A ragtag team of storytellers from IDEAS attended the Halo: Outpost Discovery expo over the past weekend. The expo was a real-world immersive experience that extends the game world of Halo into the convention and immersive attraction world. We were invited to host a panel on storytelling-right in our wheelhouse. Our presentation covered the six elements of story, why stories are fundamentally human and how we can use story as the primary delivery mechanism for delivering well-crafted experiences for an audience-no matter the form factor. As usual, engaging with the people who attended our sessions an experience in and of itself. Post panel, the team has some reflections.
During the panel, Bob, Olivia and I each took a unique point of view on how we use story in what we do at IDEAS. I approached story as a Game Designer, a Web Designer, and even as a Chef. Stories are all around us whether it takes the form of an old building that was the landmark of an important event from the past or a massive multiplayer online game that immerses players into a fantastical reality. We can harness the power of story and use it to craft experiences for a brand, a game, an app and even a burrito. Using story to craft these experiences will ensure that we are able to immerse our audience and impact them in a lasting way. All in all, we heard new stories from the people we met after each panel and engaged in some fascinating dialogue about the importance of story.
I personally go to a lot of conventions (Comicon, Megacon, etc.), so the general atmosphere of this event was pretty familiar (although it was very weird to not be in cosplay). Of course, this event was much more targeted being just about Halo, and honestly I hardly know anything about videogames and certainly knew nothing about Halo before this, but on some level these things all follow the same template. It was actually super weird, as a person who goes to cons and occasionally goes to panels, to actually be on a panel. To be honest I felt outrageously unqualified at first. But it was cool, and I was basically just talking about things I talk about in my daily life anyway, so it’s not like I was giving a presentation on quantum physics. I talked a lot about comic books, script writing, character development, art, acting, and how on a certain level all forms of storytelling are basically the same creature in a different hat. Actually doing this panel and talking a lot about script writing and character creating made me realize how central character is to all my storytelling. I knew that, but now I really know that. A lot of the people who attended our panel, and stayed to ask questions, were the same age or slightly younger than me with similar interests. I saw a lot of my own issues, or issues I’ve faced in the past, reflected in their questions. One person was talking about how they go back and read their old writing and they just think it’s terrible and I’m like ‘Yep. Yep. Sorry, that doesn’t go away, sucks, doesn’t it?’ Who knows what people who came to our panel were expecting? Who knows what they walked away with? I really hope they got something, and I hope I contributed something useful. I know when I go to similar events I leave super inspired to write and create, so if we’ve managed to do that for someone I figure it’s a win.
Bob: Unlike my colleagues, I speak in public a lot on the power of story. There is a real difference though between doing a keynote in which you have 45 minutes to an hour to essentially command a stage, and sharing the podium for a quick-step march around the topic with other experts for an audience with a completely different focus. My role was to lay down some basics on what story is, how it works and where it came from and then let Olivia and Cass offer expert perspective on how to practice the art. I can say that the audiences we had were engaged with what they had to say-I was able to pay attention to the body language! The best dividend for me was being able to appreciate the talent, creativity and insight of Cass and Olivia and, by extension, our IDEAS team. It was nice to reaffirm that, after almost 20 years of working at it, we really have developed an articulate design process built around story. I hope we get to do this again.