Saturday, February 17, 2007

Here's an idea: it may not be a good one, but I feel it's worth a shot. What if I took a simple story and told it through three different media, and this way each medium would lend a different perspective to the story? This project would probably be pretty labor-intensive, so I am afraid I would need some people on board with me. I have a possible story to tell, but I would definitely be open to other suggestions for stories that would be more conducive to being told through different media.

This is a (very nearly entirely) true story:

One night in Paris, my friends and I went to Ladies' night at Le Queen, a notorious night club on the Champs-Elysée. We all consolidated our bags when we got in to save on the 5 euro bag-check fee, and then we got to dancing. Fast forward to two in the morning, and a few of our friends are ready to leave. My best friend, let's call him Trevor, is a party animal, and insisted that we weren't finished dancing yet. But our friends who were leaving had already unchecked all of our bags, including his and mine. He didn't want to have to pay again to recheck our bags, so our friend Anne offered to take his bag home with her and return it to him in class the next morning. He agreed, and we resumed getting "jiggy" with it. Finally, at three thirty, we decided to call it a night, seeing as we were both soaked in champagne and sweat. He hailed a cab for me and I returned to my homestay. Meanwhile, as my cab was driving off, Trevor realized that his wallet and keys were in the backpack that he had entrusted to Anne, and the only item he had on his person was his cell phone, which was running out of minutes. His host family happened to be out of town that week, so there was nobody to let him back into his house. He started walking towards the most recognizable landmark he saw, which was the Arc de Triomph. He realized that his only option really was to just head to Notre Dame de Paris cathedral and wait for our 9 AM class to arrive, at which point Anne could return his backpack. He decided to call his brother in California and have him look up how he could get to Notre Dame. His brother consulted Google maps, which informed him that he had been walking in the opposite direction of Notre Dame. When Trevor finally arrived at the cathedral around 5:30, he was exhausted and attempted to sleep on the benches in the square in front of the cathedral. He was interrupted by a bum who kept asking him questions, to which Trevor responded "j'ai mal à la fucking tête, okay?" or, "I have a fucking headache." In the morning, some passersby spotted Trevor sleeping on the bench and threw him some change, which he used to buy a coffee across the street. My class finally arrived at 9, and we all learned about Gothic architecture.

The end. I could tell this story through the following media:

1. (very short) Graphic novel: I think that this story would actually lend itself pretty well to a graphic novel, and I have to say that I would love to make one. I was just so impressed by ABC, it really inspired me. Comedic timing would be easily established by page turns! It would have to be pretty short though, if we wanted to make three different projects.

2. Video Game! there is a program called "RPG maker" that requires no programming/coding knowledge whatsoever but allows you to basically design your own game: you make a plot, a dialogue, design characters and setting, etc. You can watch a video that explains the program a little bit here. We could have Trevor be the player, and he has to navigate through Paris and find Notre Dame, stay clear of bums, get enough change for a coffee...or whatever. We could even make some other stuff up.

3. Series of Text Messages: This may sound silly at first, but in Paris we basically communicated entirely through text message since minutes were so expensive and text messages were cheap. We therefore had to communicate lots of info through short messages, using abbreviations and stuff like that. I could look back on some of my old texts for inspiration. It would be less labor-intensive than the other two, but still totally legit and so new media!


Lauren said...

Dang, I wish I had a story like that!

You mentioned comic timing in your description of your graphic short story. I think that would be a great asset to the story if you choose to tell it in this form. There are plenty of possible mini-punchlines in here, even though it's a pretty short story. Realizing his keys and wallet aren't there, finding out he's been heading the wrong way, getting coins thrown at him. And of course, "J'ai mal a la fucking tete." What a great line. Those are all things that could be represented really well in comic form.

Plus there's lots of possibility for artistic style and flair if you're the drawing type. It would be very fun to draw scenes inside a nightclub and Parisian landmarks, if you're so inclined. I could never pull that off with any sort of flair, but if you can, it would be flippin' sweet.

The idea of presenting this as a game is very intriguing, indeed. My boyfriend is a total video game nerd, and so I've spent a lot of time listening to him talk about video games as art. Usually this has to do with graphics and intuitive interface, but I get the feeling you won't have that much control over those things.

It's definitely not a very standard video-game plot, since it doesn't have much of a conflict. You're not trying to defeat a villain or save a princess. You're just trying to make it through a night on the streets of Paris. In order to create conflict, I would suggest considering a series of mini-puzzles. So you have to somehow complete a puzzle to convince your friend to take your bag. Then another puzzle to find out which direction to walk in. And since you're appropriating this as your own story, I would say go ahead and add in whatever sorts of crazy events you want. Have some loopy beret-wearing Parisian with a cigarette dangling from his lips through baguettes at "Trevor" or something, I don't know.

Another quandary is character development, which I would think would be rather difficult while creating a video game. I know that when I play the occasional computer or video game, my on-screen avatar usually has just about zero personality. If you go the video game route, definitely make sure to give the protagonist some good dialogue. Not just, "You can't use that item yet!" You know?

