Final Project: Once Upon A Huh?
Just to recap, I created a HTML-based storytelling project where the audience seem to have the autonomy to choose how they want the Fairy Tale to go, but in fact they are actually not in control of the scenarios that happen. In fact, no one can control how the story goes except for the system story embedded in my HTML code. Muahahaah.
Click here to view my Midterm submission.
Food for thought after Midterm Submission:
There should be better cues on how to indicate a pressed button. For e.g. greying out the image, etc.
The narrative could be structured where certain decisions are important to the plot.
Understand my rationale better for nonsense options; what is the purpose for subverting expectations? Why do this? What is the core message? How do you justify why the decisions made are not what the audience expects?
After thinking a lot about these questions and ways to fill up the loopholes that has previously existed in the Midterm project, I am planning to make some changes for the final project.
The changes I will be making are quite a few but the main ones I have figured out are:
- Instead of having one array of random story parts for two options that will lead to the same narrative, I plan to have one array of random story parts for each option instead. This way, the answers will be more specific to the option that is selected. Each option will then lead to two different narratives. These two narratives will then continue on to the general narrative. I hope that this style of story will give a more personalised feel!
- If it works, I plan to have three options instead of two options. This is because psychologically, it is harder to decide which is the better option when you do not have one option as the basis for comparison.
- Based on Prof Dejan’s suggestions on considering the logic behind choosing the background and the music, I will be reconsidering the aesthetic of it.
- I might be replacing images from the story with certain parts of the text to add more visuals to the story.
I have also done some research about choice decisions and nudges over the recess break.
I looked into Lisa Tessman’s (She’s a professor of philosophy at Binghamton University in New York State) rationale for making decisions. She states the following:
It is not always good to have the opportunity to make a choice. When we must decide to take one action rather than another; we also, ordinarily, become at least partly responsible for what we choose to do. Usually, this is appropriate; it’s what makes us the kinds of creatures who can be expected to abide by moral norms… Giving people a choice might sound like it’s always a good thing to do, but giving a choice between two forms of moral failure is cruel.
To my inference, this responsibility people are forced to take gives them more stake in the story they are tasked to produce. This will hopefully make people curious about how their story will turn out. She proceeds to say:
No one can rightly be blamed for failing to care adequately if it wasn’t possible for them to do so. But they may still take themselves to be required to do the impossible, and then judge themselves to have failed at this task. No one should be forced into this position. Not all situations that present these sorts of choices can be presented—there’s always the possibility of bad luck – but at least we shouldn’t knowingly bring them about.
Other than her discussion, I also looked up other sources of decision-making. There are basically 5 main types of decision making;
- Command Decisions, where decisions are made for the self,
- Delegated Decisions, where the decisions can be made by anyone, and the choices are inconsequential,
- Avoided decisions, where the outcome could be so severe that the choice should not be made,
- “No-brainer” decisions where the choice is so obvious that only one is reasonable, and lastly
- Collaborative decisions where the decision is made in consultation or agreement of others.
There are also 4 thought mechanisms that I might want to consider when creating my narrative;
These are based off whether the decision made is conscious or unconscious, which I think is fun to play around with. I can provide decisions where people will think is a “no-brainer” to choose but has negative consequences, compared to decisions where it is less favourable but can bring more positive or funny consequences.
There are also choice architectures to consider;
- The number of choices presented
- The manner in which attributes are described
- The presence of a “default”
As previously mentioned, I would like to fool around with my audience. I can make negative options sound positive, and the positive options sound negative. It will be interesting to see which options the audience would rather pick. I will also be expanding my choices to 3 to create more confusion about which is the “better” choice. I think the overall confusion will make people think that their decisions matters a lot because they have to think a lot more about which decision is better for the story to proceed, which is kind of sadistic on my part, I have to admit. Because whatever decision they make in the end is not really important.
So… Nani is Surprise?
Lastly, I thought about the questions in the project brief.
What constitutes surprise? What determines its qualities?
