ideals and meta-theorizing, Dee finds herself most at home with her sleeves rolled up and the grease of a good story under her fingernails. In the last several years she has written, designed, and consulted on over a dozen alternate reality games, extended realities, and marketing campaigns, most recently World Without Oil, True Blood, Dead Space, and My Home 2.0. You can find her online at Addlepated.net.