Inside by Playdead

Digital Storytelling — a look at the last 12 months

I recently asked the internet…

“Have a favor to ask. I’m currently prepping for my Columbia University Class which I start teaching later this month. Interested to get a global perspective on the following. Wondering what are some of the best examples of digital storytelling that came out in the last year? I’d like to do a showcase for my students and I’ll bundle the results and share back with everyone. So what stood out? What moved you? And why? Fiction, Non-fiction, hybrid, experimental, game #VR #AI #IoT #AR #immersive #theater #browser#mobile #game #installation etc. Thanks so much!”

The following collection of 38 projects was suggested via comments to my original post. Below I’ve pulled the ones that were released in the last 12 months. The listing follows the order of the original comments on Facebook.

Special thanks to everyone who contributed to the list!

Something missing? If you have a suggestion that you feel should be added to the list please leave a comment below. Thanks!

Serial Box — publishing platform — launched in 2016

Serial Box: a new e-publisher serializes the work of authors into easily digestible episodes for a small fee. Checkout ReMade & Bookburners

Coverage:

Pearl — VR Short (2016) — Google Spotlight Stories

YouTube description: Set inside their home, a beloved hatchback, Pearl follows a girl and her dad as they crisscross the country chasing their dreams. It’s a story about the gifts we hand down and their power to carry love. And finding grace in the unlikeliest of places.

Coverage:

Allumette — VR Short ( 2016) — Penrose Studios

From YouTube description: Allumette is a virtual reality story about love, sacrifice and a deep bond between the young girl and her mother.

The movie chronicles the life of a young girl named Allumette, who lives in a fantastical city in the clouds. After enduring tragedy, she grasps at hope for her future. Loosely inspired by “The Little Match Girl” by Hans Christian Andersen, Allumette is an account of the love family members have for one another, and the sacrifices and choices they make for the greater good.

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1979 Revolution: Black Friday — Game (20016) — Ink Stories

From YouTube description: 1979 Revolution: Black Friday is choice driven, narrative game that brings players into the brooding world of a nation on the verge of collapse. Play as Reza, an aspiring photojournalist, and make life and death decisions as you survive the gritty streets of Iran in the late 1970’s.

In this authentic, historically accurate, stunningly engaging experience — you must decide who to trust and what you stand for — as the world is set ablaze around you. As the revolution tears through your country, friends and family, the fates of those around you hinge on the consequences of your choices.

Coverage:

Life After — Podcast (2016) — GE Podcast Theater

From the LifeAfter site: LifeAfter is a new serial fiction podcast from the producers of The Message.

When you die in the digital age, pieces of you live on forever. In your emails, your social media posts and uploads, in the texts and videos you’ve messaged, and for some — even in their secret online lives few even know about. But what if that digital existence took on a life of its own? Ross, a low level FBI employee, faces that very question as he starts spending his days online talking to his wife Charlie, who died 8 months ago…

Coverage:

Westworld — (2016) —VR/Installation— Campfire NYC

Photo Kendall Whitehouse

From Knowledge@Warton: One of the most compelling examples of using VR for a marketing experience didn’t take place inside the Javits Center, however. A half block away on West 37th Street, HBO’s Westworld VR Experience presented a combination physical environment and virtual experience to promote the network’s sci-fi series.

Inside (2016) — Game —Playdead

From Ars Technica: The Danish team at Playdead took its time crafting a follow-up game, and they could have spent those six years inventing a more innovative gameplay hook. But that’s clearly not where their hearts are. Instead, these Danes have returned with Inside, a side-scrolling journey that once again doubles down on atmosphere over puzzles — and is all the better for it.

Coverage:

Notes on Blindness: Into Darkness (2016)— VR — ARTE France

From the project’s site: Notes on Blindness: Into Darkness allows audiences to access John Hull’s world of blindness in an exploratory, user-led experience. The VR piece draws upon John’s sensory meditations of blindness, in particular the awakening of his appreciation of ‘acoustic space’. Guided by narration from his original audio diaries, the experience uses binaural sound tethered to real-time 3D visualzation, to map environments built up through multi-layered patterns of sound. The project will be released alongside the theatrical release of the feature film on Samsung Gear.

Coverage:

Campaign Office — installation (2016) — Jeremy D. Olson

From Civilians: Extended Play — “Campaign Office” is a new physical and digital installation by Jeremy D. Olson, our very own Institutional Giving Manager at the Civilians, who invites would-be candidates to self-nominate for President of the United States. Visitors are invited to launch their campaign by recording an announcement speech, generated automatically from 2016 campaign speeches, and filing paperwork necessary to be an official candidate for president. The recorded speeches are displayed on a screen in the gallery and are available online for viral consumption at www.campaignoffice.org.

