Example 1, OperationAjaxComic Ipad Application
The international use of comics beyond that of entertainment incorporates the teachings of the Vedic gods in India, to learning literacy in Africa and can now include the recent contemporary ipad application of Cognito Comics whose production Operation Ajax, a comic book adaption to a Stephen Kinzer’s All The Shah’s Men recounts the coup of Iran’s first democratically elected Prime Minister. Operation Ajax presents an example of rich media in which something previously mostly analog, the pictorial sequence of a printed comic book has been adapted specifically for the tablet technology including touch sensitive page forwarding and the ability to hyperlink to further elements, such as a video, a photograph, a timeline within the story. (Slayton, 2012) . While not exactly a self sufficient learning module, Operation Ajax, takes advantage of the opportunity to lend the flexibility of rich media to the narrative adding documentary components for a curriculum intent on giving specified historical view (Kharrazian and Monshizadeh-Azar, 2012).
Daniel Burwen, the founder of Cognito Comics (Example 1), talks on his personal journal of his inspiration to develop this medium based application in the direction of the classic Choose-Your-Own-Adventures games originating from the 1980s. However, for the digital formats, Burwen writes, “CYOA storytelling carries a fair amount of risk that makes it prohibitive in mediums like Comics and Games. Most notably, the extra asset load that branching story can create, and the unlikelyhood of players seeing this expensive additional content because they usually only play through a story once or twice.” (Burwen, 2012). Of course, choice offered in the branching of don’t necessarily offer the complete transmedia experience. “Giving people a say in the story isn’t as simplistic as letting them decide what happens next–A, B, or C,” Frank Rose advocated in an Interview with Jenkins (Jenkins, 2011) Having choice doesn’t equal the collectivist leanings of participation, creation and ultimate influence.
Example 2, Shiga’s Meanwhile – Print Version
Even without participatory creative control, however, the Choose-Your-Own Adventure format does allow for audience centered agency to create a diverse storyline potential. Jason Shiga, trained mathematician and a comic artist, created his puzzle like choose your own adventure comic Meanwhile to explore such potential. (See Example 2). Shiga creates a mystery and expects the reader to solve problems that often involve analytical skills prompting a branching off into countless storylines many of the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure explorers become so weary about. He mapped out both print and ipad version of Meanwhile added different elements of interactivity afforded to each unique medium. A puzzle is a labyrinth lead by a the readers finger in print, or a digital link on a tablet. Shiga explains, “The way you solved the mysteries is by using the inventions in the professors labs and by playing and combining these inventions to come up with a solution. Although some people solve this through trial and error.” (Newcomb, 2011) This echo’s the sentiments of James Paul Gee when advocating games, including that of Choose-Your-Own-Adventure encourage agency, challenge and consolidation, as well as systems thinking (Gee, 2005) or in lay persons term, learners get to solve a problem through exploration.
Example 3, Historical Williamsburg
What then, if a game designer creates a historical Choose-Your-Own-Adventure event specifically designed for learning rather than learning as a secondary outcome? Hap Aziz, formerly a game programmer and interactive fiction aficionado, is currently on Kickstarter.com developing a game based on the city Williamsburg and it’s role in the creation of the original 13 colonies of the United States called the Historical Williamsburg Living Narrative Project (See Example 3). Originally his intention was an educational discovery game, however, the addition of the interactive fiction creates a narrative opening for engagement and secondary complexity in the layers. His game harkens back to the original text based productions managed by an algorithms as these text based games were popular in 1980s. Azizs’ enhancements include a map, architectural blueprints, characters and storylines outside the main narrative. Aziz notes, “I envisioned a two-phased approach, in which the result of the first phase would be a teaching experience with a good game play foundation. In the second phase, I would add an additional plot line separate from the historical time line, allowing students or game players to focus on the aspect of most interest to them.” (Short, 2012).
Again, the peer negotiation of gaps in information influencing a dynamic outcome necessary to make it truly transmedia. Cultural memory is dynamic. With a re-emergence of this kind of storytelling within an technologically programmable environment, a new possibility exists. Emily Short when discussing the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure genre aptly suggests, “You put the book down, and somehow wish that world could go on… so I do see that as an opportunity. I see that as a place where i want people to re-engage…The whole idea that a story is a kind of intellectual property and only counts the first time you tell it, and that it’s cheating to repurpose someone else’s story, to retell it, is, … not the way people conceived of these things in the ancient world.” (Alexander, 2012). That repurposing narratives has deep historical roots and reitorates the contemporary idea of transmedia engagement as transformation through a community.
Alexander, L., (2012) In-depth: Is it time for a text game revival?, GamaSutra. Retreived from: http://gamasutra.com/view/news/167665/Indepth_Is_it_time_for_a_text_game_revival.php
Burwen, D. (2012), A Duck Has An Adventure, Musings on Art, Tech and Storytelling. Retrieved From: http://www.ctrlartcreate.com/
Gee, J. P.(2005), Good Video Games and Good Learning, Phi Kappha Phi Forum, Vol 85, No. 2. Retrieved From: http://dmlcentral.net/resources/4578
Jenkins, Henry (2011), “Deep Media,” Transmedia, What’s the Difference?: An Interview with Frank Rose (Part One), Confessions of a Acca-Fan, Retrieved from: http://henryjenkins.org/2011/01/deep_media_transmedia_whats_th.html
Kharrazian, C. and Monshizadeh-Azar, S, (2012), Operation AJAX: Teaching History Through Technology, National Iranian American Council, Retrieved From: http://www.niacouncil.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=7927&security=1&news_iv_ctrl=1062
Newcomb, J., (2011), Meanwhile: Full Review, Stash My Comics. Retrieved from: http://www.stashmycomics.com/blog/index.php/2011/04/stashmycomics-com-interview-with-jason-shiga/
Short, E., (2012), Hap Aziz and Colonial Williamsberg, Emily Short’s Interactive Storytelling. Retreived From: http://emshort.wordpress.com/2012/05/02/hap-aziz-and-colonial-williamsburg/#more-4710
Slayton, N. (2012), Comics Adapt to Revolutionary Digital Age, The Daily Trojan, Retrieved From: http://dailytrojan.com/2012/01/11/comics-adapt-to-revolutionary-digital-age/