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Au’Guest’ Blog Post – A BDF event organiser's insight: Glimmers - how we used a new storytelling medium

Written by Alex Buckley director of Rolemop Arts as part of the of the Wired Sussex guest blog month.

Creating the storyworld for a narrative iPhone app.

The seeds were sown last September as the BDF 2012 rolled on. I had recently chatted with programmer Pedr Browne about using smart phones to create a narrative app and it became apparent that the idea had found its home. As a small Brighton based Arts Company, part of Rolemop's remit is to utilise new technology in creating narrative events. Our projects have always been really diverse, from stage plays to animated projected films and interactive installations, our experience has shown us that generating any kind of narrative arc using multiple story choices was difficult. And as we discovered from our digitally interactive theatre show Broken Loops at the Old Vic Tunnels, necessary.

We knew early on we needed to make the whole story stand alone, and rather then just walking round randomly receiving parts of a story using gps markers, we needed to split it into different strands and viewpoints. We wanted to make the process more game like, with a quest, that gives the audience decisions like an adventure game. We knew we had to keep the event down to about an hour and make it as accessible as possible so as not to limit who would participate.

Here is the premise:

"Ever left a phone message that never arrived? What if it did, but in someone else’s phone in the past?"

Where do all these messages go? Did you imagine they are lost in the ether forever? … What if they aren’t, what if they can be found, across time, by passers by, in the areas they were sent from? Glimmers App connects you to the future.

We decided early on to create a faux App as the conduit to tell the story, connecting your phone to another phone through rifts in time so as to integrate the story from start to finish. It all began by inventing a massive storyworld, one much bigger then we could tell in the 40 minutes or so of audio that would be listened to. It was a world which would have multiple jumping off points, much like a game or multi platform script. This is a process championed by Portal Entertainment and their writer development programme which I participated in. A multi-platform approach allows for jumping in and out of a story using different media, at different points from different characters points of view. Portal advocate first person present tense role-playing as part of their approach. It was this notion that affected my decision to set it in the future, allowing participants the potential to affect a change with the decisions they take. We developed several story strands and outcomes over many months and looked at ways the outcomes could change.

My advice to anyone attempting anything like this is to give yourself plenty of time. Glimmers took a great deal of it and is something we are still working on as we develop for the future. Don't try and do too much, over complication will loose your audience, due to budget and time restrictions we were limited in how far we could integrate extra interactivity but this is definitely something we are looking to invest in. We are into the 2nd round of a Nesta digital rnd application and are looking for a space/venue/festival to present at next summer so fingers crossed.

To sum up Glimmers re-imagines various locations in Brighton as a dystopian future, creating a cocoon for participants in the story as the everyday real world passes them by oblivious. There are currently (without giving too much away) different outcomes depending on the decisions you make on which path to follow. This is an ongoing project and there is a large world still to be explored in version 2, we would love any feedback and ideas for further development. Contact for info and feedback.

Event info is available here: BDF Glimmers

For those without iPhones devices are also available to hire for free at weekends in September from the Jubilee library

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