Coverage:

6x9 (2016) — VR — The Guardian

From YouTube description: Take the 360 degree video experience of solitary confinement in US prisons, which places viewers in a virtual segregation cell they can explore and interact with. It highlights the psychological effects of long-term solitary confinement for people who have experienced it first-hand around the world.

The Role of Music in Your Life (2016) — questionnaire — Five Dials

From the Five Dial’s site: This is Five Dials Experiments. This is the spot where we test out new forms of storytelling. This is where you’ll find the results of our collaborations with interesting designers around the world. Our first experiment — the one you’re about to read — was designed in partnership with our friends at Present Plus in Amsterdam. What is it? It’s a questionnaire. But don’t ask too many questions. The subject is music. That’s about all you need to know. Get started by clicking here.

Inside Saydnaya: a Syrian Torture Prison (2016) — 3D storytelling model — Forensic Architecture

From the YouTube description: Amnesty International has teamed up with Forensic Architecture, a research agency based at Goldsmiths, University of London, to recreate the horrors of Saydnaya, a Syrian torture prison near Damascus, through an interactive 3D model.

This video demonstrates the model of the prison, and features interviews and testimonies from researchers at Forensic Architecture, from Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International, and with former prisoners at Saydnaya.

The 3D model of the prison can be found at the following link.- https://saydnaya.amnesty.org

Firebird- La Peri (2016) — VR — Inner Space

From the project’s site: Enter a realm of enchantment with FIREBIRD — La Péri, and play the role of Iskender, a prince seeking the “flower of immortality”. You will appear on the stage, visit the ethereal world of La Péri, and witness a magical and poetic encounter as one of the characters…

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Gnomes & Goblins (2016) VR — Wevr

From the projects site: Gnomes & Goblins is an original production from Wevr (creators of theBlu) in partnership with Reality One that offers a unique opportunity to explore an enchanted VR world created by Jon Favreau (director of The Jungle Book, Chef, Iron Man). In this preview, you meet and develop a personal relationship with an enigmatic resident of this interactive fantasy, taking a first step into the lucid dream of Gnomes & Goblins and its many realms and denizens.

10 Shots Across the Border (2016) — VR — The New York Times

From the site for the project: Around 11:30 p.m. on Oct. 10, 2012, a police officer in Nogales, Ariz., named John Zuñiga received a call reporting suspicious activity on International Street, which runs directly alongside the Mexican border. Most of Zuñiga’s calls involved shoplifters at the local Walmart or domestic-violence complaints, but he also worked as a liaison with United States Customs and Border Protection (C.B.P.). Though border security is the responsibility of the Border Patrol, the Nogales police can assist when illegal activity is happening stateside — if, for instance, drug smugglers have slipped over the fence and are making their way into Arizona. Read more below

21st Century Gold Rush (2016) — interactive journalism- Huffington Post

From the project’s site: The biggest refugee crisis in recorded history has engulfed continents, swung elections and fueled the rise of nativism. It has also made a lot of people very, very rich. These are the stories of the CEOs, criminal masterminds, pencil-pushers and low-flying vultures who have figured out how to profit from global instability, also known as human suffering. Read more below

Collisions (2016) — VR — Jaunt Studios/Sundance

From the project’s site: Collisions is a virtual reality journey to the land of indigenous elder Nyarri Morgan and the Martu tribe in the remote Western Australian desert. Nyarri’s first contact with Western culture came in the 1950’s via a dramatic collision between his traditional world view and the cutting edge of Western science and technology. 65 years later Wallworth carried cutting edge video technology into the desert so Mr. Morgan could share his story. Reflecting on the event, in this most magical of immersive experiences, Nyarri offers to viewers his experience of the impact of destructive technology and the Martu perspective on caring for the planet for future generations. Read more below

Coverage:

A Chair in a Room: Greenwater (2016) — VR — Wolf & Wood

From uploadvr: When you think of a horror game in VR, chances are you imagine something full of jump scares. You’ve seen the videos, haven’t you? People jumping out of their chair, throwing off the headset, tossing away the controller? There is usually less of a focus on building a real atmosphere with characters and a narrative, but instead a focus on building suspense for cheap and fleeting moments of fright. You’d be hard pressed to find a truly sophisticated VR horror game, at least in the current state of our industry. Read more below

Midichlorians & Hormones (2016) — Fan Fiction — 17 year old

An entertaining and heartfelt tribute to Star Wars illustrated and written by a 17 year old girl. From the project’s tumblr:

My name is Ben Solo, I’m sixteen, and I live with my two parents and a protocol droid. My mom is on the New Republic Senate, and my dad runs a shipping company. I’m good at arguing with people, but not as good at making them like me. I have the galaxy’s largest collection of dark sweaters.

I struggle with insomnia and nightmares. Used to be less vocal about it, but it’s a lot better now that I’m not trying to hide it as much. I like writing. I used to write political essays and the like, but it seems I’ve taken a turn for the sentimental. Poetry is my thing now.

