Connected storytelling: extending narrative beyond the boundaries of a themed attraction

  • A guest books a ticket to a location-based experience, with an emphasis on fantasy Live Action Roleplaying (LARPing). Let’s call it Snowscape; a mythical, wintery realm where ice giants rule and the howls of Arctic wolves ring in the trees. The ‘ticket’ is a virtual rendering of a gold coin, tarnished and discoloured, and the obverse image faded, as if it’s been passed between rough hands through the ages. The back is imprinted with a unique code, the guest’s name and the date of their visit.
  • In advance, they are sent a map — the Known Lands & Boundaries of Snowscape (which could realistically be a physical product as a premium add-on, and a printable digital version for the majority). I still like printed maps — more on that in another piece.
  • They are invited to access an online portal that serves as an entryway to the story, accessible only to those who have booked and are planning to visit the experience in person at a later date. For Snowscape, being a fantasy setting, this would probably be kept lo-fi and minimal.
  • Certain elements of Snowscape are available for guests to visit in advance, virtually. If they’re viewing in 2D on a computer screen or tablet, it’s through a ‘portal’; if they’re donning a VR or AR headset and walking into the 3D, 360° version, they’re prompted to wear their ‘snow goggles’ or ‘brass binoculars’.
  • The full land is there, but it’s not available to explore in its entirety until after they’ve visited. This is a preview; a teaser; perhaps even an elaborate pre-show— a chance to wander the outskirts and start to plan their approach, and perhaps connect with some of the group they’ll be attending with, and to meet the characters of the story they’re about to play a key role in.
  • When it’s time to look away from the portal or remove the goggles, but they just need a quick fix of the excitement, the printed map comes into play. An augmented alternative map exists on top of the printed one — viewable through any AR-capable device, even a smartphone — with 3D landscapes rising from the paper, roaming characters and vehicles, and a birds-eye glimpse at what’s in store for them when they visit. And of course, the AR map is seasonal and updated in real-time, featuring the latest show information, new and ‘coming soon’ locations that might not have been on previous iterations, and perhaps even details specific to that guest’s visit, such as their chosen character name and a countdown to their trip.
  • They might also notice subtle changes in these virtual pre-show elements to reflect the story that just happens to be unfolding in the latest season of the Snowscape show on their favourite streaming service, in recent issues of the comic, or episodes of the podcast. Perhaps a line in the show becomes the secret phrase to enter a previously hidden lair, or an easter egg turns up that makes sense to only the sharpest-eyed fan. Rest assured, these changes are also being reflected in the location-based version.
  • Again, potentially a premium option, but an interesting idea worth exploring: the guest has the opportunity to collect items in the virtual version of Snowscape and assemble a pack — in gaming terms, an inventory. When they finally arrive at the gates of the physical, location-based experience, their custom pack will be waiting for them, with the unique combination of items they’ve collected.
  • The day comes. Our guest arrives at the Snowscape experience with their friends and family, collects their pack, checks their pocket for the map they’ve been studying for weeks, and approaches the gates. In-character cast members wait expectantly for them to display their gold coin — the token that permits them safe passage between worlds — before waving them gruffly through, and into the fantastical landscape beyond.
  • The coin — whether it’s the virtual version on a device, or a physical one they might have collected with their inventory pack — is more than just a ticket. It has quietly tracked and kept a record of their engagement with the pre-show activities, and perhaps even their consumption of some of the other Snowscape media offerings. In short, it understands their familiarity with the story, and their place within it, and can use this insight to inform the interactive elements of the show which is now unfolding around them.
  • As missions, battles, games and attractions are completed throughout the day, the next steps on the guest’s journey are being constantly calculated and calibrated to create the deepest, most immersive experience possible. Successes and interactions are tracked, and their progress is marked on the AR version of the map, as if someone has drawn thick lines along the route with a pencil.
  • The experience comes to an end with an epic finale — a shared, simultaneous encounter for all guests, into which each can attach and weave individual meaning and significance, having been a participant in their own unique version of the story throughout the day, and in the time leading up to it.
  • In the following days, several custom paragraphs of prose are automatically generated and delivered to the guest — a written summary of the experience, recounted as a historical tale, as if told by a Herodotus-style narrator.
  • Next time they look through the portal, or hold the goggles or binoculars up to their eyes, what they’ll see is an accurate virtual representation of the entire world they ventured through, complete with additional, peripheral areas to explore that weren’t accessible before. Characters they fought alongside thank them for their assistance in the skirmish, and creatures they successfully conquered are no longer troubling the locals. This living land continues to evolve and develop, until someday, they might just hear a hopeful voice from within Snowscape, beckoning them to return…
Snow photo created by liuzishan — www.freepik.com

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Creative writer | Fiction | Themed Entertainment | Music | https://www.linkedin.com/in/lukecproberts/

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Luke Roberts

Luke Roberts

Creative writer | Fiction | Themed Entertainment | Music | https://www.linkedin.com/in/lukecproberts/

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