For my final I’d like to create a short sci-fi story of the “choose your own adventure” variety with a coded accompaniment! The final presentation of this idea will be a little physical bound book that has a corresponding p5 sketch. This sketch will feature several kinds of code interactions that will be paired with the story:
At its simplest form, certain pages of story will require you to read them while listening to an atmospheric background sound from p5.
At different intervals in the story, you will be posed with an opportunity to decrypt information based on the clues that you have received so far. Using DOM element inputs, the user will answer questions and submit these findings in order to gain access to more information about the story world, characters or plot.
What I imagine will be the most fun will be the cross roads decision moments. Through a story progression that will be viewed in text and images on p5, the user will be posted with a critical decision. “Save your family or save the world!” (this won’t actually be the options but I wanted you know how dramatic that moment will be!). The user clicks on one of two buttons to make their choice and the last element of the story is revealed in p5. The user is then directed to read the corresponding final chapter of the story.
p5 and a Printed Story? How Do These Work Together?
You may be wondering what would stop someone from just skipping ahead and reading the alternate endings of the story, skipping p5 all together. Well I’m hoping to split the literary content in a way that makes it difficult to comprehend without the story information that the user will get from p5. I’m hoping that the coded accompaniment reveals information in a way that makes it enticing to get to the next code segment.
Alternatively, one of my favourite parts about reading “choose your own adventure” books was that moment of getting to the end and flipping back to see what the story could have looked like so maybe it’s not the end of the world if you can flip back to see alternate endings. What do you think? Part of me considering creating sealed envelopes for each ending of the story so that is dissuaded you from checking your odds of success before making your decision. That felt a little too much like Inspector Gadget or James Bond and I want this to be different…
During independent reading time at my elementary school, we weren’t allowed to read choose your own adventure books because they weren’t academic enough or something but my friends and I used to sneak them inside the jacket cover of classic novels! They were fun and my school was stuffy.
I really liked R A Montgomery, an American author who wrote literally dozens of these books. I remember really loving the space and underwater themed books because the worlds were either so dissonant from our own or so oddly aligned with our issues. It’s no surprise that I like to write sci-fi now.
There are a couple books out there fusing code and kids stories. I like the series called Secret Code, largely because their characters aren’t all just white boys. All their protagonists are women, often women of colour. They tell you a little bit of the story and then you have to use to code to get a little more info, which guides you through the next part of the story and so on and so on.
Here’s a story to give you a little more context as to why this is exciting for me. You may be familiar with TIFF, the Toronto International Film Festival, but you may not know that they have a permanent venue called the TIFF Bell Lightbox. They actually run year round programming for adults and for kids and have one of the countries most modern new media education departments. When I worked at an interactive studio, I was assigned this awesome project to correspond with TIFF’s exhibition on the 50 Years of (James) Bond. The exhibition had costumes and special footage on display in TIFF’s gallery. I had to make up some kids content that would be relevant to the exhibition in a very age appropriate way. So I wrote a bunch of kids stories and used a platform that our company invented to act as a decryption site for clues, morse code and messages. I even got to build little arduino based spy catching devices in altoid tins. I taught that program to kids there for a year and it was THE BEST! Whoa, come to think of it, that interactive studio was founded by ITP alums – full circle.
Kids absolutely loved it but then, on family day the parents got to be a part of it too and I was reminded how much adults love solving puzzles and getting sucked into the story as well.
Who Is This For?
All this to say that I’d like for this story to be for adults! I’ve worked in experiential kids education for a while but I’ve been writing sci-fi for a lot longer. I’d like to try my hand at a new audience for myself.
Here’s an excerpt of something that I’ve been working on. The story for this class may or may not be based off this. I’m not entirely sure yet. It’s written in a very casual style that I find hard to maintain so it might not be ideal for this assignment as I’m hoping that the story would be closer to three chapters long.
**pass out i-D magazine**
I’d like the experience to feel dystopian and a little steam punk, siting somewhere in the definition of afrofuturistic. Here’s a reminder of some code I wrote that I think sit within those margins by paying homage to a black futurist artist.
That’s what I have at this point! Looking forward to getting feedback from the class!