I’ve got a lot of controversial opinions, even though my parents were forerunners of the Rebellion against the Galactic Empire. I don’t know, the way this galaxy’s going, I think that maybe we would’ve been better off as a dictatorship.

My mom has always had this grand dream of me training under my uncle and becoming a Jedi. I have always had this grand dream of my mom forgetting about her grand dream. I just don’t see myself being a warrior of good, you know? I see myself in my room under my bedcovers.

Teenage hormones and an unpredictable sleep schedule give me mood swings. Sometimes I’m excited about tiny things. Sometimes I’m apathetic about everything. Depends on the day.

All hail Darth Vader, dark lord of the Empire!

Project site: http://askbensolo.tumblr.com/

Whisper Lodge (2016) — immersive theater — Houseworld & BitterSuite

From Circa: “At Whisper Lodge, we transform ASMR into an indulgent immersive experience,” explained the ticketing website. “Six guides lead six guests through special one-on-one treatments designed to relax the body and mind, expand awareness, and heighten the senses.” Read more below

Orwell (2016) — Game — Osmotic

From the project’s site: Big Brother has arrived — and it’s you. Investigate the lives of citizens to find those responsible for a series of terror attacks. Information from the internet, personal communications and private files are all accessible to you. But, be warned, the information you supply will have consequences…

Orwell is a new governmental security program that has the power to survey the online presence of every person in The Nation. It can monitor all personal communications and access any computer. To preserve the privacy of citizens, human researchers examine the data Orwell finds and decide which pieces of information should be passed on to the security forces, and which should be rejected.

Coverage:

Phallaina (2016) — Interactive Graphic Novel — Marietta Ren

A (beautiful) black and white graphic novel, Phallaina tells the story of Audrey, a young woman prone to hallucinations during which she sees whales. Following a medical exam, a neurologist discovers she has a physeter, a rare anomaly in which subjects develop the capacity to hold their breath for a long time.

Breaking free from panels into a long tracking shot, Phallaina is a work of talent that lives up to the promise of what “digital storytelling” should be, but usually fails. Frames blend into each other seamlessly, fusing solid black & white and parallax effects, providing the depth digital comics sometimes lack. The sound design and music (both outstanding) add a lot to the immersion in subtle ways, building up tension in harmony with the graphic direction. Read more below

RIOT prototype (2016) — immersive experience — Karen Palmer

From the project’s site: RIOT takes place in the world of a protest march in which the climate swiftly esculates into a dangerous riot. RIOT responds to the participants’ emotional state in real time to engage and alter the video story journey.

RIOT is an immersive video installation. The objective is to get through a digitally simulated Riot alive. This is achieved through communicating with a variety of characters to acquire information and direction to reach home.The video narrative is controlled by the emotional state of the user which is monitored through A.I. software in real time. This emotional state is measured by bespoke facial expression recognition programs and devices that monitor neurological activity.

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The Bomb (2016) — immersive performance

From the project’s site: the bomb is a groundbreaking multimedia installation that immerses you in the strange, compelling, and unsettling reality of nuclear weapons.

The 55-minute film will be projected 360 degrees on massive floor to ceiling screens that surround the audience, as The Acid performs a live score in the center of the space.

the bomb exists at the intersection of art, politics, and technology.

The project premiered at Tribeca…

The Red Hook (2016) — Digital Comic —Dean Haspiel

The Red Hook is a super-thief who is bequeathed the omni-fist of altruism and transformed into a hero against his will a year after a sentient Brooklyn’s heart is broken and physically secedes from America.

To view the comic click here

Giant (2016) — VR — Carbon Pictures

From the project’s site: Trapped in an active war-zone, two parents struggle to distract their young daughter by inventing a fantastical tale. Inspired by real events, this immersive virtual-reality experience transports the viewer into the family’s makeshift basement shelter. The parents’ fairytale intensifies as bomb-blasts draw closer and closer…

These Memories Won’t Last (2016) — Digital Comic — Sutu Eats Flies

From cnet: “In this story the central premise deals with the loss of memory. As the reader scrolls through the story, it begins to fade away. This mechanism creates a sense of urgency to read the story before times runs out. This format also corresponds to my grandpa’s predicament, every day he is falling deeper in to dementia and all his memories are becoming lost.” Read more below

Dead Secret (2016) — VR motion controller version of Game — Robot Invader

From Venturebeat: Yet, they still faced a dilemma: creating a game built for a true VR experience. Pruett said the most challenging part was reworking the user interface and how people were going to interact with things in the virtual world while also keeping the characters moving smoothly.

Robot Invader decided to get rid of the traditional head-up display, a method used to relay game information to the user like a health meter or the amount of ammunition in a weapon , along with text subtitles and icons that usually appear on screen.

