At the Bologna Bookfair Tools of Change conference today I chaired the session When Worlds Collide: The Intersection of Book, Games and Online Communities for Kids
A conversation exploring theory, technology and tools behind interactive stories and online communities for kids.
with two co-founders of companies doing fascinating work.
ERIK HOFTUN runs SNOWCASTLE INTERACTIVE
Wired wrote about one of their games that ”…big developers of eBooks should take a look and see what they can learn from this story — it is more than touch points. The inter- activity is woven into the plot, making it a real adventure.”
CHRISTIAN DORFFER co-founder of MINDSHAPES is creating an ambitious community for pre-school children called MAGIC TOWN based on providing a safe online environment where children can encounter stories by the world's best (and most popular) writers. They've raised big money and done deals with the major publishers. Christian's focus on the developmental needs of young people and how best to provide these and Erik's skills and experience of shaping the elements of a game are hugely relevant to the need to find a grammar for new kinds of storytelling.
How do we identify literary, book-related quality in apps and multimedia without falling back o old assumptions of what is 'booklike'?This was a big issue in judging the prize where, for instance, the amazing UN JEU, based on a groundbreaking abstract picture book for very small children, was deemed a game not a book app, yet it has a creative spirit that feels playful in a children's book-like way. No apologies for focusing this year on narrative based work, but we need the opportunity to celebrate the category-busting work - and not forgetting literature made directly by writers and published free on the web. This is why if:book UK has decided to support and promote the International New Media Writing Prize, working with Bournemouth University.
I think we're moving towards a completely different way of defining what we do across different forms and media, in relation to the quality and style of engagement generated by what might be a book, film, game, story, community or... whatever.
These worlds don't need to be on a collision course; they are beginning to notice each other, learn from each other and create together.
The start up business brain walks into an established sector and aim to think of a product that hits the spot. Likewise the writers of tomorrow and today can begin to explore a theme or story - and do that publicly if their wish - before deciding what form or business model will suit the final work once it's fully cooked....which leads to the big question of whether the traditional narrative arc of beginning middle and end is really appropriate for the way we lead our lives now, or for the platforms that now exist for distributing our thoughts and stories. The tedium of so many movie plots with formative years leading to car chase and happy ending makes one wonder if we've used up all the permutations of the seven stories long ago.
Let stories, games and communities intermingle, innovate and thrive!