As for the text messages, I'm not precisely sure what you're proposing. Would it be like you would send someone a series of text messages that tell the story? Or is it more interactive than that?

Jessica Johnson said...

Jessica --

You have a funny story that I think you can do a lot with. In theory I love the idea of telling it from a bunch of different media to give it from different perspectives and see how the media naturally turns the story.

I'm not sure the media you've selected so far will offer that disparate views. Text messages we get a friends view as well as his but how different are these? I guess I'm not sure how much they would vary. Maybe seeing a sample would change my mind. Or if each sample were really different. Like the video game is his perspective, the texts are all the texts one of his friends/his brother receives through the course of the night and the graphic novel is the perspective of you or the hobo who watches him sleep or something else ridiculous. (Just ideas, feel free to toss them all)

I also agree with Lauren that this isn't quite typical video game material (though I love the idea that you thought of telling your story through a video game). I'm not sure how well you can stay true to the nature of the story and make the video game more then clicking next. Maybe you need to put together the pieces to get from one location to the next? (Get cellphone, text friend to do this, so on, so on) Though each one of these sounds like a big commitment.

I actually think text messages could really work well here. They express the caught and lost despite communication aspect. Maybe just a log of phone usage and you see him playing games on his phone for an hour?

Good Luck!

Tom Kealey said...

My favorite part of this idea is that it could be told in three different types of media. How about this brainstorm: You have Trevor tell this story in an mp3 recording, Oral History style. With you maybe interviewing him.

Then you adapt the story to your liking via one new media. And another person adapts it via another media. And a third adapts it via another.

You could even post a very short version of the story, and then invite people OUTSIDE of the class to reimagine it. Maybe someone wants to tell it from the point of view of the bum, or the people who left change. Or someone wants to make a movie trailer out of it.

In any case, I like the idea of how stories are told from different artists, which the outcomes variable and revealilng.

JessicaJ said...

yeah, just to clarify, by series of text messages i meant (i think) some sort of record of text messages that trevor sends to his brother, and then ones that his brother sends back, texts that he sends to his friends to see if he can crash with them, etc. i want the audience to be able to read the bodies of the text messages. i know that he actually ended up walking by the homestay of a couple of our friends and he either called or texted them to see if they were awake, but they didn't answer. that could easily be manipulated, so they could maybe text back or something. i think a lot of the storyline could be told through text messages, and i think it could even allow for character development--both trevor's and his friends'. If he texts me "hey, you awake? i'm walking the streets of paris. help!" and i text back "it's four in the morning, stop texting me!" that tells something about our relationship, right? something totally different than if i text back, "omg! what are you talking about? it's 4 am r u ok?" does that make sense?

Adam Johnson said...


This is a great, tight story, one that would work really tightly in a comic. I think that a visual dimension would really be strong, and then there’s a possibility to have an oral/storyteller dimension along with a house music beat. The mention of Google maps struck a cord with me as a possible dimension to tell this story, as the landscape of paris is key. Since you can put tags on a google map, you could tag the text messages, etc, and even tag a final lesson on cathedrals to conclude the story. I lean toward a comic here, with some of the panels being map panels with text tags that could even pop up as the page is viewed or as the cursor is run over landmarks. There’s also an opportunity to follow objects: bags, phones, bag check coupons, taxis, euros, textbooks, text messages and so on, that these things could be the batons with which the story is passed from one section or perspective to another. You’ve got some awesome potential here.

Darren said...

Both the comic book and the RPG have alot of potential. The RPG could be especially interesting because it's clear that Trevor had several "weapons" at his disposal - Cell Phone that's running low on minutes (much like how you have a certain amount of "magic" to cast in RPGs), Google Maps, a minor amount of French. There's also an obvious goal - Get to Notre Dame - but along the way, there's all sorts of things he could run into. And there's alot of great local Parisian things that could be used in the game - maybe he has to find a cafe to refuel and stay awake, or he has to run away from the gang of english hooligans on vacation, or a girl offers to let him use her cell phone but only if he can break into the Pompidou and steal a painting, etc etc - lots of possibilities.

However, what strikes me about this story is how modern technology kind of made it happen. The only thing Trevor had to help him, in the middle of a foreign country at the middle of the night, was his cell phone - with that, he could call his brother all the way across the world, who found a detailed map of Paris online and navigated him there. I really like the text message idea, and think you could bring in other media - transcripts of phone conversations, Trevor's brother finding directions to Notre Dame.
The one thing is, I'm not sure if the text message is exactly enough for a full story - unless you expand the view of the story. Did Trevor text all the other students, and did they text each other trying to figure out the Trevor situation? I just like the idea of this one guy trying to find his way to Notre Dame while everyone he knows in Paris and back home is trying to help him. It could work visually, too.
I guess basically what I'm saying is - I think all of your ideas could work out pretty well. What's nice about the RPG is that it seems like it could combine the best elements of the other two ideas - visually and textually - but I'm not sure how extreme this RPG program is. Good luck.