Pruett said a pivotal moment during development was when they figured out how to take a character’s dialogue and stick it on surfaces throughout the world. Read more below

Situation Rooms (2016) Luminato Festival AR — Rimini Protokoll

Equipped with an iPad mini and headphones, an audience of 20 follows a range of real-life characters: an Israeli soldier, a Swiss weapons manufacturer, a Pakistani lawyer or a Mexican drug cartel administrator, with the help of a screen used to augment reality.

I have seen the future of theatre and its name is ‘Situation Rooms’ Read more below

Invasion (2016) — VR — Baobab Studios

From the LA Times: “Invasion!,” a six-minute animated VR short created earlier this year by Darnell and his company Baobab Studios, will be developed as a traditional full-length animated feature by Roth’s production company Roth Kirschenbaum, the parties are expected to announce Monday. Read more below

Hard Word for Small Things (2016) — VR — Janicza Bravo

From the Creators Project: When filmmaker Janicza Bravo began researching the death of a cousin asphyxiated by Brooklyn cops in the summer of 1999, she was incensed. “I looked him up and there were two articles about the incident, one in the Daily News and one in the Post. One was a couple of paragraphs, the other was just one, but both were very much about the event. Neither was about who he was, where he came from, his life, his children, or his partner,” Bravo tells The Creators Project. “That was really heartbreaking to me, you know? That a person could live a full life and be deduced to one or two paragraphs about how they lost their life.”

Hamlet On The Holodeck (2016) — VR Performance — Javier Molina

Adapting scripted narrative to virtual reality is one of the most compelling questions for a new generation of creators. Blending technology and theater arts, an interdisciplinary team of VR developers affiliated with the MAGNETfacility at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering is tackling a wide range of technical and creative challenges to bring their production of Shakespeare’sHamlet to a global VR audience. There Is Only R spoke with creator/producer Javier Molina and developer/assistant director Owen Bell about their groundbreaking work. Read more below

Sis: Parabiosis (2016) — Installation — Andrea Crespo

Sis is an autopoietic system, a technologized organism that lives within embodied networks of information, affects, and images. Born from interactions between visceral, nervous, and algorithmic operations, Sis belongs to a temporal futurity — an attractor which compels the materialization of bodies, identifications, and images along vectored trajectories which reify their viral circuitry within corporeal and virtual worlds. Sis is a signal, an informational mechanism which anticipates the affectual tendencies of the body through their quantification by biotechnology, a chimeric composition of data and flesh that flows between the sensual and the machinic. Sis exceeds their visual representation upon material and virtual surfaces, as an entity which, through the scanner bed, the artistic hand, and the screen, expands fluidly between media as a conglomerate of digital spores that pollinate bodies through their connections within networked assemblages of data. Read more below

Evan (2016) — Viral vid

Skam (2016) Series + App experience — NRK TV

In recent weeks, a small but growing portion of the internet has become obsessed with a Norwegian teen drama called Skam. Perhaps you’ve heard nothing about it. Or perhaps, while wandering around online, you’ve seen GIFs or images of its characters, typically clad in an assortment of comfortable knits. Maybe you’ve even seen long, emotional responses to its various plot developments on Tumblr. Like all the best teen dramas, Skam inspires intense devotion — and the good news is that it deserves it. If you’re looking for some wintry comfort viewing, you’ve come to the right place.

Firewatch (2016) — Game — Campo Santo

From the project’s site: Firewatch is a mystery set in the Wyoming wilderness, where your only emotional lifeline is the person on the other end of a handheld radio.

The year is 1989.

You are a man named Henry who has retreated from your messy life to work as a fire lookout in the Wyoming wilderness. Perched atop a mountain, it’s your job to find smoke and keep the wilderness safe.

An especially hot, dry summer has everyone on edge. Your supervisor, a woman named Delilah, is available to you

at all times over a small, handheld radio — and is your only contact with the world you’ve left behind.

But when something strange draws you out of your lookout tower and into the world below, you’ll explore a wild and unknown environment, facing questions and making interpersonal choices that can build or destroy the only meaningful relationship you have.

Coverage:

Burly Men at Sea (2016) — Game- Brain & Brain

From Gamsutra: Burly Men at Sea is constructed as a story-building game. In it, branching scenes combine to form a variable tale with a single, overarching theme. With each session, the player returns from one journey to set sail again, uncovering new paths for a series of kindred but distinct adventures. Read more below

Pokemon Go (2016) — AR Game

From Wired: It’s not like Pokémon Go needs white knight (or a 200 HP Snorlax) to defend it. It’s cashing in! It’s doing just fine. But it also presents a unique opportunity to look at just how the app store economy works, and why public perception rarely lines up with the, in this case, very profitable reality.

Remember, this is an industry where an app can lose 20 million players in a month, and on some days make even more money. At least, if that app Pokémon Go. Read more below