I guess surprise is all about the unexpected qualities that does not fit in the expected structure, but with a bit more positivity such as wonder and astonishment. It is like having an alien in the conventional society. However, being unable to fit is not necessarily a bad thing. It can very well serve as the spice to the bland soup. This is why I plan to have a story that will make people shocked but that they will probably go “ooooomgggg…. HAHAAHHAHA” after that. With regards to its qualities, I guess it is the wow factor that is important. Just like all generative art, there has to be a narrative which promotes entertainment with every step of the way, not just at the end. The attraction of surprise also lies in how the idea is “new”, hence spicing up our reality.
How surprise figures in different contexts such as the arts, everyday life, technology, etc.? How does it figure in your own life & experience?
We see surprise is everywhere in daily life as well as entertainment. When we play games or watch shows, we are eager to look forward to what happens next, expecting it to surprise us in a good way. Since we cannot predict the future, we are also surprised by anything new that happens to us in our daily life. I guess this is why unique works are prized over the mundane, repetitive things that do not bring about good value or meaning. In a way we can also say that the little or big surprises that we experience daily are the little things we look forward to in life. With nothing new and intriguing, we don’t have hope for a more interesting life because we have already experienced everything.
So, why nonsense choices?
Prof. Dejan gave me a few questions as a comment to my midterm project, and I have considered them. He told me that my main point was to tease the audience, and that “It is the deception and the playful subversion of the conventional approaches to designing and consuming interactive narratives.” I agree with his interpretation of my project; I really want to be playful and fool the audience with my project. I think that it is fun. However, I strived to understand what I really wanted and came up with three main reasons why I want to make this project.
- I want to subvert expectations. I believe that this would provide me with the element of surprise when the reader realizes that their options do not necessarily give them the answers they expected.
- I want to create confusion. With more unpredictability in the storyline, just like real life, it gives the illusion that every decision is more important and must be analysed further because it is not in-your-face. It will surprise you at every corner of the way.
- Fun is increased when you don’t know what to expect. It is the idea of how “it never gets old.” Just like playing a game, it is fun when you discover new things in the game. That is the modus operandi of escape rooms and environmental storytelling games, or even horror games such as Outlast and Dark Souls. However, when things get too expected and monotonous, that is when people start to feel that the game is now boring and repetitive and quit. I would like to operate in the opposite mechanism of this repetitiveness.
The New Story Plot?
My general, temporary thoughts for the plot of the final project will not be focused on the little red riding hood anymore. Instead, I have turned to a rebel version of Cinderella where she:
- Does not like being demure even in front of her stepfamily
- Cusses and throws things around at her nasty stepsisters and could not give two farts
- Eventually, with the help of her animal friends, summons all the animals from Fairy Tale lore to thrash the ballroom of the ball dance she was supposedly not invited to- but man she was upset, so very upset.
- Makes her poor Fairy Godmother so very confused and upset at what is going on as she desperately tries to keep things under control, screaming “THIS WAS NOT SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN!”
- Held prince charming at gun point- and he seemed to like it.
I swear I am not high on sugar drops.
Song: Daystar – Fluffy / https://youtu.be/ZMl1bf9bj2c
For the music, I plan to use a non-copyright music from Daystar called “Fluffy” because it was simply so light and happy and cheerful and made me feel like everything was going to be okay. The reason for this genre of music is because I want to give the audience the illusion that the story was going to be happy and cheerful and standardized like all fairy tales that end with happily ever after…. And then take them on a roller coaster down nopesville into a story that does not seem to make sense as a sweet cotton candy. For the background, I might put an innocent, pink, and fluffy background that seem like the wallpaper of a 7 year-old girl’s bedroom. This is my way of subverting expectations, kind of like Doki Doki Literature Club I guess? DDLC has everything in pink and dating sim glory until they start committing suicide due to the glitch character. I think that is simply marvellous. Ravishing.
That’s all I have for now.
Use timer for “urgent” decisions; not choosing an option will be an option as well that will lead to a default option being chosen for you, or an invisible fourth option to happen. (e.g. clock strikes 12… and then?)
Try comparing with real cultural and social issues in decision making.
Consider gradient background that fades from light blue to grey, because the project is about the grey lines.
Consider music that changes with each section.
Make sure that narrative will be seamless between options. Refer to ELIZA by Joseph Weizenbaum.
Make sure that options retain their meaning behind. E.g. If you do A expecting A to happen but in the end it’s actually B that happens.