For the last couple of months, I’ve been participating in an online class on thematic immersive storytelling. It’s been an interesting experience, and you can see what I’ve learned reading this tag. But it’s also been a confusing experience, on a lot of levels.
We’ve spent this class working toward “enchanted objects”, things that incorporate Internet of Things (IoT) technology to allow people to do things that can seem straight out of a science fiction television show or movie. Things that require an ability to talk to something nearby and react in a way the user can take advantage of. Which is why, last night, one of my more tech-savvy team members asked me during a design document revision discussion why we were trying to shoehorn sensors into the enchanted object we’ve been working on for the last month.
“Can’t we just use a cell phone? It can do everything we need.”
Another part of this process has been developing the object within a Sherlock Holmes theme. The objects we’ve been working on have all been taken from the pages of the Sherlock Holmes stories. We’ve built and solved crime scenes. We’ve prototyped a crime scene for others to solve, complete with a map suitable to a time Sherlock Holmes has been presented in. In this last stretch, we’ve been developing a Sherlock Holmes-themed enchanted object intended to help immerse players in the story and the world.
So, no. We can’t just put it all on a cell phone and be done with it.
This came just a couple of days after someone suggested we attach a GoPro to our object, which we had discussed and decided was impractical for what we were really trying to develop. But they attached a picture to their suggestion: a small dog with a camera rigged to its back. Perhaps a bit more practical than what we had been wrestling with, but it had no immersive possibilities (and it didn’t make sense within the crime story we have been working from).
It’s not like we’re creating a set or anything. People will be playing in an open space, and their imaginations are going to have to fill in the blanks. We as designers encourage and empower that when we do what we can to help them paint that picture through props that can actually be in the world we’re asking them to step into. When we make choices that don’t support the illusion, we’re not doing ourselves any favors. And that’s important to keep in mind in this kind of situation.