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Favorite Projects from the Future of StoryTelling Summit

Recently, I had the privilege of working at the Future of StoryTelling summit taking place at Staten Island’s beautiful Snug Harbor.

FoST is a two-day conference dedicated to exploring the intersection of art and technology and examining the possibilities open to storytellers in today’s world. One feature of FoST is the Story Arcade, a gallery of interactive storytelling projects. This includes video games, interactive art, and other cutting-edge projects. Touring the exhibits was an interesting experience, and there were a couple of projects that definitely caught my eye.

The first project was the Sleepy Hollow Oculus Rift Experience, a virtual reality experience premiered by Secret Location at Comic-Con, for fans of the FOX series Sleepy Hollow. This immersive video, which takes advantage of the Oculus Rift, transports you to a graveyard, where the main character of Sleepy Hollow relays to you a grave warning. With flawless sound and an immersive environment, this short video provides a glimpse at technology which could make for truly terrifying horror movie experiences in the future. It’s only a teaser, but I believe it could convince those who try it of the potential of virtual reality.

Another project I enjoyed was Child of Light, a video game by UbisoftChild of Light is a side-scrolling RPG with simple and fun combat, whose story is told entirely through poetry. Also of note is the terrific artwork, which makes the game a pleasure to look at. It is available on PC and major game consoles.

Next was Variable State‘s Virginiaan “interactive drama” inspired by the hit 90s drama Twin Peaks. Although I was only able to play a demo version, I was hooked as soon as I started playing.

You play it like a first-person video game, but once you get into it, you’ll notice the focus is all on the story – the unsolved mystery of a missing boy. Virginia doesn’t try to impress you with the fanciest technology available, but it does a good job tying together various elements – interaction, motion picture, and sound – to make a novel experience.

Wuxia the Fox didn’t catch my eye before the conference, but I came away from trying it very impressed. Wuxia is a Kickstarter project by transmedia artists Jonathan Belisle & Vincent Routhier that aims to reinvent the bedtime story and inspire kids to connect with nature.

Before the purpose was explained to me, I had no idea it was for parents to read to kids – it seemed to me like an enjoyable experience just as much for the reader as the one being read to. You start reading it like any normal picture book – but as the microphone picks up the words you speak, accompanying images and soundtrack elements play on the iPad or attached monitor.

Some segments require interaction with the app – for example, at the end of the book, there is a puzzle, which you solve by placing pieces over a section of the book. To complete this challenge, you take a picture of the arrangement and send it to the app.  I didn’t find that the interactivity added much, but I was impressed with the core experience of the project.

Of the projects displayed at the Story Arcade, my personal favorite was Pry. Pry is an ambitious iPad-based novella, which, rather than emulating print, really shows what is possible with the eBook medium. Although it did not win, Tender Claws did qualify with Pry as a finalist for the FoST Prize.

Pry tells the tale of a demolition expert named James returning from the First Gulf War. As his vision begins to fail and his past fills his thoughts, Pry places readers inside his shoes.  In one chapter, James recounts a traumatic moment. Initially, only a basic account is presented on the screen, but readers can “pry” lines of text apart to discover hidden details, inner thoughts and fears, and related storylines. At the deepest level, words fail, and the page tears apart, revealing a video fragment or flashback.

The aim is to not only relay the plot to the readers, but to allow them access to James’ innermost thoughts and desires to boost the readers’ empathy for him.  In another scene, James is given a braille Bible. As you run your hands over the braille, James begins to sound out words, and the related imagery in his thoughts is displayed on the screen. The great part about this project was that it pushed the boundaries with the new technology available, but didn’t feel gimmicky at any point. All of these features helped to immerse you in the mind of the protagonist and tell the story.

These were just my favorites, but there were projects for fans of all types of work.  A full list of projects is available by downloading the FoST 2014 app from the App Store.

What were your favorites from FOST? Share in the comments!

Saif Tase

Saif is a Computer Science student in the College of Engineering. Get in touch with him over email:

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