The Art of the Interactive Storyteller
I would like to tell you story:
"As I write this I am sitting on the west shore of Nottawasaga Bay. Nottawasaga Bay is a bay at the foot of Georgian Bay. Where I am sitting is about half way along the crescent of the Bay between Wasaga Beach and Collingwood. To the west the Niagara Escarpment falls into the bay and to the east, about twenty miles across the Bay you can see the Escarpment rise out of the water and continue across the Bruce peninsula. About a 1/4 mile out into the bay, my son, Robert and his friend Dan are paddling their kayaks around a huge chunk of granite protruding from the water. That granite boulder has been there since the glaciers receded to the North. It is a gloriously sunny August day and the only thing that disturbs the tranquility is the roar of the 100 Hp Evinrude or Mercury Sunrays that scream across the bay.
To the left..."
Let's stop it right there. I am here in Hamburg, Germany and I just know most of you don't have a clue as to what I was talking about.
Who knows where Collingwood is? How about the Niagara escarpment. The Bruce Peninsula? Nottawasaga Bay? 100 hp Evinrude Sunray? I am willing to bet I lost a lot of you after the first sentence.
How I lost you is not important. What is vitally important to you , as multimedia developers, is "why" I lost you. It is something a lot of multimedia developers around the world completely overlook in their rush to toss out the latest cool effect, a Flash animation that will get them noticed or CD that will win them accolades from a world-wide audience. What they overlook is the simple fact there is a story to be told.
For a story to be effective, the story must have relevance to you. I am in Hamburg talking to you about something one of my students in Toronto would instantly understand. You don't. It has no relevance or context to your experience. If you don't understand what I am talking about you will do what you just did, dial me out ,dude. With interactive media you don't just dial me out. You leave, eject the CD, turn off the TV. Bottom line. You are gone and my effort to tell you my story is wasted.
So I am here today for one simple reason: to tell you how to tell a story.
On the surface it may seem to you like I have just wasted a colossal amount of money and time and traveled a few thousand miles to tell you something you already know. Gosh, you all know how to tell a story. You have been doing it for your entire lives. That's great but now your stories are being told to the world, not your friends and family.
Many of you are about to discover, or have discovered a pleasant fact of this business: that people are actually prepared to pay you some serious money for those stories. You are also going to discover the downside of that bit of news. You will have to get the story right, the first time, and if you don't I promise you; you will be looking for a new job or a new line of business.
This is something I make abundantly clear to every student applying to the Multimedia program at Humber College : "If you can't tell a story, don't even think of being accepted to the program." Think about it. Where do web sites start? With a story board. Where do films start? With a book. All have their roots in a simple thing called a "story".
I find it fascinating that we are part an industry that really doesn't have a history, yet the foundation of what we do stretches back to prehistory.
Before there was written record there was an oral record. Once man discovered ways of fixing those records into place- hieroglyphics, cuneiform, papyrus, paper, stone- the oral culture disappeared. Or did it? I would suggest, instead, that it became invisible, until the 20th Century, when, like a faint TV signal, it flickered in and out of our technology.
Today, to paraphrase the line from the movie Poltergeist: "It's back!"