Doraemon Boy: Interactive Storybook

Design Challenge

Create an Interactive Storybook that inspires and motivates users to think and act differently about a scarce resource by giving them agency in its narrative.

It is a 5-week (2018 Spring) individual project in the Story course taught by Graham Plumb.

Methodology: Qualitative Research, Ideation, Prototyping


Project Overview

Doraemon Boy Demo Video (one story plot only)


Research

To begin the project, we picked a scarce resource that we were interested in. It could be tangible, such as food and water, or intangible, such as friendship, trust, or love. I first thought self-identity was an interesting topic because we have all been through times when we don’t really know who we are or where to go. However, I later discovered that this topic is too broad and may be hard to discuss since everyone has different identities. Hence, I decided to interview my friends and see if their stories could inspire me. I interviewed six people about the difficulties they had been through in their lives. Since they all talked about “self-confidence”, I decided to focus on it instead of self-identity.

Some insights I found through interviews were:

  • Confidence are created through attempts and practices.
  • The fundamental reason of not having confidence is not about others’ opposition, but the failure to find their own interest, inspirations, and goals.
  • They think they understand themselves the most when they are confident.
  • When they are confident, they consider all the obstacles they face as challenges.

Iterations

Ideation

After picking my topic, I brainstormed a lot of ideas. At first I tried to create a story in a fairytale or sci-fi style since I personally really like surreal fiction, but I failed to do so. I realized it was hard for me to come up with a story out of nowhere especially when we needed to branch out multiple storylines simultaneously. However, this failure actually happened to give me inspiration — I decided to tell a story about how artists come up with their stories, the struggles they had been through, and how they had overcome them. I immediately thought of my design’s enlightenment — Doraemon (When I was the kid, the most excited thing was to watch Doraemon everyday after school). Hence, I wanted to talk about a journey of a kid who wants to be an animator because of his love for Doraemon.

Storylines

Brainstorming the branches of the story

I followed the Hero’s journey structure to craft my story. However, it took me way longer than I expected since it was my first time to think of a story with many plots at the same time. Even though I knew what messages I wanted to deliver, I was still often lost and confused by the branches. I didn’t really sort them out until I user tested my Twine story with others many times and modified them piece by piece.

I created around 30 story boxes in Twine and playtest it with users

Visual presentation

After finalizing my story, I started creating visual scenes by doing some sketches.

Then, I used SketchUp to create three-dimensional realistic surroundings (as you can see, I didn’t really follow my previous 2D plan when creating 3D scenes ha). I applied SketchUp’s drawing style to echo my animator theme.

For characters, I had trouble finding models so I ended up directing my parents and my brother to play the characters on Facetime (I was at U.S. and they were in Taiwan), which was quite challenging but surprisingly fun.

My dad and mom as models (please neglect my dog)

I put their photos into a cartoon filter for the same reason — echoing my theme.

I combined the characters and surroundings together in photoshop.

Then I added the lighting and shadow.

Lastly, I presented our final story by linking story text, images, buttons together and adding music on keynote presentation.


Final Work

The main character in the story is a little boy called Taylor who wants to become an animator because he likes Doraemon. He likes to draw but always fails to create good stories. Based on readers/users choices, there are 4 potential story endings that represent different levels of self confidence (from the lowest to the highest):

  • Taylor gives up on himself whenever he faces criticism — playing video games and ending up being caged in the virtual world.
  • Taylor copies others’ work and claims it is his own to earn praise — gets caught by the police and will be in prison for 10 years.
  • Taylor is afraid to let others down so he follows the rules of mainstream culture— becomes a successful engineer while still thinking about his dream sometimes.
  • Taylor goes through tons of obstacles and finally finds his original intention, passion, and inspiration— becomes a freelance animator who aims to tell the stories of underrepresented groups.

It’s the story of myself as well as many other creators. Through this story, I want to encourage creators to believe in themselves. Confidence is important to everyone. However, I think creators need it the most. Creating processes can be quite dull and lonely, but confidence gives creators perseverance to go through them.

Reflection

Discussion

How can interaction help telling stories?

The recent interactive Netflex TV series Black Mirror: Bandersnatch has sparked a huge debate of whether “interaction” should be part of films. I think interactive storytelling creates an interesting space between traditional storytelling and interactive games. Since the audience is experiencing the story themselves, it is especially effective in terms of inspiring empathy and persuading others, which I think are the reasons why more and more media companies are using similar techniques to produce their news.

What is the next step for the project?

Because the story plot follows the hero‘s journey, it is kind of cliched and predictable. However, I think it’s effective in terms of making people think and act differently about a scarce resource. I think for the next step, besides clicking buttons, I will create more elements for readers/users to interact and branch out the stories even more. Also, creating interactive news report and infographic is a direction that I want to explore more in the future.

Lessons

Pick the right tools/styles and get familiar with film cinematography

While using many tools and styles to compose my images, I learned to be extra careful about the balance between each element — creating a feeling of collage but not to go overboard to avoid visual conflicts. Also, composing frames made me learn a little more about film cinematography — positions and angles, as well as the lighting and shadows.

Interaction can change people’s perspective by creating a sense of agency

It is interesting to see people interacting with and playing out my own work. By letting users make choices and understand the consequences of their decisions, they can naturally get the messages themselves, instead of creating the feeling of being preached to. Rather than presenting art traditionally in museums with no-touching lines and signs, I believe art can reach its maximum impact by letting the audience interact with them.