This past weekend Red River College played host to the Interactive Narrative Bootcamp we sponsored and organized alongside New Media Manitoba, Film Training Manitoba and Red River College . In our last update we explained why this event and bringing diversity into gaming was so important to us. This week we’re rounding up highlights from the event, sharing some pictures and reflecting on what such cross industry events may mean for the local community.
About the Bootcamp – Bringing Diversity into Gaming
Lead by veteran television and video games writer, Elize Morgan, the Bootcamp was designed not only to help transition talented writers familiar with more traditional mediums into the interactive space, but to gather creatives together of various levels of experience, backgrounds and professions.
It’s very important to us at ZenFri that we help make the local industry inclusive by encouraging more voices to jump into the interactive space. The faces, age ranges and diversity of professional experience in the crowd shows not only that this vision is possible but that there is a lot of people eager to bring their voices into interactive mediums. This alone both humbles us and makes us proud.
During Day 1 Elize ran everyone through a crash course in interactive and video game writing, both by providing tools to writing across all mediums and through comparing and contrasting the difference in each medium, giving tips and tricks for non-linear and branching narratives, and even a section on what working in games is like, and how a person can break into the industry.
The difficulty of teaching a group of such varied experience became appearance very early on as finding shared references points (films, games, etc., everyone shared in common) seemed very difficult, and at times impossible, but we pressed through doing what we could to bring shared understanding to the underlying concepts the Bootcamp sought to teach.
Many of the best moments for learning on Day 1 came during the group exercises where tables worked together to apply what they just learned in fast-paced, 5-10 minute intervals.
If you want to dive in a little deeper on your own, and get a sense of what was discussed during Day 1, here is a link to the a .pdf of the slides.
Day 2 was an Interactive Narrative Game Jam. Using Twine, a branching interactive narrative tool we find ourselves using more and more here at ZenFri, everyone was broken into randomly assigned groups and spent the day creating original, playable, interactive stories.
The Jam was all about learning the tools while applying and sharing knowledge gained in the prior day. Other than the restrains of time (teams had about 6 hours), learning a new tool and working with strangers, teams had the additional tasks of combining three elements into their stories: a rocket ship, bowler hat, and a crab.
Elize and some folks from ZenFri spent the day offering their help to teams.
By the end of the day we had five original interactive stories, each harnessing different elements of interactive narrative. Some focused on using multi-media elements to enhance the text, while others offered emotional variety based on how users made choices throughout the story. A few teams even got a little more technical using variables and CSS to really tap into the power of Twine.
Final Thoughts on the Interactive Narrative Bootcamp
Based both on our own impressions about the course and the anonymous feedback provided to New Media Manitoba at the end of the weekend, we feel the course was a success.
We believe it’s important to help bring more diversity into gaming, and in this event we hoped to help do that in a small way through teaching creatives and storytellers about interactive narrative.
It’s never easy to try something new, and while this course was trying to mix so many disciplines of writing together is itself somewhat unique, it’s the writers and creatives who were asked to bound out of their comfort zones to learn a whole new form of storytelling that really that made the event a success.
We hope more initiatives like this happen in the future. Winnipeg has a lot of talent, and a lot of unique voices, but by bringing them together we strengthen the entire community, and begin to tap into a creative culture that can set local interactive developers apart from other regions.